by Marnie Record, workforce specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
I learned from my grandfather to answer “both” when asked “do you want pumpkin or pecan pie?” As I approached the middle age years of life with a slowing metabolism, I found myself in the company of many Americans who gain a pound in the time between Halloween and New Year’s. Then I also found myself joining the New Year’s bandwagon to work really hard for five months to lose that pound, because in order to lose one pound of weight we have to burn 3,500 calories.
Looking at the calories of one traditional holiday meal and the activities required to burn the calories from this meal, it’s easy to see how quickly weight gain can occur with all the holiday parties, social gatherings, extra stress and decreased activity that come with this time of year. This example is based on a 40-year-old female that is 5’6” and weighs 150 pounds.
white meat turkey
roasted root vegetables
237 calories for 6 ounces
50 calories for 2 tablespoons
237 calories for 1 cup
177 calories for 1/2 cup
180 calories for 1 cup
320 calories for 1 slice
53 calories for 2 tablespoon
182 calories for 10 ounces
344 calories for 8 ounces
25 minutes of dancing
6 minutes walking up stairs
56 minutes of trampoline jumping
45 minutes of weight lifting
53 minutes of bowling
40 minutes of biking, stationary
11 minutes of mopping
55 minutes of hatha yoga
70 minutes of brisk walking
A whopping 1,780 calories for one meal. Even with nutritious, home cooked food, the calories add up. And that’s a whole lot of exercise that can be tough to fit in between all the festivities of the season.
While weight gain by itself may not matter, the health consequences that come along with an expanding waist may be worth noticing. The path to optimal health looks different for everyone. We all have varying motivations and goals. Some of us want to have energy to propel ourselves through an active day. Others want to feel joyful, reduce anxiety, sleep longer in the night, or simply maintain where we are. We all know that eating nutritious food and exercise are two key components to a healthy life which require daily discipline and a long term commitment to prioritize our well-being. No easy feat for sure.
But following are three guidelines for a fun and healthy holiday season:
Eat all the great food, just less of it. In 1970 the average American ate 2,160 calories per day, but this number has increased to 2,673 at present. Plate sizes, restaurant meal quantities, and even car cup holders have grown to meet our desire for more. Fortunately, the internet is full of resources that provide measurement amounts and size comparisons to everyday objects that are intended to help us better understand the recommended guidelines.
Pay attention to what you’re eating and for what reasons. Just because there is a coffee cake laying on the kitchen counter doesn’t mean you have to eat it, but if you’re stressed out and need it, recognize this behavior and make it a choice. Most of us would be surprised to discover the habits of eating we have developed can change quickly, simply by realizing we have the power to make choices. Slowing down at meal time helps bring awareness to habits of eating as well. For example, by chewing slower we notice sooner when we are full, and when eating without electronic distractions we visually see how much food we’re consuming. It’s hard to do when I’m starving, but simply putting my fork down between bites and chewing my food thoroughly makes a big difference in how much I eat.
Load up on veggies
A plate full of vegetables will load you with low-calorie, high density nutrients, fiber and antioxidants vital for health and maintenance of your body. With all the different vegetables from asparagus to zucchini and the many preparation methods from braised to pickled, you’re bound to find ways to enjoy veggies. Fresh and cooked just right, vegetables offer a myriad of flavors to make the mouth dance.
While an occasional piece of chocolate cake won’t ruin you, optimal health won’t happen on its own. The way to achieve success is the one that works for you. Look back at the times in your life where you accomplished something that took effort and follow these steps to improve your health.
As I eat my nutritious, home cooked lunch at my desk while typing furiously to meet the fast-approaching deadline for this article, I’m reminded that we have to do the best we can and accept where we are until we can do even better.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Value-Added Local Food, Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.