How to stave off weight gain this holiday season

Posted on November 29, 2017 in News, Program News

By: Ben Keggi, DO

Let’s start with some nutrition basics and focus on one of the main ingredients that make up a typical holiday treat: carbohydrates. These are a necessary part of a healthy diet, but eating too much or the wrong kind can cause real health issues.

Carbs come in two basic forms; simple and complex. Simple carbs come from things like sugar, starchy foods and white bread. When you eat something that contains a large amount of this form of carb, it is broken down in your digestive tract into sugar molecules. This means that they ultimately have about the same effect as just eating a bunch of sugar. Your insulin levels go up and your cells absorb some to use for energy and turn all of the leftovers into fat. Complex carbs contain nutrients and fiber that slow your body’s absorption of the sugar. Fiber also plays an important role in helping your body regulate cholesterol and maintain the health of your digestive tract.

What this all boils down to is not rocket science. A diet high in fiber and green, leafy vegetables can leave you feeling great, while a diet high in sugar can have real, cumulative, and lasting effects that go well beyond the holidays.

So, how do we take this information and translate it into results? Let’s talk about goal setting. A common pitfall is to set a vague and overly ambitious goal that ultimately gets lost to all of life’s daily distractions. To avoid this, we want to set goals that are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Let’s go over this in more detail. Start with something specific, like a certain number of pounds, miles per week, or one type of healthy ingredient. A good test of whether your goal is specific is to check if it contains the word “and.”

If the word “and” is anywhere in your goal, you need to narrow it down more. Next, keep it measurable. Don’t set a goal like “I want to exercise more” or “I’ll eat healthier this year.” It has to be something that you can assign a real value to, or you won’t have an actual target to aim at. Be sure to keep it realistic. You can always congratulate yourself for going above and beyond, but are likely to become discouraged if your goal remains out of reach in spite of your best efforts. Try to set a relevant goal that addresses a real issue you’ll face this holiday season and keep the timeframe short. There needs to be a finish line in sight, or your goal becomes just another open-ended responsibility.

Consider setting a goal of replacing some of your holiday treats with healthy alternatives. You might start with something as simple as substituting flour with almond flour in any recipe that calls for it, or just halving the recipes of your favorite treats to avoid having too many tempting leftovers. Of course, exercise is an important part of health as well, so consider signing up for a local event, short term gym membership, or just investing in a new piece of outerwear that makes getting outdoors in the winter weather more enjoyable.

With solid goals, we can all fully enjoy the holiday cheer with our health intact. I’ll leave you with a few resources to get started. Above all, have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Ben Keggi, DO, is a resident physician at Community Health of Central Washington in Ellensburg.

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