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Making holiday weight-gain obsolete

Friday, November 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:43 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pile in the car with a 32 oz. soda. Start driving. Beware of the Thanksgiving traffic. Click on the radio. Oh, they’re already playing Christmas tunes. Drive, think about turkey, drive, eat a Snickers and a bag of Ruffles, drive.

Arrive at your parents,’ or brother’s or aunt-you-don’t-like’s house. Chat awhile. Eat a homemade grandma goodie. Unload bags into the drafty guest room that smells like an attic. Sit down. Think about exercising. Eat cookies instead. Sit. Eat. Sit. Eat. Walk to the fridge. Grab a beer. Sit. Drink. Sit. Drink. Go to bed tired, annoyed with your kin and five pounds heavier. Ah, the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gaining weight has become as much a part of Thanksgiving lore as family. But this year can be different. You will not leave your office with your belt on the third hole only to come back with it on the fourth. You will not shriek when you step back on the scale.

This year you’re going to eat somewhat healthy, exercise a couple times and enjoy the presence of your relatives — well, at least two of those. And you’re going to do this while eating to your heart’s desire on Thanksgiving.

Here’s the four-step plan:

1. Plan ahead. Stacy McKinney, the fitness director at Wilson’s Total Fitness Center, says planning is the key to maintaining an exercise routine over Thanksgiving break. Check to see if there are exercise facilities in the area you’re heading. A one- or two-day pass is worth the small fee. Plan a time each day when you can squeeze in exercise before squeezing in food.

If you’re staying in a hotel, pick one with an exercise facility. The check-in attendant is usually a wealth of knowledge on all subjects, including local running and walking trails and other exercise facilities.

You can also make your own gym. If there isn’t a facility near where you’re staying, push-ups and sit-ups can do a body good, McKinney says.

2. Go shopping. Many Columbia residents will indulge in a post-Thanksgiving shopping binge when the Christmas bargains start popping up. That’s fine, according to Joe Sadewhite.

As a certified personal trainer at Wilson’s, Sadewhite advises his clients to park far away from the mall — like you have a choice, anyway — and enjoy a brisk walk to the entrance. He also recommends speeding up your shopping pace to burn more calories. This is also a good tip for the bargain consumer determined to beat his or her shopping competitors to that 75-percent-off plaid sweater.

3. Spend time with the family. McKinney says grab an uncle or other relative and take a walk, especially after the meal, to get the digestive system up and moving. This lets you hear the family gossip and keep your metabolism running. But you and your loved one don’t have to stay out in the cold too long to maintain physical health — learning too much about Uncle Ned’s bunion isn’t good for your mental health, anyway.

4. Eat a lot. This is the best — and the most fun — advice for keeping those holiday pounds off. This doesn’t mean eating a handful of cookies every 30 minutes. It does mean not skipping breakfast or lunch. A full stomach ensures you won’t overindulge in your Aunt Delilah’s high-fat delectables.

When Sadewhite heads home to Marshall, Mo. this Thanksgiving, he’ll do what most people do.

“I’m going to stuff myself like a pig.”

According to Sadewhite, this is not that bad. One day won’t kill you as long as it’s just one day. What really hurts people, says Sadewhite, are the high-calorie leftovers that linger in the fridge for weeks.

McKinney reminds people that it only takes a 30-minute block of time to get your heart rate up for health benefits. With these tips and a little luck, your Thanksgiving schedule will go something more like this:

Wake up. Do push-ups and sit-ups. Eat breakfast. Lounge. Watch football. Talk with relatives. Eat way too much turkey (Sadewhite says people should reward themselves). Yank a family member out the door for a walk. Eat some pie.

Go to bed feeling good about yourself and weighing the same as you did when you woke.


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