Most Americans don’t begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions until the post-holiday hangover strikes and they decide they’ve spent too much, eaten too much, and exercised too little. A new diet or workout plan usually tops the to-do list.
This week, many Delaware residents will kick off the holiday season by sitting down to a Thanksgiving table laden with family staples, many of which combine starch and fat: stuffing, mashed potatoes, cheesy rice casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, biscuits, and pies. At the end of the meal, most folks will have consumed upwards of 1,500 calories in a single sitting—more than half the daily allotment for active adults.
Fast forward six weeks, to January 1, 2013, and imagine scores of Delawareans groaning with disappointment as their bathroom scales display a number much higher than they’d like to see. That day, many people will vow to hit the gym.
“New memberships increase 85% in January,” said Paul LeBlanc, Director of Bayhealth’s Lifestyles Fitness Center. “By and large, these people are looking to get results fast.”
LeBlanc oversees an annual “Biggest Loser Challenge” at Lifestyles that begins each January. The average weight loss in that cohort is 15 pounds, with top performers dropping 40-60 pounds.
The Lifestyles program and others like it are timely, given recent data from the CDC revealing that Kent County is the least healthy county in Delaware, with 71% of residents overweight or obese.
While many people believe holiday excess is inevitable, LeBlanc insists that unnecessary weight gain can be avoided by making meaningful choices at holiday gatherings.
Bryan Bowers, Bayhealth Retail/Production Manager for Food and Nutrition Services, agreed: “Food is often more about emotional nourishment than physical hunger. It’s hard to turn down dishes that we associate with family traditions. Take one bite of each, and skip the seconds.”
Surrounded by friends and family, it’s easy to dismiss the consequences of poor food choices. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease don’t often find a way into Thanksgiving conversation.
“What people don’t realize is that they are at risk for depression, joint pain, and decreased mobility,” said Diane McArtor, Bayhealth Clinical Dietitian. “These problems are significant and present fairly rapidly.”
To combat the lethargy and indulgence associated with the holiday season, McArtor recommends offering low-cal snacks such as vegetables, and developing an exercise plan. A 30-minute walk or flag football game on Thanksgiving Day, followed by a few laps around the mall during shopping trips, can help balance out rich foods and drinks by redirecting the focus of the holiday from food to family.