Richards: Battling the bulge over the holidays (column) | VailDaily.com

Richards: Battling the bulge over the holidays (column)

Ryan Richards
Make It Count

The holiday season presents challenges for those who attempt weight loss, or try to maintain their figure during the many traditions, parties, and other festivities that involve heavy food and drink. Even though my historical dietary advice can be controversial, the reality is this: Too much food, regardless of the source, will lead to weight gain. Individual differences persist, but at some point along the caloric surplus continuum, the scale will move in the wrong direction if you eat too much. The following practical tips can help you beat the bulge.

AVOID SUGAR

Sugars and other carbohydrates can be problematic because they cause a spike in blood sugar, which leads to a negative increase in the fat storage hormone, insulin. After many years of developing an understanding of diet, sugars and their effect on fat storage is a contributing factor regarding obesity. In general, minimize all carbohydrates except for non-starchy vegetables and some fruits.

However, I'm not suggesting that carbohydrates are notoriously dangerous, or that sugars are the sole enemy regarding fat storage. Too much of any of the major food groups will increase insulin that can result in weight gain. We all have a baseline of caloric needs that when exceeded, weight gain occurs. Therefore, weight management is just like a bank account; when you spend too much, live above your means, overdraft your account and have problems including fees, and high interest debt, it's messy and can take a long time to recover from. Eat more than you expend, and you ultimately have to diet and exercise out of the mess that can be tedious and painful. Staying under your caloric limit builds a healthy body and ease of living. Living below your means decreases financial stress and secures your future.

Understanding that the holiday season offers too many opportunities to overindulge, look at the entire six week process like a monthly allowance. If you know your going to overeat on Thanksgiving, undereat the day before or the day after. Whether you fast and eat nothing all day, skip meals, or eat smaller portions, aim to average your total intake to be less than you expand over the entire season. When it's all said and done, you won't be rushing to the gym on Jan. 1 to undo the mess you're in.

DON'T AVOID WATER

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Because of the general nature of the foods that are available during the holidays, high sodium and sugar laden goodies can cause water retention and bloating. Fighting water retention is counterintuitive; drinking ample amounts of water minimizes retention. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces, daily.

As far as exercise is concerned, I've never been a fan of outworking a bad diet. Exercise is a terrible weight loss tool, but an excellent weight maintenance strategy. Already at your ideal weight before the holidays? Try to exercise as much as possible to negate the effects of indulgence. Need to lose a few pounds? Great, start eating less now or nothing at all, you've got two days before the festivities begin. Happy holidays and merry Christmas to you all.

Ryan Richards is a fitness professional who has been keeping the Vail Valley strong for over a decade. You can find him at ryanrichards.com or 970-401-0720.