News & Events

Holiday season focuses on food, so step up your exercise routine

November 22, 2013

By Jennifer Fetterley, RD

Registered Dietitian, Thames Valley Council for Community Action and The William W. Backus Hospital Community Health Education Department

The holiday season is known as the “most wonderful time of year.”

It’s wonderful alright. And peaceful. There’s nothing as soothing as watching those first snowflakes fall softly to the frozen ground as you sip hot spiced cider. Nothing as serene as looking out onto the silvery white landscape in the stillness of the morning and drinking in the silence. For many, the holiday season is a time of quiet and tranquil reflection.

However when it comes to our health, make no mistake – this is war.

There’s no doubt that our adversary is tough. The holiday season packs a double whammy for our waistlines. Parties and social gatherings bring lots of calorie-laden delights while cool temperatures along with busy schedules turn our exercise mojo into mush. Well played, holiday season… Well played…

The good news is we can defeat our opponent. Like any good soldier, we just need a sound battle strategy. Luckily for us, we know our foe well, so we know just how to fight.

We will start by being prepared for holiday parties by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and by staying on a regular eating schedule without skipping meals. Step two of the plan is to drink lots of water and go easy on alcohol and high-calorie beverages. Step three? Take small portions, filling up on healthier options while splurging only on the foods that we truly love. And the final step in our plan is to concentrate on party activities and conversation to take the focus off food.

This is a great plan, but it’s missing something – a backup. Because let’s face it, no matter how well we stick to our plan we’re bound to eat a little more than we should this time of year. Even the best strategists can’t foresee every possible obstacle, so to be thorough a good strategy needs a “Plan B.”

What is our Plan B you ask? Stepping up our exercise game. Since we’re already regular exercisers (ahem) this is simply a matter of making small changes to burn a few extra calories over the coming weeks. Taking the stairs a few extra times at home or at work. Parking farther away from the stores as we do our holiday shopping. Doing seated exercises or stretches as we watch George Bailey help Clarence earn his wings.

And if by wild chance some of us are not regular exercisers (gasp), we should consider this our golden opportunity to make up for lost time and establish a new healthy habit. It can be as simple as taking a 15- minute walk every day. Not only will we burn off some of that holiday cheer we guzzled at the office party, we will reduce stress. After all, despite the wonder, this can also be the most stressful time of the year.

Wow! We are on track to knock the stockings off this holiday season. Not only do we have a plan for managing our calorie consumption, we’re going to get fit and blast stress into smithereens in the process. We’re sitting pretty and we still have one more maneuver in our yuletide arsenal – the New Year’s Resolution.

Most of us pledge to detox after the excess of the holidays by tossing the leftover fruitcake and getting back into our gym-frequenting routine. This year however, we can take it a step further and learn about healthy eating while giving back to the community at the same time. The Healthy Eating Advocate Training Program teaches the basics of nutrition so that participants may become advocates for health and wellness in the community, volunteering to share their knowledge with friends and neighbors. Sessions will begin after the start of the New Year, so don’t drop the ball and miss out. For more information, call 860-889-8331 ext. 2267.

Improving our own health and volunteering… Now that’s a resolution two-fer. I must say, we are tactical geniuses. The month of December isn’t going to know what hit it.