WINNIPEG — With all the temptations lurking on the table this time of year, you’re sure that you’ll gain at least five pounds.
It turns out that the theory of excessive holiday weight gain is a myth. Research — including a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine — reveals that the average person gains less than a pound during the period from November through New Year’s Day.
That’s the good news, but the bad news is most people don’t lose the weight they gain during the holidays. Repeat it every year and it adds up.
Nevertheless, feeling good isn’t just about weight — it’s about health.
Here are tips to help keep you healthy during the holidays:
Drink wisely — If you decide to indulge in the occasional party drink, do so with all the facts; fruity cocktails, creamy Irish coffee, eggnog, sweet mixes and even a seemingly innocent warm mug of hot chocolate can add up to excess sugar and fat.
When choosing such beverages, consider that some of them contain enough (often empty) calories to equal a meal. (A large hot chocolate contains up to 600 calories, for example. Two rum and colas contain about 365 calories and about 25 millilitres/five teaspoons of sugar.)
Lighten up by opting for clear, hard alcohol such as vodka mixed with club soda or diet pop. Bypass fruit juice-based drinks since they contain high amounts of sugar and calories; limit your intake of cream-based drinks; and drink your hot chocolate with skim milk and cocoa powder.
And remember that when you drink alcohol, you’re more likely to eat more and think less. Watch yourself and alternate each drink with water.
Get your ZZZs — It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of staying up late, waking up early and going non-stop from work to household chores to socializing.
Getting enough sleep is not only essential to helping you function at your best, but a growing body of research suggests that quality sleep helps you control your appetite — specifically the hormones leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin, produced in your gastrointestinal tract, signals your body to feel full while ghrelin, produced in the fat cells, stimulates appetite.
A Stanford University study published in 2004 found that people who slept less than eight hours a night had lower levels of leptin, higher levels of ghrelin — and more body fat. Make sure you get at least eight hours a night.
Shop while you walk — Turn your everyday chores into a race to get your heart pumping. Keep your runners/walking shoes in the car or wear them before you leave home to do your errands. With your runners on, you can shop briskly whether at the grocery store or shopping mall.
Snack before you eat — Save yourself from overeating by never going to a holiday party hungry.
That means noshing on a well-rounded snack beforehand that includes fat, protein, fibre and healthy carbohydrates.
Think an apple with peanut butter, lox on a multigrain cracker or a small bowl of oatmeal with almonds. Such snacks tend to metabolize slowly, leaving you feeling fuller longer.
When you get to the party, make a plan to avoid certain high-fat treats such as puff pastry-wrapped foods and sweets. If you can’t say no, be sure to have just one or two items.
Carve up your plate — Divide your plate into imaginary sections. One idea: devote the biggest section (at least half your plate) to vegetables or salad. Reserve one-quarter to lean protein and one-quarter to whole grains and legumes.
Give away your kitchen creations — Busy in the kitchen making holiday cakes, doughnuts and cookies? If so, you’re probably prone to sneaking a bite or two of such treats when no one is looking.
Instead of keeping them around your own home, give them away to friends and family as soon as you take them out of the oven. If you need some in the house for guests, put them in the freezer immediately. That way, they’ll be harder for you to get at.
Sweat every day — No matter how busy you are, there’s no reason you can’t exercise for at least 40 minutes daily.
Do so first thing in the morning to get it out of the way early. If that doesn’t work for you, make a point of doing so during your lunch break or in the evening.
Exercising does not have to involve expensive gym memberships or fancy equipment. Invest a few bucks or so in a skipping rope and use it in front of the television during your favourite show.
Not only will cardio exercise burn calories, but it will also lower your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress level.
Make your breakfast count — More than just a cliche, breakfast is important; it can determine how much you eat for the whole day.
Loading up on a breakfast that contains fat, protein and low-glycemic carbohydrates will ensure you eat less in the five hours following the meal, according to a study conducted by a Harvard medical school doctor.
In the study, obese teens were fed one of three breakfasts: steel-cut oatmeal, instant oatmeal or a vegetable omelette. The group who ate the veggie omelette reported feeling fuller and eating less in the five hours following their meal.
Socialize — Make your holiday gatherings about spending time with family and friends rather than about just food.