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Avoiding extra calories and extra weight gain in the holiday season

Running & Fitness
Saturday, November 20, 2021

It is the start of the holiday season and all the celebrations that are associated with them. Thanksgiving is this Thursday and for many people it means a big meal. Usually it is turkey, but lately I am hearing about more families opting for ham or grilled steak. Then the side dishes of sweet potatoes, dressing, mashed potatoes, beans, salad, and hot buttered rolls. Tradition has the pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert. For some families a second choice of pecan pie, apple pie, or peach cobbler is available. It is usually a time for families to get together for a weekend after not seeing other members for some time. As long as conversation stays away from politics the weekend is usually a festive affair.

The long-term problem for a runner, or any person that celebrates holidays, is that the affairs almost usually revolve around food and a big meal. Halloween started it off with way too many sweets for a healthy diet. Then Thanksgiving with the big meal, and chances are several meals after that getting rid of the leftover food. Christmas is up next even though I have seen several stores, or places of business, already putting up decorations. Christmas day, and even Christmas Eve day, usually have big meals associated with the celebration. I was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a Norwegian traditional Christmas Eve meal of lutefisk. If you are not familiar with a lutefisk meal it is a cod fish that has been “ripened,” soaked in lime for preserving the fish, boiled in water until it is a congealed mass that must be lifted out of the pot with cheese cloth to keep it from falling apart. As a kid growing up the over-eating part of this meal was never a problem. Thank goodness we also had Swedish meatballs to keep the kids from starving. My mother always used her worst silverware as the lime soaked fish turned the silver black. She then had to spend the next few days polishing it back to its original shine.

Prior to the actual day of Christmas there are school parties, office parties, neighborhood friend parties, runner’s club parties, and football bowl game parties leading up to the big meal on Christmas. It all adds up to a lot of calories for the next month or more. For a runner it means adding some extra miles to the runs to keep that trim athletic form. If you don’t add miles during this time frame you will carry those extra pounds over for several months. 

And after Christmas is the New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve celebrations with more food and calories. Bowl games are a big thing for most football fans and they are an almost every day occurrence that involves sitting down instead of running the calories off. For runners, there are a couple of things that help prevent that extra calorie weight gain that can be a problem. One is that this time of year is considered “marathon season” and that means that a runner is putting in those long runs to get ready for the 26.2 miles. One other factor that helps is that the runner will put in a run before the big meal later that day and the basic metabolism will be revved up to burn more calories throughout the day. It is essential to get the run in before the meal as an after meal run is impossible to run in comfort. A walk after the meal is also a good way to get that full feeling after a big meal down to normal levels. Every little mile on the road helps with keeping weight gain to a minimum.

And if the runner is fortunate to have family or friends give gifts that pertain to running, it is a motivation to get out for a run to try out the new running gear. It might be a new pair of running shoes, a running outfit, a new fitness watch, or even new socks or a fancy running hat. 

The holiday season is a challenge for most people in terms of weight gain. The season is almost two months long and the amount of calories out of the normal realm is considerable. The key is to be able to watch the amount of food on the plate — it is not necessary to overload just because it is a holiday — and be selective on how big the dessert slice of pie is. Keep that daily run as a priority during the day and if you follow the more normal routine, you might come out of the holiday season at the same weight you started with.

San Marcos Record

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