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A Few Tips for Fighting the Holiday Bulge

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With the holiday office parties, family get-togethers, and friendly buffets I thought it best to provide some great tips to avoiding the bulge this winter season. And with the guidance and advice from American Military University Professor John D. Moore , who specializes in the health sciences sector, has provided some great tips for both single hard-working students as well as busy parents.

J. Mason: As a busy parent, it’s hard to find time for yourself, let alone time to exercise. What are some exercises for when you can’t get out of the house for a jog or trip to the gym?

Professor John Moore: There are lots of practical ways to exercise at home and without any gym equipment or leaving the house. Some ideas include step exercises with a stool, push-ups, crunches, jogging in place and basic stretching. If you live in a two story home or a building with a stairwell, you can also create a “stair” workout based on time or the number of flights ascended and descended.

[Interested in Physical Wellness? Look at degrees in Sports and Health Sciences.]

J. Mason: For working parents, what are some “desk exercises” someone can do to keep alert and possibly even tone different muscle groups?

Professor John Moore: Isometric exercises come to mind for people working at a desk. Isometric exercise is a 25 cent term to describe type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction.

An example of an isometric desk exercise is the Side Bend (for stretching back and sides). Sit at the edge of a chair with your back straight. Interlace your fingers with your palms facing away from you. Reach your arms straight above your head, then lean to the left from the waist and hold for five seconds. Next lean to the right and hold and five seconds. A simple search on any search engine will provide a multitude of isometric desk exercises. These types of exercises are also great stress busters as they allow a quick release of pent up energy.

J. Mason: With the holidays in full bloom right now, how do you stay away from the buffets? Is there a zen saying you can repeat to curb your appetite or an exercise to keep hunger for the bad stuff at bay?

Professor John Moore: The holidays can be very challenging in terms of maintaining a healthy diet. This is partly due to the sheer number of what I call “food focused” events that so many of us are part of, such as office holiday parties and family get togethers. Let’s take a look at some prevention and harm reduction approaches:

1. Be mindful of (or avoid) alcohol intake. Why? Because some drinks are nothing more than calorie bombs, causing a delayed explosion around unwanted areas of the body 🙂 Worse, alcohol can impair judgment, which is never a good idea at a food focused event! Are you really going to say no to those Chocolate Chip cookies after 2 cups of fattening, “spiked” eggnog … really? 

2. Maintain some type of daily exercise program, even if is a 15 minute walk around the block. This helps to increase metabolism and reduce stress. Daily exercise also helps us feel more connected to our bodies and paradoxically, increase dietary mindfulness.

3. Drink plenty of water. Water helps to satiate our apatite and create that “full” feeling. Some people find it helpful to drink a glass of water one 1/2 hour prior to a food focused event and then keep drinking water during the “Food-tiv-ities”.

4. Consider eating before going to a food event. Some people have found it helpful to eat a small meal of their choice (that is healthy) before going to a holiday party or family function. This helps us feel more empowered to “say no” to unhealthy holiday foods because we are already full.

5. Create a plan for success that includes boundaries. There are several approaches to this tip, including limiting portion size, saying no to foods that we feel powerless over (i.e., this might mean chocolates or potato chips). One simple trick that I have found effective is to simply limit the amount of time spent at a given event. For example, when I go to a friend’s holiday party, I only go for 45 minutes or an hour. The less time you are around the food, the less likely you are to be tempted. Another trick? Show up at the food event at the end of the get together. Think about it …if the food is already eaten by others, you don’t have to worry about overeating!

J. Mason: In terms of portion size, what is healthy and what isn’t when it’s chow time at holiday brunches and dinners?

Professor John Moore:This is a hard one to answer. I am not a dietician however, I will say that some people find it useful to use their fist as a practical measuring tool for portion size, meaning that the portion should be no larger than a tightly clenched fist. 

[Related post: Balancing Act: Why You Need Time Away From Studying, Work]

– Expertise provided by  Professor John D. Moore

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