‘Tis the season to be jolly. Unfortunately for the waistline, the jolly season tends to bring with it an abundance of food and a sedentary lifestyle.
However, a fitness and sports psychology expert at Oklahoma City University has advice for staying in summer swimsuit shape over the winter.
Stefanie Latham, professor of kinesiology and exercise studies, said she has seen many a New Year’s resolution go unmet because goals are set unrealistically high.
“It’s human nature to go after the quick fix, but there’s no fast, healthy way to lose weight,” Latham said. “It’s discouraging when you don’t reach your goals, and that’s when people tend to either give up or start doing unhealthy things.”
The first step is to put goals in writing with a mapped-out routine.
“It doesn’t have to be super strenuous to be effective. Professional trainers can give great advice and should know what you can handle. Just make sure they’re certified and do a proper assessment,” she said.
For burning calories, cardio workouts are the best. Exercise videos for home use are good, but Latham warns that some are geared toward intense athletes and might drive out-of-shape individuals into giving up. She recommends starting with less intense videos and working up to the advanced workouts.
Mixing up a routine is a good way to avoid losing interest, she said. For instance, alternating the weight room with running, cycling and swimming helps the body improve faster while keeping the mind motivated.
She also recommends picking the time of day when the energy and motivation are highest and to keep it consistent. Some people have better workouts in the morning while others do better in the evening after work. Either way, it’s best not to exercise on an empty stomach. The only way the body will burn fat is if it has carbohydrates for energy, she said.
Working out with a friend can help keep the interest alive and can also serve as a good motivator. Latham said simply packing a gym bag and leaving it near the office door can make the difference between a gym session instead of a trip to the couch.
“Just seeing the bag sitting there you’ll think, ‘Well, I went to the trouble of packing it. Might as well use it,’” she said.
As for diet, Latham says avoid white flower and white sugar, include fresh fruit and vegetables, limit red meat to once a week and don’t skip meals. Also, she said some people will probably have better luck with waiting until after the holidays to start dieting.
“The reality is it’s a time of year for big meals. If you keep it relatively healthy, go ahead and enjoy yourself. It’s harder to make excuses when the temptations aren’t around,” she said.