Seasonal glut Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

This is such a wonderful time of the year — friends and business associates gathering together to wish one another well.

Tasty beverages raised in toasts. Tables straining under the weight of lovingly prepared goodies. Healthy lifestyles going straight down the tubes. But, the holidays don’t have to be a health disaster.

“Although holidays are happy times, they can be overwhelming,” says Karli Avellone, manager of group exercise programs at Akron General Health and Wellness Center West, warning that fitting more into already busy lifestyles can add unhealthy stress. “Be realistic with your own time commitments and with your expectations from others.”

Smart Business spoke with Avellone about keeping the holidays under control.

Why are the holidays a lifestyle disaster?

Typically, when people hear the word ‘holiday,’ they develop excuses to change their lifestyle to accommodate holiday events and dining experiences. Lifestyle habits are already developed prior to the holiday season. Therefore, when holidays are upon us, we should be able to continue the lifestyle we have already adopted, rather than make any changes. Moderation is always the best tool to use 365 days per year.

Does everyone eat more during the winter?

Not everyone, but many do. Because it gets dark earlier, people tend to be less active. Yard work and outdoor activities end or are curtailed in the cooler months when daylight hours decrease, leaving more time to sit around and eat. Rather than turning to food, one has to replace outdoor physical activities with other indoor physical options.

How can one resist that ‘one more’ serving of turkey or slice of cake?

We all know that people should not enjoy holiday eating just because others with them are overeating. Know your food intake limits as you eat and feel your satiation point. Enjoy the company you are keeping, not just the food. When you refuse one more serving, be truthful and simply say you have reached your limit and are full. Also, remember to eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful. If you eat slowly, others will be less likely to offer you more to eat.

What about alcohol? Isn’t some wine good for you?

Research has shown that moderate levels of red wine provide antioxidants, which help neutralize free radicals before they get a chance to harm your body. However, consumption should be in moderate amounts only and certainly not in amounts that make us tipsy. Remember, antioxidants can be obtained from other food sources that do not have adverse effects on the individual. Also, remember to stay off the roads if you are feeling the effects of what has been imbibed. Many people consume more alcohol during holidays. However, once the holidays are over, consumption levels decline.

Can’t I just exercise off the extra calories?

To avoid gaining weight, calories expended must be equal to or be more than what is ingested. If you are eating more than usual, then you must exercise more than usual. For many, extra exercising hours do not fit into an already hectic schedule. Therefore, relying on exercise to control weight just sets you up for failure.

Executives host many holiday parties. How should one approach preparing for guests?

There are many delicious ways to eat healthily. Also, the way the food is presented affects its desirability. Fruit, cheese, vegetable and salad platters served with low-fat dips are enjoyed by all and are healthier alternatives to chips and fat-laden dips. Whole grain and other high-fiber carbohydrates should be included in the menu. Broiled meats are better than fried foods. Typically, the most popular foods can be prepared in healthy ways easier than by using higher-calorie cooking methods. Nowadays, a complete bar is too costly. Only serving punch or wine will cut back on excessive drinking.

Although employee wellness programs vary from company to company, newspapers and magazines issued during the holidays are full of healthy tips. If you need ideas on keeping yourself or workers healthy, enlist the power of the Internet. We can ‘Google’ just about any question we might have.

How about some healthy ideas for presents?

Instead of a bottle of alcohol or a box of candy and cookies, try a basket of fruit, coffee, cheese, etc. A variety of stores have these readily available during the holidays and can even ship them for you. Many people appreciate holiday ornaments. They can enjoy them through the years, and they serve as a remembrance of the people who gave them.

What about other safety precautions?

During the holidays extra caution goes a long way. Christmas tree, window and decorative garland lights should be turned off before retiring for the night. Avoid overloading electrical sockets, and avoid using exposed, wet plugs/outlets. Small ornaments should be kept out of the reach of small children. Candles should never be left burning unattended or near combustible objects. When expecting visitors, make sure your driveway and sidewalks are shoveled and de-iced to prevent accidents.

KARLI AVELLONE is the manager of group exercise at Akron General Health and Wellness Center West in Akron, Ohio. Reach her at (330) 665-8130 or kavellone@agmc.org.