Runners pour from the starting line at Phoebe HealthWorks during the 24th Annual Jingle Bell Jog Saturday morning. More than a 1,000 runners participated in the 5K, 10k and one mile fun run benefiting the Children's Miracle Network.
HOUSTON — There’s a reason why getting fit is a regurlarly pledged New Year’s Day resolution. For many, folks, the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve is one in which healthy habits take a back seat to enjoyment that includes plenty of food.
But health experts with the Baylor College of Medicine have some suggestions for ways to avoid packing on the extra pounds that will be hard to shed come 2013. The secret, a nutrition expert at Baylor says, is planning.
“You should enjoy your favorite holiday treats, and if that means splurging, go ahead and do it,” Dr. John Foreyt, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the college’s Behavioral Medicine Research Center, said. “The secret is to plan ahead — the worst thing is to diet on a day like Thanksgiving.”
Foreyt noted a number of ways to make holiday splurging more enjoyable, with the first being increasing — or at least maintaining — physical activity going into the holidays.
“You’re going to feel better because physical activity increases your feeling of well-being,” he said, “and people who exercise regularly are generally more in control of their eating pattern than those who don’t.”
He also suggested a more structured approach to that big turkey dinner: Plan your indulgances. “Look at the whole table first to decide exactly how much you want,” he said.
Taking that approach may also inspire you to not indulge, saving those extra calories for a time when there’s something on a menu that you really want.
Foreyt also warned to always watch alcohol content, since it lowers inhibitions and usually causes people to eat more than they want to. Alcohol can also contribute to additional unwanted calories, he said.
“The bottom line is if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up,” he said. “But never use it as an excuse to give up a healthy lifestyle.”
The goal, he said, should be to maintain your current weight through the holidays with physical activity and portion control.
Physical activity can be an added holiday tradition, Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM, said.
“Holiday food and drinks have a lot of calories so it’s a good idea to incorporate physical activity into this time of year,” Shybut said. “One way to do that is by making fitness activities a part of your annual holiday gathering.”
There are walking and running events conducted frequently during the holidays. In Albany, for instance, The YMCA recently had its Chili Run and Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany had its Dirty Devil Dog Run this past weekend. On Dec. 1, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital will have its 25th Jingle Bell Jog.
Such events can be tailored to a fitness level that’s right for a particular family, Shybut said, adding that bicycling is another option. In Albany, bikes can be rented at the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.
If heading out of town, find out where the best walking or running trails and local parks are located, he suggested, and be sure to pack sneakers and items such as a Frisbee or football that can be tossed around.
“With a little research and advance planning, you can find fun events for the whole family that offer physical activity,” Shybut said.
And if you don’t already have a normal fitness routine, it’s a good time to start one.
“There’s no reason to wait for January 1 when the gym is full of folks who have made New Year’s resolutions,” Shybut said. “If it’s been a long time since you’re exercised regularly or if you have a medical condition, you should discuss it with your physician first and start at an appropriate level.”
For those who already exercise regularly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to follow your normal routine, Shybut said. “If you normally go to the gym five days a week, shoot for three or four,” he suggested. “Something is better than nothing. I think those who do get those workouts in will find the holidays all the more merry.”