How to deal with endless parties and keep your fitness regimen going…

New Year is rolling around and you have made your list of resolutions, which hopefully, includes a more disciplined lifestyle. Before you get to 2010, however, you have plum cake and turkey, biriyani, butter masala and sinful kheer, alcohol and late nights, decadence and self-indulgence to contend with. The holiday season is not always favorable to the waistline.

But this is a real life situation you will find yourself in time and time again. The temptation to indulge at any given pretext; to relax and forget about sweating it out on the treadmill; to skip one workout at a time till you find yourself not working out at all the entire month!

It has been found that adults may gain as much as 0.8-2.5 kg a year. This is usually concentrated over the holiday season. Although this may seem like an insignificant amount of weight, the problem arises when it is not lost over the following months and leads to an accumulation of weight over the years. So five New Years down the line you are already 6-8 kg overweight.

How does one deal with the holiday season? Do you turn into a wet blanket and refuse party invitations to spare yourself the extra calories and plough through the holiday season stoically refusing to eat chocolate? Sounds a bit extreme doesn't it?

You don't have to finish the hors d' œuvre or drink that entire bottle of wine; neither do you have to take an extended sabbatical from your fitness regime. The key is moderation and common sense. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the more calories you consume the more you will have to burn to balance out the energy equation. You need to exercise more and/or be more physically active and eat smart.

Physical “activity”

Physical “activity”, which includes household chores and routine daily activity, also burns a fair number of calories. This may be a good time to play with the kids (and I don't mean ‘snakes and ladders' or video games; more like cycling, running, hide and seek), fit in that extra game of tennis or give your maid the day off and clean the house yourself. Staying active over the holiday season keeps the calorie ledger ringing

Try and stay with your regular routine of exercise. If you are unable to, do a little; something is better than nothing. If you can fit in a 30-minute cardio instead of your usual 50-60 minute extended workout before your party, just do it. You will be in a better mood at the party, will be less inclined to indulge, and more inclined to continue to exercise the next day instead of lying in bed brooding over what you ate/drank.

Being on holiday does not mean you need to be inactive. You can follow a moderate intensity ‘Holiday Workout' even in the confines of your hotel room using minimal equipment like a resistance band, which you can easily pack and carry. Walking around a lot while sightseeing or shopping and being sensible about eating out ensures that you don't return from a holiday completely out of shape.

Preparing for a party

A common mistake people make is to starve themselves in anticipation of a party. This can be counterproductive leading to over-consumption of calories that are invariably unaccounted for.

Eat a little something to avoid binging, especially when faced with a delectable spread. By that I mean a small healthy snack. An apple, a few nuts, a cup of skimmed milk, a bowlful of boiled chickpea salad keeps hunger pangs at bay and helps you remain calm and judicious when faced with an appetizing spread.

Eat smaller helpings. You may be surprised at how satisfied you feel with just half a bowl of Christmas pudding. Eat slowly and enjoy every morsel. Most importantly, go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol lowers your self-control and increases appetite so in addition to a whopping 1000 calories you may consume drinking, you may very easily eat another 1000 calories at one meal.

If you are cooking, choose healthier options. Some of the items on the table can be made healthier with just a few smart twists in the recipe. Keep the deep-fried stuff to minimum, bake, roast and grill instead. Reduce the oil recommended for the salad dressing, use half fat cream instead of full fat variety, paneer for your dips instead of whole cream or cheese. It is a misconception that taste is compromised unless a whole litre of oil is used in a recipe.

A sweet problem

Enjoy your favourite food, but limit your intake. Give away the rest of the cake/plum pudding so your debauchery doesn't last a whole week. Here's the problem, for most people, Christmas/Diwali/New Year are not just single days of extravagance, but a 30-day carnival. In our country, the benevolent custom of distributing sweets doesn't help either because then you are inundated with boxes of delicacies.

It seems a shame to give them away, so you eat them all. Why not distribute them among close friends/charitable organisations/employees insisting on mentioning who made it and how wonderful it is, so that the cheer and generosity is spread to a wider circle, while your waistline is not threatened.

Don't try to start a new fad diet during the holidays. This sets you up for failure and disappointment. It's hard to be a fitness junkie when everyone around you is letting their hair down.

If asked, request for “healthy gifts”. A gym membership for instance, or a pair of workout tights, or even an exercise bike. It keeps you focused on what you need to do after the season is over. Also choose to give healthy gifts, a fitness DVD, a cool pair of running shorts, a heart rate monitor or a pedometer.

Focus on maintaining your current weight for the entire season. That is half the problem solved.

Dr. Sheela Nambiar M.D, is a Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant NAFC (USA) and Director, TFL Fitness Studio, Chennai. E-mail drsheela@tfl-inc.com

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