Fitness Through the Holidays

By Emily Dickerson ND

“Happy Holidays!!” This joyful greeting should not be synonymous with saying goodbye to a trim waistline. During the holidays we eat more, drink more, and stress more, all of which make it difficult to

Dr. Dickersonnot gain weight. Make it your personal mission to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight this holiday season! Implement a plan of action to prevent holiday weight gain this year, and start your new year off with healthy habits already in place.

1) Holiday Dinners:

The average Thanksgiving dinner consists of 4,500 calories, 229 grams of fat, and endless carbohydrates. This is Thanksgiving dinner alone and does not include any other meals or snacks! Try these tricks!

  • Don’t avoid your favorite holiday foods. You are likely to feel deprived and frustrated. It’s time for celebration, after all!
  • Dish up with reasonable portion sizes. A smaller plate can be helpful to serve smaller portions.
  • Try to avoid going back for second, third, and fourth servings.
  • Limit filling up on heavy appetizers. These tend to be high in calories.
  • Try simple vegetable dishes instead of heavy side dishes.
  • Meal planning: Focus on whole foods, comprised of good proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables! Make healthier versions of your favorite traditional recipes.

2) Think Weight Maintenance:

Don’t focus on losing weight this holiday season. With how much you have on your “plate”, this may be too much for this time of year. Focus instead on weight maintenance and avoid the annual extra poundage. Long term, this will reduce the risk for overweight and obesity that annual weight gain causes. Work on maintaining a healthy weight, making smart food choices, and getting daily exercise.

  • The average weight gain of a non-overweight person during the holidays: 1 lb.
  • The average weight gain of an overweight person during the holidays: 5 lbs.
  • Your goal average weight gain this year: 0 lbs

3) Exercise, exercise, exercise:

Our best tool for staying fit this holiday season is exercise. It is the best way to decrease our caloric load when we know our intake of calories will be higher than normal. Exercise helps to manage cortisol, our stress hormone, which tends to be high and is a culprit for weight gain this time of year. We don’t all love hitting the gym for squats and lunges or stationary biking for hours on end, but remember, exercise can be anything that moves your body. Here are some tricks for fitting physical activity (aka exercise) into your busy holiday schedule!

Fit Tricks:

  • Plan: The holidays increase the demands on your schedule. This simply means that you have to plan for exercise ahead of time. Fit it in. It’s for your health!
  • Exercise early: Exercise before your busy day. This will help with stress management and will increase endorphins, which will help you to enjoy your day more and to tolerate difficult company more easily.
  • Weigh in: Weigh yourself and take measurements such as your waist every 2 weeks during the winter months. If we keep track, we are better able to stay accountable to ourselves.
  • Buddy system: Exercise can be social! Schedule with a friend to go be active, take a gym class, work out, or do a sport that you both enjoy. This will improve accountability, fun, and motivation.  Take those holiday guests for walks.
  • Stress: Yoga, exercise, smile, laugh, play. The holidays can be the most stressful time of year for many. Exercise can help you deal with that stress and can elevate your spirits.
  • Holiday cocktails: If you drink alcohol, get your exercise in before you start drinking. Having a cocktail puts an immediate halt to any exercise plans. Go for a run, then enjoy that holiday cocktail. (Always drink in moderation).
  • Utilize a Trainer: Trainers are an amazing asset to any fitness goal and are a pleasure to work with. They can help you stay on track, focused, and accountable throughout the holidays. Let us recommend some of Boise Natural Health’s favorite trainers to help you avoid the holiday weight gain!

Types of Exercise:

  • Walking: Walking is (almost) everyone’s exercise. It is also great for squeezing in some alone time!
  • Yard and house work count! Elevate that heart rate by raking leaves, shoveling snow, cleaning the floor, or chopping wood!
  • Fun activities: Fun activities with your loved ones. Hike in the foothills! Ski! Teach your family the health value of and fun in being active.
  • Bodyweight exercises: We don’t always have time to get into the gym, but we always have our body weight. Take a break for squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches, planks, and jumping jacks.
  • Intervals: Sneak it in! Just 7 minutes of interval training is all it takes to improve your cardio health (heart rate up, sweating). Use body weight when can’t get to the gym. Set a timer for 20 minutes or less. My favorite quick workout is only 15 minutes long and it leaves my muscles sore for days! Example workout: Set your timer and see how many times you can go through the following circuit:
    • >10 Burpees > 20 Mountain climbers > 30 Jumping Jacks > 40 Reps jumping rope > 30 Jump squats > 20 Push-ups > 10 Reverse lunges
    • (Workout from
    • Hourly: Every hour squeeze a little bit of exercise in. For example, try 20 pushups and 20 bodyweight squats ever hour. By the end of the day you will have performed 260 of each!

Happy Holidays!

Emily Dickerson, ND