Health, Holidays Can be Good ‘Fit'

by Paul Gatling  on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 8:33 am  

The idea that waistlines expand more during the holidays than any other time of year is, essentially, a myth.

In December 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study examining holiday weight gain. The study, which sampled an admittedly small group of just 195 adults, showed an average weight gain of 0.8 pounds during the six-week period from Thanksgiving through the New Year.

“There is weight gain, but it’s not what we think it is,” said Cindy Moore, a dietitian at the University of Arkansas, and director of the school’s didactic program in dietetics.

In spite of the NEJM findings, the holidays can be a challenging time for those conscious of their eating and fitness habits. From office parties, social occasions and family get-togethers, people are encouraged to indulge, and more opportunities for food and drink can lead to fewer opportunities for exercise.

Moore said a dietitian’s philosophy is always going to be that any food can fit into a healthy diet, so she stopped short of naming foods to avoid during the holidays. One Northwest Arkansas fitness expert took that insight a step further, saying that getting your money’s worth at the corporate holiday luncheon won’t harm a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s all a matter of perspective,” said Monty Mason, a Bentonville-based certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “It needs to be OK to have a regimented fitness and nutrition program, and not feel like you lose a little self-worth if you go off of it. You can eat what you want.

“But a lot of the people I see are what I like to call going from ditch to ditch. It’s either all health kick or all binging on chocolate cake. And that’s not what you want.”

Mason is the owner and operator of CryBox Private Fitness Studio in Bentonville. The business opened in March with a specific clientele in mind — time-constrained business professionals.

“You can get in shape and not spend six or eight hours a week to do it,” he said.

Mason, a Bald Knob native, spent 24 years as a business professional before beginning his second career. He worked in logistics and distribution for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., retiring in 2008 as senior director of pharmacy logistics.

Toward the end of his time with Wal-Mart, he began digging into the study of physical fitness, with an eye on the next chapter of his life.

“I liked the science of fitness so I really started to get into it,” he said.

Before opening his own shop — which employs three trainers, including Mason, and has a referral-based clientele of about 50 — Mason trained out of multiple commercial health clubs in Northwest Arkansas. He said maintaining a healthy fitness level during the holidays can be dictated by your actions during the other 11 months of the year.

One of Mason’s clients at CryBox agreed. Crissy Sample is responsible for work force planning as director of innovation for Sam’s Club in Bentonville. Sample has been training with Mason five days a week since April, with an initial goal of strengthening her core muscles, as opposed to losing weight.

But in the past 45 days, with a more health-conscious diet plan to supplement her regular training sessions, Sample has lost 12 pounds and lowered her body fat by 4 percent.

“I started feeling healthy, but I wanted to see more results so I started eating healthier, as well,” she said.

However, Sample said she ate “what everybody else did” during Thanksgiving — not necessarily a bad thing, but because her mindset has changed about what is acceptable as it relates to her fitness level, she was unhappy.

“It wasn’t that I ate too much, I just didn’t feel good about it afterwards; so I was mad,” she said. “The day after, I went right back to healthier eating habits.”

Sample, who said she loves to bake during the holidays, said she won’t be extra diligent this month about her workout routine or diet. The Sam’s Club Home Office, she said, will be a popular place for holiday snacks.

“I’ll never be one of those people who says ‘no’ to food,” Sample said. “I will always enjoy something and if someone brings in a pie to work, you can enjoy it and not overdo it. Just take a smaller piece. You can eat in moderation and not put yourself in position to get down on yourself.”

Jeff Bonacci, the director of the sports medicine training program at the UA, suggests a more painstaking tactic.

“I split my plate in three sections with a peace sign,” he said. “At the top is your carbs, to the left are the veggies and to the right is your protein. You can make it so the sections are even, but the smaller of the sections needs to be the carbs. And that’s always a good rule of thumb.”

Moore also suggests eating a small, healthy meal at home before going to a holiday party.

“Even drinking a glass of water before you eat can help,” she said. “And just remember small portions. You can always go back for more.”



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