CONYERS - If you're anything like most Americans, chances are your family has a holiday schedule filled with feasts, parties and the accompanying cookies, cakes, pies and other kinds of assorted goodies. Even the most iron of wills has a hard time saying no to a second plate of turkey and stuffing on a Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends.
And to all those but the lucky few blessed with the metabolism of a hummingbird, that means an inevitable battle with weight gain.
But according to health experts, keeping your weight in check during the holidays doesn't have to be a monumental task. With a little moderation and a regular fitness routine, you can have a great time with your family enjoying your favorite traditional foods and still keep the weight at bay.
"We're all going to want to eat, and you should enjoy the food," said Kristy Cunningham, co-owner of Gold's Gym on Salem Road in Conyers. "But the goal is to not overindulge. Eat what you want, but don't eat big platefuls.
"It's OK to splurge, but you've got to exercise," she added. "Every week, there is something new they're advertising, some new fix. But why is it that every year there is a new one? If it were true that you could lose weight without working for it, we would know about it."
Cunningham recommended that now is the time to start a fitness regimen if you haven't already. By limiting the intake of calories and increasing physical activity, a person can keep excess weight off, rather than trying to lose it after the fact.
"Get a jump on it," she said. "If everybody will do at least 30 minutes of steady cardio, a minimum of three times a week, it's amazing the difference you'll feel," she said.
Even little efforts can make a difference.
"Remember that you don't have to park close to the door of the mall while shopping for the holidays," she said.
Sam Mitchell, a certified personal trainer and salesman at Anytime Fitness in Conyers, agreed. "People do the whole thing of, 'Let's put this off until after Thanksgiving,'" he said. "It's definitely a lot harder to make it into the gym during the holidays.
"Experts say you should work out at least three days a week, a half hour at a time. It's not that much. Only an hour and a half a week," he said.
Combining a moderate workout routine with sensible eating habits really makes the difference, Mitchell said.
"Watching what you eat, your diet, is a 24-hour-a-day job."
Mitchell recommended avoiding eating out too often during the holidays, as it makes it harder to keep track of the ingredients being used, as well as managing the portions.
He also said that avoiding starchy items is a great way to keep the weight off, especially as someone gets older and their metabolism begins to slow.
Colin M. Stewart may be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: Healthy holiday tips
· Stick to your regular exercise routine as much as possible. Especially during the holidays, plan your physical activity routine in advance (don't leave it up to chance). Mark it on the calendar and consider it as important as any other appointment. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily, and more if possible.
· Overcome the urge to overeat. Standing by the buffet table is temptation to overeat. Remember holiday parties are a time to celebrate with family and friends, not just food.
· Bowls of fresh fruit are a festive and sweet substitute for candy or chocolates.
· You've tried the leftover turkey sandwich; now try the leftover turkey salad. Add a few pieces of turkey to a generous portion of mixed greens, cucumbers, mushrooms, peppers or any other vegetables you like. Sprinkle with dried cranberries for that authentic holiday taste.
· Play some backyard football or Frisbee with children and adults before the big holiday dinner or during football halftime.
· Make sure to watch portion sizes and select one or two of your favorites from the host of tempting foods.
· Be physically active to avoid or relieve the holiday stress.
· If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
· Dance or exercise to your favorite holiday music.
· Leave those extra calories behind - limit your intake of foods high in fat or added sugar.
· Cut back on your family's television viewing time. Limit the number of hours your children spend playing video games. Instead make a new holiday tradition. Take a brisk walk (or bike) around the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations or grab your bike, walking shoes or snow shoes and head out to the nearest trails or national park.
Tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention