If you plan ahead, you can fill your week with small, extra bursts of exercise and cut back your calories here and there to counteract your high-calorie plans for the weekend and help maintain your weight through the holidays.
“There are a lot of different ways to try to increase your levels of physical activity in your daily routines,” said Michael Berry, who chairs the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Wake Forest University. “During the holidays, you may be taking in extra calories and having less time for exercise, so it’s probably more important to add these types of activities daily. Remember, 500 calories can mean 5 miles of running.”
In addition to your normal exercise routine and physical activity, try taking the steps instead of the elevator or talking a walk at lunchtime – you can even take a 5-minute walk every 30 minutes to burn some calories. If possible, increase your daily, 30-minute workout by about 10 minutes to help counteract the weekend’s indulgences.
When you arrive at a party, consider your “buffet strategy,” said Gary D. Miller, associate professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science.
“You won’t want to overindulge, but you don’t want to deny yourself, either,” he said. “I’m all about living and having a good life, so keep things in moderation and don’t skip the things that bring us so much pleasure this time of the year.”
Miller, for example, loves chocolate, so he scans the table for the most delicious, unique and preferably homemade chocolate dessert. Then he enjoys a piece – but not before he’s filled up on fruits and vegetables (except those cooked in heavy sauces), white-meat turkey and other low-calorie foods.
And he never blows his chocolate indulgence on, say, a candy bar. “I’m not going to waste my calories,” he said.
When the holidays wind down, don’t despair if you’ve added a couple of pounds. Most research says you will pick up a pound or two, Miller explained. But by following your pre-holiday strategy of adding bursts of activity to your schedule every day and watching your calories for a month or so, you should get back on track to live out a healthy new year.