By G. Anthonie Riis | Fort Knox NewsNovember 28, 2018
FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- Some may throw up their hands when it comes to eating right during the holidays.
However, Ireland Army Health Clinic Registered Dietitian Angela Gerrity said we don't have to surrender our waistlines entirely.
"Depriving yourself [from eating] anything that is unhealthy during the holiday is probably not a good idea," Gerrity said. "Those who totally restrict themselves fall off that wagon and overindulge. It's human nature to want it more. It's much better to eat in moderation a little bit of the things you want to eat."
Gerrity said a simple plan to habitually burn the extra calories is the trick to managing the holiday bulge.
"If you know that you're going to an event or party, eat before you go so you'll be able to handle temptations better," Gerrity said. "Plan time to exercise or plan events that are more physical so that you can burn more calories. Get your steps in; park farther from your office or where you shop so that you have to walk more [or] walk your dog more often -- take the long way."
Exercise is not only good for weight loss, said Gerrity, it also affects the holiday blahs that cause some people to overeat.
"In the winter, people want to stay home more and hibernate, and they don't get the sunlight they need," Gerrity said. "Many people get the holiday blues or depression and they can stress eat because they self-medicate with food.
"Exercise gets the endorphins going, which is great therapy for depression and stress," said Gerrity, "and getting outdoors will get you the vitamin D you need."
Gerrity said a simple plan will help to keep the weight off because if followed routinely, it will become a lifestyle change.
"Knowing that you will eat more, you should plan more physical events, especially during the holiday season," Gerrity said. "You are less active in the winter, so you're likely to gain some weight anyway, but adding to your physical activity will make it easier to recover in the spring. Making it a practice to move more often every day may be all you need to stay reasonably fit."
Because so many holiday traditions tend to start in the kitchen, Gerrity said a move toward less fat could be the start of a new tradition.
"If you can, cut down on the simple carbohydrates, like the simple sugars and refined flours in our diets, and replace those with fruit and whole wheat flour," Gerrity said. "Cooks can use substitute ingredients that are less fatty. Instead of whole milk, use reduced fat or skim milk; and there's a plethora of other substitute ingredients or recipes lower in fat and sugar that you can find online. If you just can't use substitutes, use less sugar or butter."
Gerrity suggests planning meals with classical healthy food fare, like organic fruits and vegetables, whole wheat breads, lean meats and low or non-fat dairy products.
She also offers a word of advice about home cooked meals versus store-bought.
"The more hands your food goes through, the more processing it has gone through. Anything packaged is going to have a lot more sodium and fat in it because those are cheap, easy preservatives," Gerrity said. "Manmade trans fats and saturated fats cause a lot of cardiovascular issues. These saturated fats will be in much of your [processed] pastries, your cookies and candies--
"Whereas, anything handmade will cut most of that out."
Although a registered dietician, Gerrity said she's not a big fan of diets.
"All diets work. They just don't last very long," Gerrity said. "They all work and you're going to lose weight, but what will you look like a year from now? The restricted diets and the constant counting calories -- who wants to live like that?"
Laying aside all diet fads, Gerrity said it's the small changes in our eating habits that tend to have the biggest impacts.
"I don't believe in telling you that you can never eat that again. I believe in eating the things you want in smaller portions," said Gerrity. "I believe in living better by making better food choices most of the time. You can enjoy holiday treats: just in moderation and with a plan to burn the calories."
The tenets of good health are what they've always been, according to Gerrity, and practicing them will keep the holiday filled with cheer and keep you in better shape for the new year.
"Eat healthy, eat variety, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep," said Gerrity, "and avoid stress whenever you can."