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Doctors' Notes

Fight the Holiday Bulge

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 

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Question:  Every year around the holidays I find myself gaining weight.  I don’t want to pass on the egg nog and all of the other holiday eats you can only get this time of year.  Is there anything I can do to still enjoy the holiday meals, but avoid the typical consequences?  

Dr. Karla says:

Holiday weight gain is a problem that so many of us face as we enjoy family gatherings this time of year. Let’s be honest.  It’s almost impossible to resist Grandma’s bread pudding, Uncle Jimmy’s famous mac and cheese, and Cousin Cam’s 7-layer pound cake. The good news is that even amidst all of the tempting treats, holiday weight gain is preventable.  Despite what it feels like, statistics show that it’s really only about a pound or two that we gain this time of year.  The bad news is that we never shed these pounds, and each year we tend to accumulate more and more weight during the holiday season. 

It can be really difficult to know how to enjoy those holiday meals without packing on the traditional holiday pounds.  So here are a few simple tips to help us all avoid expanding our waistline this year.

* Write every bite.  Keep a log of everything you eat. The food choices we make tend to change when we hold ourselves accountable for every calorie we are consuming. 

* Skipping lunch makes you munch.  Don’t get too hungry.  We often times skip breakfast or lunch, saving our appetite for the big holiday meal and then end up overeating. The typical holiday meal can be close to 5,000 calories or more while the average recommended calorie intake is only around 2,000 calories per day.  Light snacks throughout the day can certainly prevent you from going overboard.

* Don’t be afraid to make the trade.  It’s important to know that you can make healthy substitutions while cooking and still enjoy your holiday meal.  Use egg substitutes when the recipe calls for eggs, non-fat dairy when the recipes call for heavy or whipping creams, whole-grain bread for dressing, and bread pudding; and also opting for low-sodium broth when using it to marinate or flavor your food.  Lastly, try low-fat greek yogurt in place of sour cream, and white and brown sugar substitutes when baking your favorite desserts. 

Dr. Rob says:

Men have just as tough a time fighting the holiday bulge as women do.  In fact, some studies show that we just might gain a little more weight during the holidays than women.  In addition to the great healthy eating tips mentioned above, following these suggestions to stay active might help curb the excess pounds.

* Put in the work.  Increase your level of activity.  This is helpful not just this time of year alone, but overall.  Try adding 30 minutes of exercise to your routine at least 4-5x/week.  This will help offset any extra calories you consume during the holidays. 

* Be creative.  A lot of times we feel limited at what we can do because we don’t own any exercise equipment or we don’t have a membership to the gym, but there really are a lot of great exercise tips for the holidays that don’t require any extra equipment at all.  Try engaging in fun activities with family and friends.  A quick game of flag football can burn at least 200 calories or the equivalent of one serving of dressing.  Something as simple as yard work or raking leaves for 45 minutes can burn off close to 400 calories or the equivalent of a piece of your favorite dessert. 

If your climate doesn’t permit any outdoor activities, try indoor activities such as stair walking.  Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking up the escalator when you are out, is an easy way to help burn off those extra holiday calories without even thinking about it.

* Play smart.  Gamer?  No problem!  Choose those games that allow you to be a part of the action as opposed to just watching it.  There are several games on the market that allow you to train like a professional athlete, compete in an Olympic sport or workout with a trainer.  A prescription for video games? This is a win-win, where you never have to worry about defending your gaming time again. 

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at www.urbanhousecallmagazine.com, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!