Thursday, December 23, 2010
Holiday weight gain isn't guaranteed. Just a few simple changes to what you do each day can make all the difference. Get into these habits and you'll keep holiday weight gain at bay!
1. Don't skip meals because of the holiday rush. Eat breakfast every day to keep your energy up and blood sugar stable, which will prevent you from becoming overly hungry. Include complex carbs such as fruit, steel-cut oatmeal or 100% whole-grain bread, and lean protein, such as low-fat yogurt. Adding a little bit of fat will help you feel satisfied longer. (For instance, I add slivered almonds to yogurt to get in a dose of heart-healthy fat and to feel satisfied longer.) Then, eat lunch, a healthy snack and dinner consistently and on schedule -- eating every three to four hours is ideal.
2. Stock up on the freezer aisle. When you get too busy to cook, keeping healthful frozen meals on hand is a great way to ensure you don't stop for takeout on the way home or call for pizza delivery once you get there. Look for varieties that contain fewer than 400 calories and add fruit or veggies to round out the meal.
3. Treat yourself to a little something sweet on a daily basis so cravings won't build up and get out of control, which can lead to a binge. Knowing you can count on having another treat tomorrow (and the day after that!) will help you control your portions today.
4. Don't put off getting back into your regular exercise routine until New Year's; there's nothing magical about that date. If you burn off some of the extra calories you'll inevitably be taking in during the season, it will help keep those few holiday pounds from creeping on. Exercise will also stave off the winter blues and relieve the stress that often crops up during the holiday season, which in turn helps prevent emotional eating.
5. Set realistic expectations for yourself during the season. Try to focus on the things you can do to maintain your weight rather than what you can't do right now to lose weight. Putting too much pressure on yourself can backfire with binges or ultimately giving up on watching your weight at all. Plan on keeping your weight stable and put losing on hold until the season has passed. Preventing weight gain this time of year is an accomplishment in and of itself and if you do lose, it will be like a surprise gift to yourself!
Here are the seven secrets to a long life: Stay away from cigarettes. Keep a slender physique. Get some exercise. Eat a healthy diet and keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar in check.
Research shows that most 50-year-olds who do that can live another 40 years free of stroke and heart disease, two of the most common killers, says Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association. The heart association published the advice online Wednesday in the journal Circulation.
The group also is introducing an online quiz to help people gauge how close they are to the ideal. If you fall a bit short, it offers tips for improving.
"These seven factors — if you can keep them ideal or control them — end up being the fountain of youth for your heart," said Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist who was lead author of the statement. "You live longer, you live healthier longer, you have much better quality of life in older age, require less medication, less medical care."
Specifically, those with ideal cardiovascular health can answer yes to the following seven questions:
• Never smoked or quit more than one year ago.
• Body mass index less than 25.
• Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
• Meet at least four of these dietary recommendations: 4 1/2 cups of fruit and vegetables a day; two or more 3.5-ounce servings a week of fish; drink no more than 36 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages a week; three or more 1-ounce servings of fiber-rich whole grains a day; less than 1,500 milligrams a day of salt.
• Total cholesterol of less than 200.
• Blood pressure below 120/80.
• Fasting blood glucose less than 100.
The online quiz calculates a score based on the answers, 10 being the ideal.
Doctors say the quiz is a good way for people to get a handle on how they're doing, especially since people often think they're doing better than they actually are.
The heart association found just that in a recent survey that showed 39 percent of Americans thought they had ideal heart health, yet 54 percent of those had been told they had either a heart disease risk factor or needed to make a lifestyle change to improve heart health, or both.
With America's obesity epidemic, weight especially is a pitfall for patients trying to meet these seven health factors, doctors say.
"Many people are surprised to find out how overweight they may be," said Dr. Randal Thomas, director of the cardiovascular health clinic at the Mayo Clinic.
Lloyd-Jones, also chair of the preventive medicine department at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said, "People I think are far too accepting of their waistlines."
Thomas praises the online tool for giving people a score so they'll have something to work toward. It offers advice for problem areas: for instance, advising someone who's over weight to set a goal of losing a pound a week by burning up to 3,500 more calories than are taken in.
Yancy, the heart association president and medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute in Dallas, said the organization has a goal for 2020 of improving cardiovascular health of Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
He said that in the last decade, there's already been a nearly 40 percent reduction in death from heart disease and a nearly 35 percent reduction in death from stroke. He said those goals were achieved with improvements in treatments and prevention.
How do you rate on these points?