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Jan 2014  |  By Christy Coughlin  |  Comments

Get Back into Balance After the Holidays

Thanksgiving offered savory turkey with gravy, melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, and the richest pecan pie ever, which blended right into December festivities.

The last few months of the year are filled with fabulous parties complete with tasty cocktails, an abundance of chocolate, cookies and cakes, buttery everything, and meats smothered in heavy sauces. Healthy eating...remind me what that is, exactly?

Exercise seemed futile, so a week off led to two, then three. Now that the decadent holidays are behind you, it’s time to get back in balance as you kick off 2014. “It’s common to gain five pounds over the holidays and never lose it. It’s so much easier to gain weight than it is to get rid of it,” says Alan Zunamon, MD at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Your good health, including diet and exercise, needs some serious help. This expert advice will help you get back in balance:

If you’ve overindulged and your skinny jeans are rebelling...

Tia Rains Vivian, Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences, suggests these strategies to get serious about eating right and getting back to your healthy weight:

Consider outsourcing (meals) for a week.

Many meal delivery services offer specials in January, which allow you to take planning, preparing and cooking out of the equation for a week. Most offer meal plans for different calorie levels and eating practices (e.g., gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.). Or simply take advantage of the meal plans in magazines, which are abundant at the end of the year. Commit to strictly following the meal plan for an entire week (no cheating).

Try a no-sugar/no-alcohol cleanse. 

Cleanses don’t need to be expensive to be an effective means to stopping bad behaviors. Eliminating white sugar and alcohol for a week and replacing them with extra vegetables is a healthy way to reduce calories, feel better, and reset meal patterns.

Start the day with 25-30g of high-quality protein.

Research has shown that people who start the day with protein consume fewer calories the rest of the day. Hot-off-the-press research in a study conducted by Heather Leidy at the University of Missouri says that those who ate a high-protein breakfast were less likely to eat high-sugar, high-fat snacks in the afternoon.

If holiday exercise consisted of walking from your house to the car...

DuWayne Wright, CPT at Workout Wright in Evanston, helps his clients get moving again in a safe, effective way with the following advice:

Complete a fitness assessment with a personal trainer.

Find out your body composition, aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, and to check your flexibility. That’s a good place to start. From there you can set small, reasonable goals to improve your fit- ness and lose weight.

Get back into exercise slowly by walking 30 minutes a day.

This allows you to ease into activity with less chance of injury. Walking also improves sleep and reduces stress, both critical components of weight loss.

Set short-term, doable goals.

Then set new ones, and work toward those goals. Work with a personal trainer over a set period of time for support and accountability, to see real progress, and because you are serious and committed.

“Don’t try to undo your month-long overeating and inactivity in a few days or even a week. You need a long-term plan that you can stick with,” Dr. Zunamon advises.

Mike Waligora, MD, who also practices at NorthShore, warns, “It’s easy to out-eat your exercise!” Now is the time to get back in balance with healthy eating and exercise, and to consider a few new strategies for next holiday season.

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