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Maintain, don't gain this season

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Kathy Kolasa


Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dear readers: A shout-out to the Brody medical students in the service learning distinction scholars track who are conducting several food drives this year to fill a food pharmacy we hope to open on the Vidant Medical Center campus in spring 2018. The first drive with drop-off locations all around Brody, the ECU Family Medicine Center and the Laupus Library is running through Thursday.

This shout-out is also to everyone who is donating and collecting healthy foods for the food bank during this holiday season. With all the disasters this summer and fall there is an especially great need. Help out by donating canned/packaged tuna or chicken, canned vegetables, canned fruit (no sugar added), whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, non-sugar cereal, jelly, dried beans and low-sugar peanut butter. For more information about these food drives, write to saniiy16@students.ecu.edu.

Q I saw a notice about the Maintain, Don’t Gain program. Could you tell us a bit more about it? — P.K., Greenville

A I have personally used this program since its start, and it has helped me keep on track through the holidays. It’s a free program from North Carolina Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, and we have had great participation from Pitt County. I asked Paul Robinson, a senior ECU dietetic student, to give you some more information. Here is what Paul wants you to know.

Did you know that about half of our annual weight gain occurs during the holiday season? Many Americans dread the extra pounds the holiday season packs on, and for many it seems like a losing battle. Though it may be a challenge, it is not time to call it quits just yet. The Holiday Challenge, which started in mid-November, continues through the end of December. You may register at any time during the program, so it is never too late. When you sign up, you will receive daily tips, weekly newsletters, recipes and prizes, all for free! I went ahead and registered and already have enjoyed the daily tips and weekly newsletters.

Many people gain between 1 and 5 pounds over the holiday season. It is difficult to stay motivated when delicious seasonal treats are so easily accessible. However, every ounce of effort can make all the difference. When you join the challenge, you can stay motivated and even compete with other participants in weekly challenges or the “virtual race.”

More than 15,000 people from across the United States and around the world participated in last year’s Holiday Challenge, the majority from North Carolina. In the report from last year’s results, it turns out that two out of three participants maintained their current weight and a few, about two in 100, actually lost 3 to 5 pounds!

The choices start with you, and every decision counts. In fact, staying active, cutting out high-calorie drinks and making healthy food choices are just a few things that can make a sizable difference. The American Heart Association recommends mindful eating. It is best to pay attention to your stomach and eat when you are hungry as opposed to when you are “supposed to” eat. Controlling portion size is also very important.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and one of the biggest challenges I and many others faced was deciding what to place on my plate. I personally struggled to resist sampling the multitude of casserole dishes and desserts. You may face the same dilemmas throughout December. This is why I highly recommend weighing your options carefully and making sure that you do not over indulge on your favorites.

Also, remember to get moving to burn off the extra calories. Whether it is going outside with the family and playing games like cornhole, or going out with the family shopping, it is good to stay active. Also if you have a gym membership, do not forget to put it to use and get in at least 30 minutes of exercise when possible. Many gyms stay open throughout the holiday season and some are open 24 hours seven days a week.

During the holiday season the only thing that should be stuffed is the turkey, so don’t let these next few weeks stuff you. One of the highlight features of the Maintain, Don’t Gain program is the ability to connect with other participants and receive social support. Without support, it is easy to cheat yourself and let the pounds pack on. So join this program and give it a shot. You have nothing to lose but inches on your waistline!

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.