With the holidays fast approaching and many Fort Drum community members planning vacations and parties with Family and friends, sticking to one’s health and fitness goals can be challenging. Health educators at the Army Wellness Center advise clients that the key to healthy eating is moderation, and that there are ways to indulge and still stay true to their health goals. (10th Mountain Division photos)
Temptations abound during holidays,
but moderation can help you stay on track
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 19, 2019) – With the holidays fast approaching and many Fort Drum community members planning vacations and parties with Family and friends, sticking to one’s health and fitness goals can be challenging.
Now is the time to strategize, and the staff at the Army Wellness Center can be your holiday helpers to provide timely tips and motivation.
Amy Ingersoll, one of AWC’s health educators, said that people don’t have to deprive themselves of holiday feasts. There are ways to indulge and still stay true to one’s goals.
“If you like everything you see on the table, one of the best things you can do is just choose smaller portions,” she said. “If you want to eat everything, eat a little bit of everything. You get a taste of it all without overindulging.”
If holiday feasts tend to be short on greens or other healthy options, Ingersoll said that it presents an opportunity to introduce something different to the table.
“During the holidays, there are a lot of potluck-style meals,” Ingersoll said. “Maybe you can be the person that brings that healthy side dish.”
She said experimenting with substitutes can be pleasing to the palate. Choosing mashed cauliflower over mashed potatoes or whole wheat rolls over white rolls is healthier, and they have similar texture and appearance. A simple plate of seasoned green beans over a green bean casserole is a low-fat option.
“You can make a vegetable dip with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream,” she said. “Taste-wise, it is comparable, but you save a lot of calories and fat. Hummus will give you more of those healthy fats. Instead of candied yams, you can try oven-roasted sweet potatoes. Roasting them brings out more of the sweetness, so you get similar taste with less calories.”
Thanksgiving followed by Christmas and then straight into New Year’s Eve adds up to a lot of potential food platters and partying.
“If your goal has been some sort of weight loss, you don’t have to postpone that until after the holidays,” Ingersoll said. “One of the things we really like to recommend is to direct your focus not so much on weight loss but weight maintenance. If you can stay close to your current weight as you get through the holidays, then you can refocus after on weight loss.”
Still, Ingersoll said that it isn’t impossible to lose weight during the holidays, and people can remain committed to that goal.
“It’s just a lot harder during the holidays, because there are those temptations that are easier to avoid any other time,” she said. “It goes back to moderation. If you love Christmas cookies, have one. My aunt makes six-plus pies for Thanksgiving. Maybe take a sliver of each one, or pick one full slice you are really going to enjoy the most.”
Ingersoll said that Soldiers may not be ruck marching during the holidays or inviting their Families to try the new Army Combat Fitness Test, but there are opportunities to stay physically active.
“The simplest thing is to take a quick walk before or after a meal, just to move a little bit,” she said. “A lot of people like to sign up for the annual Turkey Trot or an Ugly Sweater run. That can also give people the motivation to train a little bit before the race, and maybe not indulge quite as much as you might want to.”
Other activities – like declaring a snowball war or tossing the football around – helps to elevate the heart rate and can boost metabolism.
In the AWC’s “Upping Your Metabolism” class, Ingersoll recommends attendees to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. That breaks down to 30 minutes, five days a week. She also advises adding regular strength training to the fitness routine, concentrating on all major muscle groups two to three days per week.
“The reason we want you to build a little bit of muscle mass is because muscle is what we call metabolically active, meaning it needs oxygen to survive,” she said. “So if you were to build a little bit of muscle mass, you would consume more oxygen at rest. If you are consuming more oxygen at rest, you would be burning more calories in that time.”
Ingersoll also recommends staying hydrated throughout the holidays. Water aids digestion, and she said that it can also serve as a good prop at a party.
“Instead of having another plate of food in your hand, have a glass of water,” Ingersoll said. “It’ll keep you hydrated, and it won’t give you any extra calories that a plate of cookies or hors d’oeuvres would.”
She also advised not going to a party hungry.
“Many people want to enjoy the food at a party, and so they won’t eat at all throughout the day to avoid extra calories,” she said. “But then when you go to the party, you tend to overeat and consume more calories than you normally would because you starved yourself.”
She also said that sleep is a factor in how people eat.
“When we are asleep, it’s our body’s time to regulate our hunger hormones,” Ingersoll said. “If we don’t get the right amount of sleep, that can lead to under- or overeating.”
She said research shows that people tend to make poorer food choices when they lack sufficient sleep, and they tend to choose more comfort foods that are typically higher in fat and sugar.
Ingersoll advocates for healthy lifestyles, but she also allows for personal indulgences – her favorite is ice cream.
“I really like to take vanilla ice cream and mix it with peanut butter,” she said. “It’s more like a treat, if we had a lighter dinner. I try not to think of it as a comfort food, because that can become habit-forming.”
But on most days, her go-to snack is a homemade, no-bake protein bite.
“I make it with oats, a little honey, flax seed, peanut butter and a few chocolate chips,” Ingersoll said. “Easy to make – you just mix it in a bowl, roll them up and refrigerate. I’ll pull a couple of them out and that’s my snack for the day.”
Heading into the holidays, Ingersoll said it is a good time for people to visit the AWC and request a metabolic assessment. Whether someone is trying to lose, gain or maintain weight, the test assesses the number of calories a person burns at rest and determines how many calories should be consumed daily.
There are also a number of classes available at the Army Wellness Center that can help community members develop healthier lifestyles.
The “Upping Your Metabolism” and “Fueling for Health” classes provide insight into what foods fuel the body and which ones have little to no nutritional value. Health educators explain how to read food labels, what a balanced diet includes, and the difference between good and bad fats.
“Even just having a little more knowledge like that is helpful,” she said. “The information can be eye-opening, even if you don’t always apply it.”
The next Upping Your Metabolism class is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 21 or Nov. 26. The next Fueling for Health class is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon Nov. 22. To pre-register for a class or make an appointment for any of the core services, call (315) 772-4608. The AWC is located on 5th Armored Division Drive, Bldg. 10550.
“Even if you don’t necessarily put your plan into action now, you will be more prepared for when you are ready to start, or when you make that New Year’s resolution,” Ingersoll said. “You will know what you want to do, you’ll know how to do it, and we are here to help you succeed.”