Post-turkey, don’t abandon your workout

Did you dread Thanks-giving this year? I’m not talking about avoiding your weird uncle. Were you worried about the weight that you would put on?

In the past few weeks, I have met many people that hate this time of year. When I ask why they feel this way, they complain about the 10 pounds they are destined to gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I feel bad for these people because they could not be further from the truth. While this time of year has a few holidays that revolve around food, nobody has to gain weight if they do not want to.

I know that every other article concerning holiday weight loss revolves around moderation. When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, I throw moderation out the window. If you get between my mom’s broccoli casserole and me, somebody is going to get hurt. But seriously, one day cannot wreck your health and fitness goals. Just remember this one phrase: “Nobody ever got fat in a day.” The bottom line is to enjoy yourself at these special occasions, but it is very important to remember that they are just one day.

Not gaining weight over the holiday season is all about preparation. If you take some preventive action, you will come out on the other side the same size, or possibly smaller, than you are now.

Preparing for the holiday season begins with recognizing that there are only three or four days that constitute all-day eating events. Everything else is just a normal day, and we should treat them as such. This means that you need to keep up with your exercise program and practice good nutritional habits during the rest of the season.

Practicing good nutrition during this time of year can be difficult. We have extra cookies, cakes and other foods left over from family gatherings. Personally, the way I deal with all of these temptations is to give them away. I send them home with family and friends on the day of the event. I keep the turkey and vegetables, but try to send the sweets away. This will help you avoid those late-night urges for pumpkin pie. Once you get past those immediate urges, then you can start eating healthy again.

For most people, food is easier to control than their exercise programs at this time of year. Between the cold, wind and snow, exercising in winter is not very appealing to many people. How do you get around this? Positive peer pressure. For many people, if they have someone they will disappoint by not showing up for an exercise session, it makes it easier to get there. This is one of the reasons that group fitness classes are so popular: You form friendships and that reinforces participation. If you try to do it on your own, it can be very easy to rationalize not exercising that day. (And the next, and the next.)

Peer pressure is such a powerful motivator that it will get you out of bed at 5 a.m. when it is 25 degrees outside. To take advantage of this, find somebody to exercise with, preferably not your significant other. For most people, this will not provide the appropriate amount of pressure to motivate them. We are just too comfortable with them and they will not hold us accountable when we decide to sleep in.

To get around this, try exercising with a friend. Having a friend waiting for you at 6 a.m. can provide a lot of motivation to get to the gym, simply because you do not want to be a bad friend and stand them up. If you really want to motivate yourself, find a good trainer. If you do not show up, not only did you let them down, you just lost money! If you have money on the line, you will show up and that is half the battle.

To fight holiday fat, you do not need to exercise like crazy. You simply need to be consistent. Exercise a minimum of twice each week. I prefer that you exercise more, but this will usually be enough to avoid holiday weight gain. You should have a balanced routine that consists of both strength training and aerobic exercise. This will help keep your metabolism high, which will help keep the pounds off.

So, I hope you enjoyed yourself at Thanksgiving. Do not feel guilty if you overindulged; just remember that tomorrow is another day and everything goes back to normal. Find a workout partner or a fitness group to join, give away the tempting leftovers and get back to basics. This will allow you to offset those extra calories you took in and may even force you to buy smaller clothes for that big New Year’s Eve party you will be attending!

Jared Carter, CSCS, is the owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training Studio, 1616 Walnut St. Visit www.moveforwardfitness.com to sign up for his free newsletter, or reach him at (215) 399-3541 or [email protected].