Throughout the holidays, most people are surrounded by several different kinds of delicious foods. Of course, it is fine to take that one slice of pumpkin pie or to sneak a couple sugar cookies, but many people are curious as to how they can curb those cravings when the food is everywhere during the holidays.
Although it is great to eat healthy and exercise daily year round, experts say it is not a bad idea to relax, just a little, over the holidays. Being too focused on calorie intake or working out during holiday family time can ruin the spirit completely.
Jennifer Yoder-Clevidence, a nutritionist and lecturer at Ohio University, said rather than using weight as a marker of health, it is important to look at factors such as blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol.
Yoder-Clevidence believes it is good for people to make wiser diet choices, but not coming from a standpoint of restricting calories or intentionally exercise in the hope to lose weight.
Yoder-Clevidence said whatever one’s food intake is for the rest of the year should remain the same over the holidays.
She is a strong advocate for intuitive eating, which is an evidence-based, mind-body approach to foster an innate connection to knowing when one’s body is hungry or when it has had enough food. Part of intuitive eating involves responding to hunger cues. Some hunger cues are subtle, such as an itch in the back of the throat or tiredness.
“Our bodies like predictability; they like consistency,” Yoder-Clevidence said. “They like to know that something is coming and having a meal plan helps foster that.”
Yoder-Clevidence believes rather than eating on scheduled times, people should eat when their body is ready for food. Intuitive eating views food as food, and “rewarding” oneself with sweets is not a reward, but rather just another food.
“Don’t go in with the mindset that you have to punish yourself for eating certain foods during the holidays,” Yoder-Clevidence said, “Take away those self-deprecating messages that diet culture glorifies.”
Sharon Perry, associate director of exercise physiology, believes if people maintain a healthy lifestyle the rest of the year, treating themselves during the two weeks of the holidays will not hurt their bodies.
“I think that we worry, as a society, about staying fit, and that if we make a mistake, it’s terrible,” Perry said. “But one day will not ruin your fitness.”
Perry is a strong believer that maintaining a healthy lifestyle year-round will allow people to treat themselves and relax for the short portion of the year during which the holidays are celebrated.
“I think if you plan activities as part of your family time, such as hiking or playing backyard football, it is a good way to incorporate exercise into bonding during the holidays,” Perry said. “If you really want to work out during the holidays, I think it’s about managing time, such as getting up at 7 a.m. so that you can spend time with family for the rest of the day.”
“I try to get in the gym six of the seven days over winter break,” Bryson Dowers, a junior studying political science, said. “It's one of the most important times to start getting that spring break bod.”
Dowers takes fitness seriously, and he also tries to maintain a healthy diet.
“If I eat healthy for the majority of my winter break, I can afford to eat what I want on holidays and special events,” Dowers said. “My family is also very supportive and will help me with my diet whenever I need it.”