How to avoid putting on five pounds over the holiday season
“5 pounds”. This is how much weight people think they gain over the holidays. But what’s really going on? How does the body balance energy intake and expenditure on a long-term basis? And how is this affected by changes to our normal eating patterns during this holiday period?
Weight gain results from a discrepancy between energy intake and energy expenditure – eating more food than needed to meet the body’s energy requirements. The typical adult gains 1 lb of body weight each year. Averaged out over the year, this represents just 9 calories extra per day. Clearly this is the wrong way to look at long-term weight gain. Our bodies have several intricate (and poorly understood) mechanisms for adapting energy expenditure to match energy intake; this is a topic for another day. However, experimental studies do show that periods of indulgence are poorly managed by this system – i.e. long-term weight gain occurs because of short windows of significant excess intake.
Body weight is an easy target to focus on, but there are other metrics to examine when considering how holiday excesses may affect the body’s health. A key one is body composition – i.e. the proportion of body weight that is fat. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that although the average body weight of participants remained unchanged over the holiday season, there was a significant increase in body fatness and especially central body fat. This suggests that by merely measuring weight, people may not realise the potentially harmful effects of holiday indulgences on their body and their risk for future disease development.
So what can we do about this? The holiday season presents many challenges to the body, as we typically change our quantity, quality, and timing of food intake, while simultaneously becoming less active. Rather than try to “eat healthy” over the holidays, a sensible approach would be to take simple steps to minimise the size of disturbance to the body’s systems of energy balance.
- Keep your regular meal pattern – avoid skipping or combining meals. The body can more effectively absorb and manage nutrients provided by regular meals through the day, rather than by one large feast. For example, eating brunch followed by an early (and large) dinner changes both the quantity and timing of food intake.
- Enjoy your favourite foods. Eat the special dishes you look forward to, but decline the everyday foods that are available all year round. Allow yourself to indulge, just not on everything.
- Seek quality and variety. If confronted by a buffet table, consider trying small sample-size portions of many different dishes, rather than excessive quantities. Take the time to slowly savour and appreciate what you are eating.
- Monitor alcohol intake. Alcoholic drinks provide calories both from their sugar content and from the alcohol itself (each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories). This can quickly add up. Additionally, the proper processing of other nutrients is delayed while the liver metabolises this alcohol.
- Stay active. This is especially key to avoid a change in body composition from muscle mass toward body fat. In addition, including daily exercise will help avoid feelings of sluggishness and heaviness brought on by spending too much time indoors and sedentary.
Tips on getting someone else started on a fitness regime
As the holiday season approaches, I am often asked for advice on how to get someone else started on a fitness program. As many of us are fortunate to have so much, every year it seems harder and harder to give a gift to a loved one that quite often has most of everything they want or need anyway. One thing you cannot easily give another person is health. Ultimately the decisions each of us make in terms of activity, food intake, and getting proper rest play a large role in what we can control about our health. If you are thinking about trying to get a friend or family member started in fitness here are some ideas that can help.
Centre some of your visit with them around physical activity
We often find it easy to spend time with each other over dinner and perhaps a drink. It could also be a movie or a watching a sporting event. These activities can be fun, but they can also contribute to lower fitness levels. We are so fortunate to have many great areas around Kingston such as Lemoine Point or Cataraqui Creek . If someone has not been physically active for a while, the notion of going to a gym may be too much, too soon. You may not be able to dictate their level of activity, but adding even something like outdoor walks as the reason for your time together can help ease someone back into placing a higher value on their own level of fitness.
Help them understand how difficult it was for you to start your fitness journey
We all know that the hardest part of fitness and health is just getting started. All of us started from somewhere, and helping your friend or family member along is really about them deciding that they should take the first step. It can be intimidating giving fitness advice when you may be seen as the healthy person telling another person that “they should start going to the gym.” Even suggesting you will take them may be intimidating. Help them understand that your first steps were also difficult.
Break down a vision into more specific targets
Simply being fit is not a goal. For most people it’s what you do with that fitness that makes it tangible. Oftentimes a milestone birthday, turning over the calendar to a new year, or the birth of a child or grandchild can help someone understand the importance of fitness. Use these milestones to help plant the seed of fitness. A timeline that can spark someone to action today may be knowing that they may want to be an active grandparent and be capable of caring for that child in a few years. Their goal may be to one day have the ability to take them on a hike, go camping, or on a bike ride. Working backwards, it may be that taking up a running program can lead to a 5KM or 10KM race eventrun, or an introductory triathlon program could provide a measurable short term goal that gets them there.
What we can offer at Focus Personal Fitness?
We have many programs to get started. First off, it’s essential that someone who has not been active for a while gets a basic assessment. We do those for free. Our winter indoor cycling or Megan’s learn to run program are designed for beginners. One other popular trend at the gym is having two people join a regular personal training session. It’s a sad reality that we are often more committed to others than we are to ourselves – but use this to your advantage.
We see a higher level of long term commitment when members join with either a close friend or a loved one. It also costs less per person than a one on one session. It may be that the best gift you can give someone this year is a combination of your time and their fitness. If we can help, contact Hope and we will get you planning.
Happy Holidays from our team to you and yours. Be safe and keep fit.
Randy’s Blog: Why we don’t give away pizza at Focus
Can you believe that some gyms now offer free pizza to members? I love pizza but I do not think I could offer pizza to our clients. I think we will stick to the apples!
Coming to Focus represents a time in your day or week when you focus on improving or maintaining your health and fitness. This is a place where you work with the trainers and staff to reach new and important goals.
Your day can be filled with endless distractions and stress. Keeping your health and fitness a priority is not an easy task. I often find that high performing individuals often to prioritize family, work and personal commitments ahead of their own well-being. We can justify to ourselves that we will make up missed time and workouts later- but often the act of putting ourselves at the end of the list becomes a habit and it’s hard to break. Here’s the catch though: without our own health we will not be able to do all the other things that are important to us! When you come to Focus you have made your health a priority in your day. You have made a choice to set aside time to improve yourself. We see this everyday as clients walk through the door for a workout. The weight of all those external demands is lifted for an hour. They don’t leave the gym tired; rather they leave the gym recharged and ready to take on the rest of their day.
Our responsibility at Focus is to provide the environment, team, and motivation to help you achieve your goals. We are responsible for making your visit focused on your goals with no distractions. Coming to Focus is a time in your day where you release all of life’s challenges and distractions from your mind and body. Here you get to focus only on yourself: your overall well-being, fitness, and health. Not only is this integral to dealing with your every day stresses, but it also equips you to bear the load in a better way! Your training time at Focus allows you to build the confidence, knowledge, consistency, and skill sets that will help you continue to make good choices outside of the gym setting. You leave feeling more aware and motivated to maintain the good health and fitness that you are working towards. It is our hope that the environment and support of Focus will propel you to pursue health and fitness on a daily basis with a positive and encouraged mindset.
Coming to any gym is an investment – in finances and time. We recognize the investment you make and match it by providing a comfortable and motivating environment with a team of amazing trainers who really care about you. Taking care of yourself is a good habit – kind of like an apple a day. So remember when you supply your time, we supply the apples. Sorry but you won’t find pizza here.
We continue to look at new ways to provide great programs and services to help our clients. This fall we will be introducing two new Pilates programs. There will be an introductory and advanced program lead by Jillian. It is a great way to supplement your personal training sessions or add another group training session to your week.
Jonathan will be offering two workshops in September. These workshops are FREE, but require pre-registration. Bring a friend or a new member.
Call Hope at (613) 544-7999 to register today.
Spring is here! I love this time of year!
More light, increased energy, new goals, and challenges to meet. We have lots of great new initiatives this Spring and Summer to challenge you to new levels of fitness and health.
Megan is hosting a four-week outdoor boot camp this Spring. Participants will be challenged outdoors around the beautiful Woolen Mill grounds. This is a great way to add in some additional training or spice up your current fitness routine.
Maybe this is your year to try a triathlon? Our 2nd annual Intro to Triathlon program is set to start May 2nd. We have a great team of coach’s and support crew to get you across the finish line at the Cornwall Sprint Triathlon on August 27, 2016. Check out last years testimonials. It was a fantastic experience for everyone involved!
We have also changed up some of the fitness class sessions. DJ Ron is in the house and will be mixing up some tunes on Thursday morning as you sculpt out those legs, arms, and core! We will also be continuing with our Pilates session, instructed by Claire, on Wednesday and Thursday. Join us on Wednesday and Thursday at noon to recharge your day with full-time trainer Jonathan MacCaul.
How about ending the summer with a supported bike ride through the Thousand Islands? Join us for our 2nd annual Thousand Island Gran Fondo, where you can challenge yourself to one of three rides; 90km, 120km or 155km. Check out the website for more information and to register.
Focus is now offering a special discount to our current clients. Any current client who refers a new client for personal training service will receive a 15% discount on their next 20-pack purchase. Contact Hope for further details.
No matter what your goal is we are happy to support your desire for improved health and fitness. I have the best team and staff because we all truly care about your fitness and health goals. We are committed to helping you be your best and enjoying your club!
Stay Healthy This Holiday Season
Part of what makes the holiday season so great is being able to relax with family and friends, and to break free from daily obligations- at least for a couple of days. Another great component is the assortment of sweet and savory treats available.
We all have weaknesses, of which mine include gravy, chocolate, and most variations of dessert. While it is perfectly healthy to indulge on occasion, how can you satisfy holiday cravings, without slipping too far from your normal routine?
What can be added to keep things healthy?
- Fibre is a BIG part of every meal. Don’t neglect your fibre over the holiday season. As you FILL UP on turkey and gravy, be sure to FUEL UP on broccoli, brussels sprouts, and spinach
- Christmas morning often consists of sweet treats. By taking 15 minutes, before breakfast, for a quick jog, you can help manage the effects of sugar, as it is digested best following exercise
- The holidays are often special because of the people we get to spend time with. When visiting, or hosting, family and friends, initiate an evening walk around the neighbourhood to get everyone moving
By following these steps to keep things healthier during the holidays, you can indulge without the guilt.Wishing you a happy (and healthy) holiday season!
– Ben Robinson