Exercising discipline key to avoiding overeating during the holidays

Dieting throughout the year is always a challenge, but during the holiday season, it’s a whole other animal.

It’s difficult to make healthy choices while surrounded by temptation and family constantly shoveling mountains of mashed potatoes onto your plate, but it’s important to be disciplined and watch what you eat.

The key to staying healthy and in shape during the holiday season is all about moderation, says personal trainer Cameron McFarland at Kauai Athletic Club in Lihue.

“The holiday meals, of course, are gonna be these gigantic meals, which in the long run, like having a very high intake of calories in one sitting, can actually improve your metabolism for a certain amount of time,” McFarland said. “But everything in moderation. These huge meals that we consume during the holidays, a lot of guys in the gym (at Kauai Athletic Club) see it as an opportunity to actually improve their metabolism for 48 hours.”

But don’t think that you can justify having a fourth helping of turkey and ham just because you’re making an effort to “improve your metabolism.” An excess amount of food consumed over an extended period of time is not good for your long-term health.

“Continuing those eating patterns of eating stuffing and mashed potatoes and all these very high carb, high glycemic carbs, have a tendency to increase insulin release, which in turn, stores more body fat,” McFarland said. “All of the food that we eat during the holidays, on one given day, is not going to be a huge detriment to our overall physical fitness. But continuing to drink lots of sugary drinks like apple cider and stuff like that, can lead to some serious issues.”

It’s difficult to eat right and continue exercising, no matter what level of athletic ability or mental fortitude a person has. But James Lawrence, a triathlete who completed 50 Ironmans in 50 states in 50 days, starting on Kauai, said it’s the little things that can help make staying healthy during the holidays a little easier.

“My wife and I, to stay active, and it’s kind of a good stress reliever, we’ll go for a walk in the evenings,” Lawrence said. “We’ll go for a walk and we’ll also bake our food with honey instead of sugar.”

For Lawrence, he’s used to training and eating under a strict regimen. One thing that helps him out, which anyone do, is control the portion size of his meals.

“The biggest thing to control weight gain during the holidays is portion control and the amount that you’re going to consume. It’s OK to have treats, just don’t eat the entire box of treats,” Lawrence said. “It’s all about portion control. If you had a choice between working out and paying more attention to what you are eating, you’d be better off paying more attention to what you’re eating.”

Radha Harvey, owner of Bhakti Yoga Shack in Anahola, urges local residents to enjoy the holiday, but to avoid gluttony.

“Indulge for the night, not the season,” Harvey said.

Overeating can be a serious problem during the holidays. When families get together and food covers every square inch of the table, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember to eat only what is necessary to consume.

But if overeating does occur, don’t fret: just continue to move and exercise, no matter what.

“I like to tell people that the holiday season right around November and December is when you get invited to a bunch of parties, when you have a lot of access to foods that you typically don’t want to be around,” said Jerome Hromiak, owner of Kauai CrossFit. “This is the time to probably add a few pounds and be OK with it, that way you can enjoy the holidays.”

But most important, he said, is that you keep working out during that time four to five days a week, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes of vigorous activity.

“If you can keep that up until Christmas and New Year’s is over, then you can get back to the normal bandwagon that you’re on in January and February and those pounds will eventually shed, you’ll be back to where you want to be,” Hromiak said.

Hromiak knows what it’s like to feel tempted at the dinner table by the abundance of food set before him. One trick he has learned over the years is to savor his food and talk story with his loved ones in between bites.

“There’s a lot of food, and it’s a tendency for me to like, eat as much as possible,” he said. “Being a bigger guy myself and being raised around brothers, I was always fighting for food. I force myself to eat slower to really chew and talk to people and not try to hurry the food. If I eat slower, I eat less.”

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