How to win the battle of the bulge

Eric Peterson of Poulsbo performs bicep curls at Silverdale Fitness last  Thursday afternoon. - Photo by Tracey Cooper
Eric Peterson of Poulsbo performs bicep curls at Silverdale Fitness last Thursday afternoon.
— image credit: Photo by Tracey Cooper

From Thanksgiving’s turkey dinner to New Year’s ham feast, the torrent of holiday munchables washes away the best of intentions.

The battle of the holiday bulge is won by a few stalwart souls who can wield carrot sticks when surrounded by cocktail weenies. The rest of us surrender to the eggnog (spiked or not spiked), chocolate, cookies, chocolate, chips, chocolate, cheeses, chocolate, cakes, chocolate, candy and, yes, more chocolate.

Gym attendance drops off drastically in December as people squeeze in shopping and social engagements.

“That’s the first thing to go,” said Cheryl Brose, fitness manager for Silverdale Fitness.

War on those (fill in the blank) extra pounds is declared with the change of the year, but experts say it takes a change in mindset to take off holiday weight and perhaps avoid it next year.

“Rather than dwell on what they didn’t do, they should look at what they can do,”said Grace Greenside clinical nutrition manager for Harrison Hospital. If people ditched exercise for shopping or shoved cereal aside for doughnuts, they can still get back on track.

At the first of the year she hopes many of the 1,700 hospital employees will participate in the Fresh Start program she will lead. For six months people will make and log lifestyle changes.

The basic principles of the program can be adopted by the masses of folks who want to make a fresh start in 2003.

First, people should take an inventory of themselves. Have they gained too much weight? Are they at risk for chronic illness?

During the holidays people are susceptible to overindulging because at this time of year food is associated with celebration or consolation, Greenside said.

People pile on the fat-laden, high-calorie goodies because it is a time to enjoy with friends and family. Healthy eating and exercise regimens relax as moods do.

On the other hand the holidays are a depressing, stressful time when people try to fill an emptiness with food.

From Thanksgiving to New Year people typically gain about 15 pounds. It will take 3-4 months to realistically take off and keep off the weight Greenside said.

“Recognize we supersize portions of everything, even at home,” she said.

Most food portions should be no larger than a tennis ball and meat portions should be about the size of your palm.

People should also read nutrition labels to find out what is considered a portion. A bowl of ice cream may well be three or four servings.

During the holidays people can follow one simple rule: eat half portions.

“If you put crude oil into your car’s engine it’s not going to run well, if you put junk food into your body it can’t burn calories efficiently,” Greenside said.

She recommends following the food group pyramid, with six portions of grains, three portions of fruit, limitless vegetables, about six ounces of meat and one or two servings of dairy a day. After all that is met then the person can squeeze in a smidgen of desserts, alcohol and the like — what Greenside calls the “sixth dimension.”

Brose, who expects an influx of gym goers in January, recommends working in three 15-minute exercise sessions in a day if a 45-minute workout is impossible. Park the car far from your destination, walk an extra lap at a mall she suggested.

Both women agree diet and exercise goals should be specific in order to be attained.

“You might know where you are going, but you also want to know what road you are going to take and how long the road is,” Greenside said.

Brose recommends setting long and short term goals. For instance a long term goal may be running a half marathon. In the short term you just want to fit into your pants.

“People should take it day by day,” she said. Too often the New Year’s enthusiasm peters out by March and people give up exercise. At minimum people should do about 25 minutes of aerobic activity three days a week Brose said.

Greenside suggests setting a daily, then long term reward for achieving the goals. A wellness partner, someone who can share your goals and give pep talks along the way, is also helpful.

Reaching fitness goals for the most part is up to the person. Life’s priorities compete for time and energy, Greenside said. It’s up to every person to decide where their health comes in.

People should ask themselves “Without my health what can I do,” she said.

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