Holiday Tips to Stay Fit

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December 15, 2014


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This post is available in: Spanish

’Tis the season to indulge and to make countless excuses for straying from your healthy habits. Yet, with little effort or sacrifice, you can keep your focus on staying healthy and fit during the holidays.

The often-cited 5- to 7-pound gain over the holidays is exaggerated, according to the National Institutes of Health. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 shows the average adult gains between 1 and 2 pounds over the holidays. However, the study warns that adults generally don’t lose this weight, contributing to overall weight gain.

So, how can you stay focused on your health during the holidays?

Baptist Health Medical Group doctor Natalie Sanchez, M.D., from Baptist Health Primary Care in Kendall, says there’s no secret recipe: Watch what you eat, stay active and follow your doctor’s orders.

Eat Sensibly

“Holidays mean family and social gatherings with lots of food,” Dr. Sanchez said. “I tell my patients to follow the ‘plate method’ – keeping half of their plates filled with fruits and veggies.”

She also recommends portion control. “One serving of turkey or ham is 3 to 4 ounces, or about the size of your palm. That goes for side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, too.” For desserts, she suggests eating only half a slice of pie, instead of the whole piece, to satisfy your craving, while limiting sugar intake and calories.

Drink Lightly

Certain traditional holiday drinks, like egg nog, hot chocolate and alcoholic beverages, can contain large amounts of sugar, fat and calories, with little-to-no nutritional value.

“Just be careful when you consume drinks,” Dr. Sanchez said. “Substitute skim milk or water for hot chocolate, for example, to reduce the calories that can lead to weight gain.”

Mixed cocktails, too, can be big contributors to weight gain. “Fruit juices and soft drinks are used to mask the alcohol taste in some alcoholic beverages,” she said. “These are high in sugar and calories, not to mention that alcohol affects our judgment, which can endanger our health and that of others.”

Keep Moving

While you’re away from both your home and your normal fitness routine, steer clear of excuses for not exercising. “Walking or running only requires you,” Dr. Sanchez said. “Even in cooler climates, taking a 30-minute walk, especially with family members or friends, can keep your fitness goals on track. A walk can be the perfect time to catch up on lost time with those loved ones.” And Dr. Sanchez says that exercise helps keep your indulgences in check – burning the calories you’re likely to consume at mealtime.

She also emphasizes exercise’s added bonus: stress relief and management.

“The holidays can be stressful, and this added stress can lead to suppressed immune systems and illness,” she said. “Exercise helps reduce stress hormones, aids in sleep and improves our energy level – all of which keep our bodies healthier.”

Follow Doctors’ Orders

For people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, Dr. Sanchez stresses the importance of following their doctor’s advice.

“Diabetics should especially watch what they eat this time of year. Added sugar and carbohydrates can throw diabetics’ health into a tailspin,” she said. She advises diabetics to regularly monitor their blood sugar, continue their medications and to be sure to account for their supplies – glucometers, insulin, swabs, needles and medications – when traveling away from their doctor and pharmacy.

Similarly, people with high blood pressure or heart disease should ensure they have enough of their medications on hand to avoid running out during the holidays, when doctors’ offices and pharmacies may be closed. Dr. Sanchez also advises these folks to closely follow their recommended exercise regimens during the holidays.

“The holidays bring challenges to our normal routines, including our healthy habits,” she said. “It’s best to use common sense, follow your doctor’s advice and maintain a healthy balance.”

 

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