Fight Holiday Weight Gain

by Stew Smith

A study by National Institute of Health shows that most Americans only gain 2 pounds at the most during the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. The problem is that most of us do not lose that extra pound or two in the year that follows. The added stress of holiday travel, shopping, end of school year projects, and other factors can also cause weight gain. However, the medical researchers concluded that the two main factors that influence weight gain are hunger and activity level.

So what can you do to help yourself maintain or even lose weight over the holiday season? If you are really motivated to lose weight over the holidays, the following tips may help you to not only lose weight over the holidays, but throughout the year. Maybe by the Holiday Season you will be fifty or more pounds lighter and highly active with a fitness program.

1) Drink Water

Water is naturally going to help you not eat as much if you drink a large 15-20 minutes prior to having a large Christmas Dinner. Plus water will keep you hydrated and help you burn fat more efficiently.

2) Eat Slowly

Eat very S-L-O-W-L-Y and enjoy the flavors. Try to chew your food at least 30-40 times per mouthful. It works and will allow the "hungry - full" response from your brain to tell you are satisfied. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to let you know you are full.

3) Do Not Skip Meals

Skipping breakfast to eat a huge lunch plays on one-two punch on your metabolism. Skipping a meal will keep your metabolism low and eating until you are rolling away from the dinner table will definitely make you feel like sleeping in front of the television. This is prime weight gain time for your body.

4) Workout in the Morning

To avoid that slower metabolism during the holidays, I have developed an annual habit of a harder than average workout on the big eating days of the holidays. Typically, go for a 45-60 minute walk or jog or bike to get the metabolism going in the morning. For added caloric burn, add in some weight training or calisthenics for 20-30 minutes like the following routine:

*Repeat five times

- Warmup with crunches
- Run/PT
- Run 5:00
- Pushups - 10-20
- Crunches - 20
- Pushups - max in 1:00 - 2:00 (Do knee pushups if you have to)
- Rest 2:00
- Situps - max in 1:00 - 2:00 (or crunches)
- Rest 2:00
- Pullups - max (if possible)
- DBs and (Heavy, lightweight like 20#,15#,or 10# DBs for 10, 15 reps)
- Biceps curls -10, 15
- Military - 10, 15
- Hammer curl-10, 15
- Tricep ext -10, 15

Typical Cardio/PT Option

Warmup 5:00 walk / jog / stretch (see "The Stretching Plan")

Walk, Run, bike, swim or elliptical glide 30:00

*If you area beginner, it is best to just start a walking program. Any NEW activity will be harder than normal for you, so do not over do it. Read my free "45 Day Beginner Program" (PDF) - it will help you build good habits through the Holidays.

A family or neighborhood basketball game or tough football game is always a good way to work off the Holiday meals too.

5) Don't Eat After 8:00 pm

Try to eat dinner before 7:00 pm and not snack after 8:00 pm (unless you are on night shift or plan on being awake for six more hours).  Many of us eat because it is "time" to eat. In other words, we eat out of habit, not because we need to eat. Eat snacks whenever you "need" to - snacks like fruit, vegetables, yogurt or a tuna sandwich are great mid-day snacks that will help your body stay in fat-burning mode. So, don't go more than five hours during the day without eating. It causes you to eat more at mealtime and decreases your metabolism.

6) Brush Your Teeth After Meals

Right after eating a meal, especially dinner, go straight to the bathroom to brush, floss, and mouthwash so that your mouth is feeling nice and clean - this makes it less appealing to eat more (especially before bedtime). Ever try to eat or drink something after brushing your teeth? Not tasty!

7) Confuse Hunger With Thirst

Chew sugarless gum and/or drink water. Most people confuse hunger with dehydration. Drinking a glass of water will usually take care of the food yearning. This is not skipping a meal - just a way to work through temptation. An optimal level of water per day as stated by the National Institute of Health is 1/2 to 1 gallon a day. Add one extra glass (8 oz.) of water per every 10 pounds overweight too!

Good luck with the holiday season. Try to work off many of the stressors by giving yourself a present of 30 minutes to exercise or walk. You will feel better for it.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.


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