Staying Fit Over the Holidays

Staying Fit Over the Holidays

Each year, millions start off the holidays with a large meal on Thanksgiving, followed by several more days of leftover pies, cakes, and candies. Many gain a significant amount of weight. Some people can gain 5-7 pounds during the holiday season, though according to a University of Texas SW Medical Center, most people only gain 1-2 pounds during the season.

No matter who you are, the weight-gain cycle can easily continue throughout the winter months, and by spring you can have 5-10 lbs to lose. Hold that pace for a decade and you will have gained 50-60 lbs. This is the way weight gain occurs - slowly, over the years.

The good news: While it can take a few to several years to gain 50-60 lbs, it can only take 6-12 months to lose it. So, when I feel the urge to write the annual "Holiday Weight Gain Article," next year, perhaps I can feature the success stories of last year instead of trying to scare people into exercising and eating from healthy food plans.

Without a lifestyle change, including daily exercise and proper food habits, the annual 1-2 lbs of weight gain can lead to obesity, which gives you a higher chance of contracting other related health problems such as hypertension, stroke, and diabetes.

So how can people avoid adding holiday weight? Healthy food choices and more exercise - and a few extra tips:

1) Walk More

When safety is not an issue, try to walk further than normal when going about your normal routine. Burning a few more calories by walking is one of the easiest ways to take off that extra weight. Just twenty minutes of brisk walking can burn over 100-150 calories. That equals a cookie or soda in calories!

2) Get a Jump on Training

Try out my free "45 Day Workout Plan" (PDF). This is a beginner plan. Just email me if you have purchased this in the past and I will send the 45 Day Intermediate plan to you.

3) Continue to Drink Water

Water is going to naturally help you avoid eating as much if you drink a large glass 20-30 minutes prior to having a large dinner. Plus, water will keep you hydrated and help you burn fat more efficiently. Some people confuse hunger with dehydration. If you just drink a glass of water, that will often 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 (8oz) of water per every 10 lbs over weight too!

4) Eat Slowly

Eat very slowly 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. Stay away from buffet tables at parties and use smaller plates when selecting foods.

5) 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!

6) Cardio Ideas

You can do cardio workouts such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming, rowing any day and it only takes 20-30 minutes to receive a good cardio-vascular benefit. Keep the heart rate at about 50-65% of your maximum heart rate. A good way to determine maximum heart rate is the theoretical formula - 220 - age = max heart rate

The best thing about this part of your workout is that you can do your cardio exercise around your neighborhood, on a treadmill at home, or at the gym if you choose. So on days when time is critical, get your cardio done or make those days one of your rest days (1-2 per week).

Here is a Full-Body Weight Circuit Routine that can be used to get you back in the gym again: (Use machines or dumbbell / free weights)

Do this weight routine 2-3 times a week: - Bench press - 15,10* reps or pushups - Pulldowns - 15,10* reps - Squats or leg press - 10-15 reps - Leg Curls - 10-15 reps - Rest with abs - do 25-50 reps of any crunch exercise - Military press (shoulder press) - 15,10* - Bicep Curls - 15,10* - Triceps Extensions - 10-15 reps - Plus exercise of choice - pick a machine and do two sets of 15 reps on it Repeat above if you have time/energy

(*Complete this set with lighter weight for 15 reps on each exercise listed with* and immediately drop the weight a few pounds and perform 10 reps without rest)

On days you cannot get to the gym to lift weights, give this superset a shot. Add dumbbell investment of $20-30 to fully supplement your home workout:

- Pushups - 10-20 - Crunches - 20 - Wide Pushups - 10-20 - Rev crunches - 20 - Bench dips - 10-20 - Double Crunches - 20 - Squats - 20 - Lunges - 10-20 / leg - Bicep curls - 20 - Triceps Extension - 20 - Military Press - 20       

And the "Light Weight Shoulder Workout" - see "The Best Shoulder Workout" article.

If you do some of these suggestions 4-5 days a week, you will burn enough calories to lose weight and inches as long as you are not getting too carried away with your eating habits. See the "Lean Down Plan" for more ideas on what to eat and when.

Good luck with the Holidays. Try to work off many of the stressors of the Holidays by giving yourself a present of 30 minutes to exercise or walk. You will feel better after any type of exercise compared to not having done any activity.

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 Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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