Farai's Fitness Challenge: Healthy Holidays

Nutritionist Rovenia Brock chats with Farai Chideya about how to stay healthy and not overeat this holiday season. Brock is the author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

The holidays are a special time for family and food. But for dieters, getting through the next month without gaining pounds can be stressful and downright impossible, at least it seems that way.

Don't fear, though, NEWS & NOTES nutritionist Rovenia Brock is here for this week's Fitness Challenge, and she's going to tell us how to have a happy and healthy holidays.

Dr. Ro, hey.

Dr. ROVENIA BROCK (Nutritionist): Hey. It's a pleasure to be with you, as always.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know, most people expect that in that kind of long buffet line that stretches from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year's, or whatever holidays we celebrate, you might pack on a few. But what should we do?

Dr. BROCK: Well, you know, first, blowing the diet is not - doesn't have to be the end of the world. In fact, recent reports are saying that people typically don't gain as much weight during the holiday season as we might have previously thought. Generally, gaining about a pound instead of five. But here's a downside, the same research tells us that once that pound is added you're much more likely to keep it on. So assuming that you did that every holiday season, by now, you're likely to have piled on an extra 10 pounds over the last decade.

So here's what you could do in terms of a plan of action. First, you want to know - you want to remember that just as you wouldn't go to a grocery store hungry. Remember that you should take the same approach at the office holiday party. Eat something before you go, and make sure you also fill up on water. The other thing that I suggest is wearing something snug to the party to remind yourself not to overindulge.

CHIDEYA: So my moo-moo is not going to pass mustard for this?

Dr. BROCK: Right, because your moo-moo is not going to help you. It covers up everything but it doesn't help you, whereas, if you have something snug you get a gentle reminder as you've had a little more than perhaps you wanted to.

CHIDEYA: Those cinched belts are back in season.

Dr. BROCK: Yes, they are. Don't stand next to the food table, Farai, because you want to peruse it first. Set your sight on about three of your favorite items and have a serving with a little of each one. And the other thing is concentrate on single-item foods like shrimp and cocktail sauce instead of cheese balls, meatballs and cream sauce and creamy dips.

I recommend choosing vegetables and dips especially salsa dip with veggies, not chips, as they usually have a monster fat content. And alcohol contains calories, too. It is not calorie-free. There is 7 calories per gram of alcohol. So the second glass will never be as good as the first so put the cork back in the burgundy after that first glass.

And then, I think it's important that we start to focus on the reason we're there in the first place. Focus on the company and fellowship rather than the food. Finally, increase your activity level during the holidays. Get into the habit of taking a brisk walk everyday in December, for example. And if you do so, your new healthy habit is likely to carry over into the New Year.

CHIDEYA: That's a lot of great advice, but, you know, I have to say my mother's sweet potato pie, you know, it could be like the next Mrs. Field's cookies. It is absolutely patentable. Should I just take a smaller slice or should I try to get her to change her recipe?

Dr. BROCK: I think both options work. If you can take a smaller slice and be comfortable with that, asking her to change her recipe after this recipe has been legendary don't know what kind of success you're going to have with that but there are ways that she can do it to reduce fat and calories, or there are ways that you could ask for the recipe to reduce the fat and calories.

CHIDEYA: Finally, what about the mental stress of the holidays? Sometimes people end up eating because it's like oh, I haven't seen cousin Joe in a million years. And the last time I saw cousin Joe, we had a big fight and gee, okay, I'd rather have another canapé than talk to him.

Dr. BROCK: Yeah, I think it's better to concentrate on the spirit intended for the holiday itself. If you happen to be in the company of cousin Joe and he's getting on your nerves, roll out. Go to another room. But eating does not have to be the alternative to the stress that you're facing at that point.

CHIDEYA: Do you have any other tips for us that we should take forward into the holiday season?

Dr. BROCK: I do. You know, there's a lot of guilt associated with not cleaning your plate and not eating to excess and I just think there's no need to feel guilty because you are actively deciding to take better care of yourself. So by all means, no, is an answer too. And it's okay to say no. No, thanks, I won't have a second helping of this and not feel guilty about it.

CHIDEYA: Just wait if your relatives put you in a headlock and say you're being rude, you're being rude. I'm just kidding.

Dr. BROCK: Yeah, just don't deal with that you're being rude because after all we do get that. But I think it's good to say to them, here's some changes that the whole family can make so that we can be healthier. We can be better all in the interest of health than it was last year.

CHIDEYA: You are so positive, Dr. Ro. But I have to ask you as someone who is as fit as yourself, do you ever walk into a family gathering and just get like a little bit of hate from the people who aren't in shape, just a little bit?

Dr. BROCK: I have in the past. I have. And I have also been the one whose family members tried to guilt into eating more than I should have when they wanted me to join them on the other side of the cake. But you can't worry about that. You got to keep your head up, keep going. I try to pull my family members along. With most of them, I'm doing a pretty good job but you know there's one in every family and I have more than one. But I try to instill or impart to them or share with them the same information that we're talking about here and it's all in the interest of the whole family being better. So you can't worry about the hater-ration.

CHIDEYA: All right. That is great advice for the holidays. Dr. Ro, thanks.

Dr. BROCK: It's always a pleasure.

CHIDEYA: Rovenia Brock is a regular contributor to NEWS & NOTES and author of “Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Living Healthy.”

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