Make sure you don’t land on Santa’s naughty list for overindulging in all of your favorite holiday foods. A Baylor College of Medicine family physician says staying active is the best way to counteract holiday calories, plus he offers some more expert advice.
“On average, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s people can gain about 1 to 2 pounds,” said Dr. Irvin Sulapas, assistant professor of family and community medicine and primary care sports medicine physician at Baylor. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make a difference five years down the road.”
Sulapas offers three essential tips on how to get an early start on your New Year’s resolution and work off holiday eating.
- Remain active
Although the holidays may seem too busy to fit in a workout, there are ways to stay active during the season so you can enjoy holiday foods while also burning some calories.
“In many parts of the country, the weather is a lot nicer for being outdoors,” Sulapas said. “This is the time of year where there are a lot of fun runs and 5k walks. People’s kids are also home for the holidays so it’s a good time to be with family, be outdoors and get a little movement.”
If the weather is not conducive to being outdoors, Sulapas recommends finding time to visit an indoor gym for resistance training or cardio. He adds that walking through the local mall or shopping center to holiday shop is another way to burn extra calories.
“Walking is a great form of exercise,” Sulapas said. “I have patients who say their goal for exercise during the holiday is just walking for an hour-and-a-half through the mall.”
Sulapas recommends trying to fit in exercise sometime before or after you have your holiday meal.
“Enjoy the holidays with family and try to find some activities where you can all be active together,” Sulapas said. “Go walk in the park or to the mall for holiday shopping together so everyone is getting out and getting some exercise.”
- Portion control
You do not have to miss out on all your favorite foods to avoid gaining weight during the holidays, Sulapas said. He recommends portion control all year around, even during the holidays so you can enjoy your meals without the guilt.
“Holiday foods are delicious but things that you can do when you have a holiday turkey, for example, is to try to eat a serving of turkey breast instead of dark meat or just pair it with small portion of dark meat, which will save you some calories,” Sulapas said. “The most important thing is to eat everything in moderation.”
If your portions are going to be bigger than normal during the holidays, Sulapas said the key is to stay active through any kind of exercise.
- Stay consistent
It’s just as important to stay consistent and motivated when it comes to exercise and being healthy throughout the year. Sulapas recommends regular exercise and eating everything in moderation before and after the holidays as well.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, Sulapas recommends aiming for shorter, smaller health and exercise goals.
“Consistency and staying motivated are always big factors,” Sulapas said. “What I usually recommend when someone is trying to lose weight is aim for shorter goals like aiming to lose 1 pound versus 5 to 10 pounds per week. If you aim for 1 to 2 pounds a week, I have seen people lose 20 to 30 pounds in a span of six months.”