Taking off holiday weight

holiday scaleMaking lasting changes to your eating and exercise habits can help you shed holiday pounds.

Returning unwanted gifts at the end of the holiday season is usually a snap. But all too often, people come out of the holidays with something that isn’t so easy to take back: unwanted pounds.

Even if you gained only 1 or 2 pounds, the reality is that the added weight could accumulate over the years, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So whether you’re looking to lose holiday pounds or you just made a New Year’s resolution to get in better shape, you’ll need to do two things: eat better and exercise more. The following tips can help you get started.

Improve your eating habits

Eat more produce. Fruits and vegetables are high-fiber and usually low-calorie foods that can help you feel full faster. Try getting more fresh produce in your diet by adding one new fruit or vegetable every month.

Choose low-fat dairy. Switch to low-fat dairy products if you haven’t already. Research shows that choosing low fat dairy products may actually help you lose weight. That’s because milk boosts the body’s ability to burn fat and keep muscle.

Keep a food log. Keeping track of what you eat will help you see food patterns that you may be falling into. For instance, you may discover that you’re eating three snacks after dinner. You can start by cutting back to two snacks and then gradually to one snack. Be sure to keep an honest account of what you eat.

Get moving

Buddy up. Find a family member or friend who also wants to lose weight and work together. Exercising with someone else can make it more enjoyable and help you stick to it. Your buddy can also help you eat better. Not only will you keep tabs on each other, but you can lean on each other for emotional support as well.

Do what you enjoy. Keep exercise from seeming like a chore by choosing activities that you enjoy. This will help you stay motivated throughout the year. Also, try to vary your activities so that you don’t get bored.

Make exercise part of your daily routine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most adults get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity every week. However, many people need more than 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week to prevent weight gain. And some will need to do more than 300 minutes (five hours) a week to lose weight or maintain weight loss.

If you find it difficult to make time for exercise, look for ways to get more activity during the day. You could:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park farther away from your destination when running errands.
  • Walk your kids home from school or other activities.

Remember, if you aren’t used to exercising, talk to your doctor before you begin.

Healthy for life

Finally, think of your new food and exercise habits as part of a healthy lifestyle, not just a temporary diet. A healthy diet and regular exercise do more than help you lose weight, according to the academy. You’ll feel better, have more energy and quite possibly add years to your life.

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