As the season changes and cooler temperatures fall that’s usually a good indicator the holiday season is almost here! During this time of year, we gather with our loved ones to celebrate with an abundance of family, fun – and food. Check out these 10 tips to help keep you fit for the fall season.
1) Stay accountable.
Enjoy the holiday season, but not by tossing your goals out the window completely at the expense of your fitness journey. A study conducted by Yanovski, et. al (2007) showed that individuals only gain approximately 1 pound during this time of year. It may not sound like much, but this gain is typically not lost again after the holidays. The gradual gains accumulate over the years. This means after five years, 5 pounds of excess weight can be attributed to holiday weight gain. Be mindful of your food portions, so that you won’t be caught by surprise after the holiday season is over! Find a buddy with similar goals and plan fun activities together, such as cooking healthy meals, trying out new recipes or attend a group fitness class you’ve never tried before.
2) Watch portion sizes.
During this time of year, we are surrounded by food more frequently than any other time. Office holiday parties, family gatherings and holiday gift baskets expose us to an abundance of food, but these options often consists of sugar-laden snacks and high calorie meals. As a quick guide, the amount of protein included in your meal should measure out to about 3 ounces, or the size of the palm of your hand. Vegetables and/or fruits should account for half of the contents on your plate, 2 cups about the size of two fists in total. Whole grains, nuts and legumes typical should not exceed an amount which fits in your cupped hand.
3) Fill up on lean meats, vegetables and fiber.
Lean sources of protein promote satiety to a greater degree than many carbohydrate and fat sources, in addition to aiding in retention of lean muscle mass (Paddon-Jones, 2008). Vegetables are considered low energy, dense foods since they are mostly made up of water and are generally low calorie options. This means you can have greater portions without taking in too many calories.
High fiber foods like oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber, which help create a feeling of fullness. It’s always a great idea to enjoy a healthy, filling snack prior to attending a holiday party. That way you won’t be as tempted to indulge in high-calorie snacks!
4) Make healthy ingredient substitutions.
There are many healthy substitutions you can make to help avoid over consumption of fats and added sugars. For instance, instead of eating green bean casserole, opt for fresh steamed green beans. With hot chocolate and holiday cider drinks, make low-sugar or unsweetened versions. Use fruit to sweeten in place of added sugar. When filling up on holiday turkey, choose lighter portions of meat. Light cuts of turkey tend to be healthier (contain less saturated fat) than dark meat counterparts.
5) Limit holiday cocktails.
Alcohol-containing beverages contain a significant amount of empty calories (contain no nutritional value) and are often heavily laden with sugar. Alcohol consumed beyond a moderate amount (1 – 2 drinks), can be considered an excessive amount. Drink water in between cocktails in order to pace yourself and avoid over consumption. Or, you can opt to avoid alcohol altogether and enjoy soda water with lime.
6) Eat dessert…in moderation.
Moderation is key. Don’t completely deprive yourself from indulging in holiday desserts. Do take into consideration the amount of sugar these treats contain in a serving. Eat half of a serving or split one with a friend or family member. Also be sure to fill up on protein and fiber beforehand, so that you are less likely to overeat when dessert comes around.
7) Stay active.
As the temperature drops during this time of year, it’s a good time to take advantage of the fall season by participating in outdoor activities more often. Don’t be deterred from engaging in consistent exercise if temperatures drop too low. If possible, try joining a gym or recreation center for a few months until temperatures warm up, or workout at home. Other tips to help you keep active during the holidays include:
Take the family for a walk before or after dinner.
Park as far as you can (safely) from store entrances when shopping for gifts to get in extra steps.
If the weather permits, walk around the neighborhood to view holiday decor with the family.
8) Vitamin D supplementation.
We obtain Vitamin D in small amounts in the foods we eat such as fortified milk, orange juice and cereals, as well as fatty fish like salmon, but it is primarily obtained from production in the skin via exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which helps with calcium absorption in the body and helps building strong bones. It has also been suggested that Vitamin D plays a role in regulating mood (Kjaergaard, 2012).
Seasonal changes during this time of year limits exposure to sunlight. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D3 supplementation is 600 IU for adults (Institute of Medicine, 1997). Consult with your physician to check your current Vitamin D levels to determine if there is a need for additional supplementation. Lastly, be sure to take Vitamin D along with a good source of calcium for proper absorption.
9) Manage stress.
According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (2017) on stress in America, the average stress level of Americans is a 4.8 on a scale from 1 to 10. The survey showed positive association between chronic stress and weight gain. During this time of year, individuals tend to experience stress at higher levels. Continuously elevated levels of stress, especially at the holidays may lead to negative metabolic changes, increases in indulging in calorie laden sweets and excessively large portion sizes. Engaging in physical activity, getting an adequate amount of sleep, breathing exercises, listening to relaxing music, meditation or prayer, and aromatherapy are a few ways to help decrease your stress during the holiday season.
10) Be thankful.
Last but certainly not least, remember to be thankful. Shift your focus on family, friends and fun, not food. The holidays are a special time to bond with your loved ones and to create lasting memories. Take the time out to express gratitude for the people around you.
Which steps will you adopt this season to help you stay fit for fall?
American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: The State of Our Nation. Stress in AmericaTM Survey
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D and fluoride. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1997. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
Kjaergaard, M., Waterloo, K., Wang, C.E, et al., Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case-control study and randomised clinical trial. Br J Psychiatry, 2012. 201(5): p. 360-8. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R. D., Wolfe, R. R., Astrup, A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87, suppl, 1558S-1561S. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
Yanovski, J. A., Yanovski, S. Z., Sovik, K. N., Nguyen, T. T., O’Neil, P. M., & Sebring, N. G. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. New England Journal of Medicine, 342(12), 861-867. Retrieved November 3, 2017.