By Carol Penfield M.S. Nurse Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist
Owner of Chatham Health & Swim Club

The average American gains 10 pounds during the holiday season from Halloween to New Years. Fifty percent of an individual’s yearly weight gain occurs during this festive time. WHY? Social gatherings often include more food choices, larger portions and alcohol that weaken “willpower”. Healthy eating patterns become difficult to maintain. The people who gain the most weight during the holidays are those who abandon their exercise routines.

It is important to first focus your mind on trying to only lose the new weight gained. Dieters often get overwhelmed with an unrealistic long-term goal and therefore prematurely give up on a weight loss regime. Staying consistent and working on a 500-calorie deficit per day will lead to reducing your body fat by one pound per week. This can be achieved through eating 250 calories less and burning 250 calories through exercise daily.

Take the pressure off yourself. Fat does not disappear overnight. Making small changes such as eating one less donut per week can lead to a loss of 3 pounds in a year. Consider walking 8 minutes extra each day and in one year you will lose 4 pounds.

Trying to get your motivation back during the holiday season is another challenge. The following are a few tricks to try.

1) Minimize your choices.
Freeze or give away your leftovers. Consider periodically trying meal replacements such as a Slim Fast shake, nutrition bar, or Weight Watchers meal. With meal replacements, your portions are defined for you and temptation is minimized.

2) Tricks for overeaters used to “volume”.
People who are used to eating large portions can try increasing their vegetable intake. Fill yourself with low calorie vegetables, rather than other calorie dense foods. It has been shown in studies that successful dieters consume greater that 20 vegetable servings per week. Drinking a large glass of water before your meal can also trick your stomach into feeling full.

3) Train your body to be satisfied with smaller portions.
One technique is to try small frequent snacking. Snacking during the day may keep you from getting too hungry and eating more than necessary at the next meal. Fueling your body with small meals will help boost your metabolism. Eating a large volume of food at once, such as more that 1000 calories, will lead to storing the excess as fat. It is important to stay within your total daily calorie allowance when planning snacks. Most individuals will lose weight on an intake of 1500 calories per day.

4) Don’t stop exercising or you will not lose the weight!
Schedule time during your busy day to exercise above your usual activity. Walking is the most common form of exercise chosen. Walking will improve your health and fitness level but many are not exercising at the level it takes to lose weight. Consider trying interval exercises. Interval exercise groups have shown to lose fat at a higher rate than endurance exercise groups. Walking and other endurance exercises do effectively burn calories, but interval exercises have shown to not only burn calories but also boost your metabolism after the exercise regime.
Interval exercising involves alternating between high and low intensity exercises for a specific short length of time. For example, changing the speed of your activity, doing exercise stations or light weight lifting. The exercise to recovery ratio should be 2:1. For instance, if you walk up stairs for 30 seconds your rest portion would be twice as long or 60 seconds before repeating the activity. When doing interval exercises it is important to exercise at an intensity level that you feel is “somewhat hard” or 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.

5) Be accountable.
It is hard to lose weight on your own. Over 100 studies have indicated that people
who join groups or seek periodic professional consults for diet and exercise show the greatest weight loss success. Checking your weight only once a week is recommended.

6) Recognizing stress and depression.
Family and social issues often arise during the holidays. Many individuals overeat or binge-eat to relieve stress. Depression can potentially interfere with motivation to lose weight and it can be treated. Consider seeking professional help to assist in recognizing and possibly treating depression.

Losing weight during the holiday season becomes a “growing” challenge every year. Developing healthy eating patterns, routine exercise and making modest behavioral changes will lead to success. It is difficult to stay motivated and lose weight on your own. Do not give up on trying, your health depends on it!

If you are interested in learning more about losing weight, controlling overeating and fat burning circuit exercises, come to a free workshop on Saturday, January 2th, 10 –11 am, at the Chatham Health & Swim Club, 251 Crowell Rd., Chatham.
Call 508-945-3555 to reserve a seat.
If you are unable to attend, and are interested in a 6-week weight loss challenge starting Jan. 4th with Carol Penfield, Nurse Practitioner and Program Director, call her office at 508-945-7761.

Great News!! There are still good investments, especially your health.

The opportunity to hear good news likely caught your attention, why?
Presently everything you read or watch on T.V. is stress producing. With the troubled economy, the stress level for Americans has increased. Now is the time to evaluate your strategies for managing your concerns and fears in an effective way. It is good news to know that there are options that can help. Although the physical reaction to stress may not go away, you can offset the effects with exercise and healthy living!
Exercise is a natural remedy that helps the body reach homeostasis in a hectic world that is continuously trying to throw us out of balance. Stress related issues are often translated into being “all in the mind”, but prolonged emotional stress can have an adverse physical effect.
When threatened or stressed our bodies produce a chemical response that not only affects our outlook but also has physiological effects. Long-term stress plays a role in damaging the immune system, accelerating aging and chronic disease. Adrenaline (a stress hormone) is produced in the body during stressful times. If it remains in the body, it can produce harmful side affects such as elevated blood pressure, pain and other conditions. When exercising, the body utilizes the excess adrenaline that is produced thereby minimizing damage to the body. In addition, during fitness activities the body also releases helpful natural “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins that give the individual a sense of well-being. Mood elevation is very helpful in offsetting the depression produced by challenging times.
You don’t have to take on the stress alone. During difficult times, people stay closer to home and many individuals become isolated and depressed. Exercising in a health club setting has shown to improve socialization and allow people to feel more like a part of a community. Adhering to an exercise routine gives a sense of accomplishment and sharing this empowers other people to be successful.
More good news……..Exercise gives your mind a break!
Fitness programs provide a “time out” to focus on the activity that you are presently performing and away from daily issues. As you concentrate on proper form or breathing techniques, the mind is unable to wander onto undesirable thoughts. The body becomes energized and creative problem solving may be stimulated. If anger is a concern, the physical release of energy dissipates feelings of frustration in a positive way.
According to CIGNA research (a global health service company) one-third of Americans find that the economy is affecting their health and other studies have shown that as many as 92% of corporate employees are losing sleep. Good news again! Exercised muscles relax better at night and physical fatigue from movement helps improve the sleep cycle. It is evident that individuals hold stress in their bodies in different ways. Wherever the body is weakest, pain, tension or possible injury can occur. Strengthening exercises allow the body to manage physical as well as psychological challenges.
There is even more good news, this time for your finances. Investing in an exercise regime can pay off! Health promoting exercise can help offset the need for expensive medications and/or medical care. It can replace poor coping habits that are costly such as excessive drinking or over-eating.
What kind of exercise is best? For those who are seated all day, consider swimming, walking or a structured fitness class. For individuals on their feet all day, the Nu-step (seated elliptical), cycling or mat Pilates classes are suggestions.
Ready to get started? Most people consult their physician prior to starting to exercise for a stress test. It may be more appropriate to consult your doctor before settling into your lounge chair for a day of “bad news” on the T.V.
Fitness is a necessity not a luxury. You cannot live without your health!

Carol Penfield RN, MS, Nurse Practitioner and owner of Chatham Health & Swim Club.