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Keeping Your Body Trim During Holidays - Lenox Hill Nutrition Expert Provides Recommendations

November 24, 2003

It might be better if we walked over the river and through the wood to get grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. The physical activity would burn off calories and help prevent weight gain during a season of eggnog temptations and apple pie seductions.

"One reason for weight gain over the holiday season is limited physical activity," says Beth Glace, MS, a Research Associate and Sports Nutritionist from Lenox Hill Hospital's Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma (NISMAT). "We take in excess calories, but we don't burn them off. With that type of equation, you end up with added pounds."

The bad news about holiday weight gain is that it tends to stick. A study in a major medical journal a few years ago showed that study participants tended to retain the weight gained over the holidays and that already obese patients were those most likely to put on four or five pounds over the holidays. More than half of Americans are overweight, and excess weight sets the stage for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The study also identified only one other factor besides hunger that may influence holiday weight gain: amount of physical activity.

The fact is that calories are taken in much more easily than they are burned off. For example, it will take two hours of leaf raking to burn off the 400 calories in a single slice of apple pie, a nearly hour-long walk to use up the 340 calories in an 8 oz. cup of egg nog, and an hour's worth of cross country skiing to get rid of the 420 calories in a cup-size serving of stuffing.

"There are only two ways to manage the consumption of extra calories," explains Glace. "Either don?t overeat in the first place, or burn them off with extra physical activity."

Here are some lifestyle modifications from Glace to help you keep the pounds at bay:

  • Don't let the holidays interfere with your normal physical activity.
  • Balance the extra calories you take in with increased levels of exercise to burn them off. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to a bus stop 20 blocks down the bus route, or park at the other end of the mall when doing gift shopping.
  • On holidays, meet friends and/or relatives for a long walk, bike ride or run early in the morning before guests arrive. It is a good way to visit and spread cheer that does not include eating.
  • Incorporate physical activity such as charades into family get-togethers-anything that gets you off the couch.
  • Never skip meals before a holiday party, to avoid overeating once you get there.
  • Drink lots of water to help curb your appetite.
  • Enjoy once-a-year foods in small portions. Make selective food choices rather than eating large portions of everything available.
  • Pick one dessert as a treat. Avoid taste-testing them all.
  • The holidays are a wonderful time of year, and there is no reason that we cannot enjoy some of our favorite foods," explains Glace. "But we need to indulge sensibly and then get our bodies in motion so that that we burn off the extra calorie consumption." 

Members of the press seeking information about Lenox Hill Hospital should call the Public Relations Department at (212) 434-2400.