What exercise tips do you have to help me lose my holiday weight gain?

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Question: I've gained a few pounds over the holidays and one of my New Year's Resolutions is to hit the gym and make sure I shed those extra pounds. Do you have some fitness tips to help me keep my resolve?

It's okay. You gained a few extra pounds over the holiday. After all, they are a time for family and friends, celebration, food, and drink. Don't beat yourself up for "letting yourself go" and jump into a rigorous fitness routine that may be difficult for you to maintain.

Instead, take a more forgiving and calmer approach to exercise. It may be exactly what you need to help you stick with a routine even after your New Year's resolution resolve wears off.

Despite the 7 to 10 lbs holiday weight gain exaggerated by the media, recent studies suggest people overestimate their holiday weight gain by about 3lbs. In actuality, people usually gain only a pound or two during the 6-week holiday feast period. That's the good news. The bad news is that for many sedentary people, that extra pound or two stays with them until the next holiday season. Give it a few years, and you're looking at a cumulative 7 to 10lbs gain.

Of course, the best way to tackle the holiday weight gain is to stay active throughout the festivities. We've all heard the advice - take a post-dinner family walk; enjoy little bites of multiple dishes instead of gorging yourself; fill half of your plate with vegetables…etc But what do you do when your sweetie wants to watch the holiday football game instead of head to the park, or the disappointment on your grandmother's face is just not worth passing up her pecan pie? What are good ways to melt some extra pounds once the festivities are over?

First, don't panic. You may see a 5lb jump the day after a big meal. But to gain one pound, you have to eat 3.500 calories more than your body needs-chances that you ate 17.500 calories in one day? We're guessing pretty slim. What you are seeing is extra food still in the process of being digested, and water weight, especially if your dinner was heavy on carbohydrates.

Second, do not harm. Psychological or physical harm, that is. In a desperate frenzy to counter the holiday pounds, you may be tempted to go blast out a seriously hard workout. But while a hard, 30 to 45-minute effort can burn quite a few calories, there are several reasons you might want to make your post-holiday workout one that is less intense, and longer. A long, low-intensity workout means you can comfortably maintain that level of exertion for closer to 90 minutes if you're jogging or elliptical training, and 2 hours if you are walking. Going longer than usual will help you kick start the calorie burn you want, but the key phrase is "low intensity." This stipulation is to stop you from seeing your post-holiday workout as punishment for eating, and hopefully change the way you position exercise in your life. It's to help you see food as fuel for your workout, instead of working out to compensate for what you've eaten. By making this little mental shift, you can appreciate how the holiday feast empowers your body to go a bit longer than usual-instead of weighing your confidence down.

Photo courtesy of arizonfoothillsmagazine.com.

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