You have now entered the devastating period between Thanksgiving and Christmas–the time when you feel overwhelmed with the desire to bake and eat the goodies you avoid throughout the year. Regular workouts make room for an altered diet.1-1257435723jneb

It’s time to start up your holiday exercise routine–time to engage the plan for submitting to your holiday food traditions and not put on 10 pounds in the process. My plan stands in tribute to a thousand holiday seasons and 100,000 good intentions. It goes something like this, barring natural work and sleep cycles:

You gorge at Thanksgiving.

You play a few rousing hands of cards. Probably no calorie-burning here, but at least you’re not comatose.

You eat leftovers.

You climb in and out of the attic, getting down the Christmas decorations, working up a sweat, lifting boxes, bending under the weight, dragging out artificial tree boxes (if you’re one of those people).

You eat some pie to recuperate but forego the ice cream (after all, it is morning).

You go on the Christmas tree search (if you’re one of those people). Tramping through woods with a saw is good exercise, but hauling and assembling an artificial tree also burns calories, especially if no one helps you. Looking through trees at a tree stand is a low calorie-burning activity in the sense that someone must lift and tie down your tree (upper body workout for two minutes).

You eat some more pie, this time with ice cream.

You put on a Christmas CD and dance to “Santa Claus is coming to town” while distributing decorations throughout your house.

You put up Christmas tree decorations. Even with the help of children, this could take awhile. Added time and calories are burned with the following interferences: lights stop working once they’re up, and you must re-string lights (or worse yet, go buy more); tree falls over, and you must put everything back not the tree (or worse yet, clean up broken glass, etc.); your tree is crooked, so you find rope and anchor it to the window so it won’t fall over again; you clean up sugary water on the floor.

You eat some cookies and hot chocolate for the sake of comfort, reward, and nostalgia.

At some point during the week, you remove all the remaining leftovers from the refrigerator. This will inadvertently involve wiping down the actual refrigerator, as something sticky, like gravy or cranberry sauce, will have spilled during the last week. You realize the house is strewn with pine needles, and you run the vacuum and sweep the floors. Dusting may also be needed. It’s not much, but housecleaning burns about 150 calories/hour. Yes, it will take 2 hours to nullify 1 cookie, but you’ve got to clean up the pine needles anyway. During the holiday season, you need to call a victory wherever you can, even if it’s a dietetic draw.

You eat remaining turkey, ham, and sweet potatoes. You throw out remaining vegetable dishes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and stuffing. You vow not to make so much next year. You swear off bread for the remainder of the year.

You string outside lights. This may involve carrying a ladder, climbing up and down the ladder, throwing out expensive light nets from the previous year, complaining, and a total lack of Christmas spirit. Being angry also burns calories, so your behavior is understandable.

You drink a cup of coffee and eat some pumpkin bread and a piece of chocolate for increased energy. You remember your non-bread vow, but you reason that pumpkin bread is practically a vegetable.

You go shopping. This activity is good exercise carries risk of hyper-extension and lower back pain. Walking, standing, and occasional jostling are necessary postures for shopping after Thanksgiving, but they do take a toll on your spine. The easier but less active replacement for shopping exercise is Internet shopping. This relieves stress and increases heart rate but does not work the legs, abs, or arms. You eat some chips and a cookie while you shop.

You remember your vow again and warn everyone in the house to eat the rest of the cookies and pie today. People respond accordingly.

You begin jogging on balmier mornings or bundling up and walking on brisk mornings. Each activity provides opportunity to breathe deeply and enjoy your neighbors’ Christmas decorations. One eager-beaver neighbor has a lit tree in every window. (Now that’s just showing off.)

You drink water after every walk. You feel good.

Here’s where you turn the corner to self-control and a successful holiday regime. Sweets have begun to make you feel nauseous. You eat a banana.

You make a bolder resolution: No more sweets till Christmas week. Or at least, not until the next party. Oh, okay. You just decide to walk more, like every day.

And then the baking resumes. And then you gorge on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. By New Year’s, you’re sick of food and anxious to take down the tree. You step on a scale and make a new resolution.

The holiday exercise routine is complete. Now it’s time to start the real one.


Actual Helpful Hints for the Holidays (except for rare occasions):

  • Limit gluten and sugar foods to once per day or once per week–that means no breads, processed fruity products, or desserts. If you can swear off them completely, do it; eliminating gluten and sugar from your diet reduces belly fat and digestive gas and bloating. Giving up dairy also increases digestive health.
  • Replace sugary drinks (like cider, soda, bottled fruit juices, hot chocolate, coffee with creamer, beer, and wine) with plain water; infuse with fruit for variety. You should drink a half gallon of water every day (more if you’re a work-out guru).
  • Do at least a half hour of physical activity every day, like walking or weights. Alternate days doing aerobic and resistance exercise.
  • Bake goodies for other people instead of yourself. This satisfies the craving to bake but keeps you from a year of working Christmas off your waistline.
  • Whenever possible, eat fish and poultry over beef and pork. If you’re vegetarian, you need to ramp up consumption of beans, nuts, and other protein foods to reach your necessary protein intake.


image by Petr Kratochvil

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