MARQUETTE - The Christmas and New Year's holidays - often a time for family, friends and feasts - don't typically bring to mind exercise and healthy eating.
And while it may be hard to stick to a strict workout or diet regimen during these coming weeks, experts stress the importance of doing your best.
"It's definitely a time of celebration and overconsumption of food," said Grace Derocha, a registered dietician and a health coach with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan. "I like people to be very realistic about the holiday time. Don't tell yourself, 'I'm going to go on a diet and lose weight during this time frame.'"
Katie Freeborn of Gwinn uses an elliptical Monday at the YMCA of Marquette County. As the holiday season marches on, experts say it is important to stick to some type of diet and exercise program to the best of your ability. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
It is important, Derocha said, to stick to some type of exercise routine, if possible. Even if it means going to the gym two or three nights a week or going for a walk after work, a little exercise can go a long way to curb the winter blues.
"Exercise increases endorphins, which gives you more energy and makes you happier," she said.
Even simple exercise can help. Recent research, according to Derocha, shows that three 10-minute activity sessions can have the same ultimate effect as one 30-minute session. That exercise can come in the form of snowshoveling or vacuuming, she said.
A little added incentive can go a long way, as well. Derocha said she suggests wearing a pedometer, or using a smart phone application that counts your steps. When people are able to see the number of steps they've taken in a day, it can inspire them to move a bit more, she said.
She also said she suggests people try to institute short commercial workout breaks while watching television with their families this season.
The main goal, Derocha said, is to do something positive for your body during a very busy time of year.
"People have it in their heads that they don't have time or that they have to do an exorbitant amount of exercise at one time," she said. "Do whatever you can. Doing something is always better than doing nothing."
When it comes to feasting, Derocha said it's always best to avoid excess. The average American, she said, gains between five and 10 pounds during the holidays, and though holiday staples like eggnog and pumpkin pie are caloric nightmares, alternatives exist.
"You can find lower fat, lower calorie versions of those foods that taste good to you and then make those your new holiday tradition," she said. "You can also be realistic about how much you're consuming."
Another healthy move may be to attempt to separate holiday traditions from food. Non-food-based family traditions can include making wreaths or ornaments with your kids, or serving food at a homeless shelter.
"It's a nice and positive way to bring it full circle and teach your kids something," Derocha said.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.