How can I survive the holidays without gaining weight?
Morieka Johnson's fitness guru isn't afraid to have a few extra hors d'oeuvres -- as long they're accompanied by a side of cardio.
Wed, Nov 17 2010 at 10:05 AM
Q: I had no problem eating green or staying in shape during the summer. But the holidays are approaching and my farmers market is about to close up shop for the winter. How do I keep the momentum going when the temperatures drop?
A: Just because your neighborhood farmers market has closed for the winter doesn’t mean you need to pull out the drawstring sweatpants. Resist the lure of holiday cheese balls, fudge squares and sugar cookies by establishing a good defense. To fortify your holiday playbook, I placed another call to Reggie Swindell, an Atlanta-based personal trainer and rabid football fan. In a previous column, he offered tips for getting a good workout without a gym membership. Here are Swindell’s winning strategies for surviving the holidays without gaining extra pounds:
Eat more, exercise more
I was a bit surprised when Swindell told me that his typical game day spread includes “typical man cave food” such as burgers, chips and wings. “I might even do salsa and onion dip,” he said. “Did I mention hot dogs and pizza?”
But he also noted that a lengthy football season requires extra workout time to burn off those calories. “I always like to ramp up the workout on days I’m going to enjoy myself and do what I call a cheat day,” Swindell said. “More eating and more snacking mean more working out.”
Football season is just the beginning of the fall parade of food. You know Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas cookies and gallons of eggnog are right around the corner. Step up your workout routine now so that you won’t feel guilty later.
Swindell suggests extending your current workout by 20 to 30 minutes or ramping up the intensity. Cardio and strength training are part of his daily routine. But on game day, he tortures the punching bag for “dessert.”
Embrace cooler weather
Take your exercise routine to the great outdoors with power walks before or after those heavy holiday meals. Swindell also suggests circuit training and exercises that do not require gym equipment — or a pricey gym membership. Try this routine to burn calories outdoors: Walk for 100 yards, lunge for 25 yards, do 20 push-ups, jog for a few seconds and then repeat.
You know the rule about not shopping on an empty stomach. The same applies to attending holiday parties. It’s hard to resist battered, cheesy, creamy, calorie-laden treats when you show up hungry. “That’s the worst thing you can do,” Swindell warned. “You are dealing with the richest food you’ll ever face.”
He advises clients to pre-empt holiday meals with a “meat and green” approach. During the holiday season, he suggests enjoying complex carbs like oatmeal for breakfast, then sticking with meat or seafood and a green vegetable for lunch and dinner. This helps clients load up on protein and good carbs that keep their metabolism going.
It also pays to be stingy with your calories. Rather than mindlessly loading up at the buffet table or saying “yes” to every hors d'oeuvre placed under your nose, take a moment to scan the assortment. This will allow you to consider the options and, hopefully, make wiser choices about what you eat. When in doubt, a good friend of mine says to always start with the fruit and veggies. Usually those items remain untouched at holiday parties as everyone clamors for the chilled shrimp, cubed cheese or carving stations.
When it comes to liquid merriment, Swindell said to forgo the rum punch and mixed drinks in favor of light beer or wine. Dark liquors and drinks mixed with fruit juice come loaded with calories that can drag your metabolism to a screeching halt.
Hopefully these strategies will help you establish a winning action plan. Swindell had more pearls of wisdom, but the game was about to resume and, well, the wings were getting cold.
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Inset photo credit: Robert Scoble/Flickr