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Doctors: Exercise, eating restraint helps over
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2005
(AP) - Oh, the holiday temptations: hors d'oeuvres, stuffing and
gravy with the turkey, candied yams, pies, chocolates,
Between the extra calories and disrupted routines,
it's easy to pack on pounds and strain on your heart, doctors warn.
They advise moderation, choosing foods carefully and getting plenty
"Don't destroy your Thanksgiving, but make as
many good choices as possible and take a walk after your big meal,"
recommends Dr. Arthur Agatston, a University of Miami cardiologist
and author of "The South Beach Diet."
Agatston said nibbling
on healthy foods during the day is better than gorging at dinnertime
on Turkey Day. Also, people can limit their total calories over the
day by eating a nutritious low-calorie, low-sugar breakfast, with
foods such as eggs, Canadian bacon, a hi-fiber cereal or breakfast
bar, low-fat yogurt or berries.
"When you miss meals and your
blood sugar drops," he said Wednesday, "it causes
Regular meals and healthy snacks - fresh
vegetables, low-fat cheese or fruit - can prevent that and people
then eat less calories, several studies have shown, according to
He said people must avoid wide swings in blood
sugar. Eating foods that rapidly convert to sugar, such as cookies
and other refined carbohydrates, pushes up blood sugar rapidly. The
blood sugar level then falls within a couple hours, not the four or
five normal after eating high-fiber unprocessed foods, and the low
blood sugar level triggers more cravings and eating.
also crucial to limit the portion size, particularly at Thanksgiving
dinner, given that most Americans eat more calories than they burn
most days, said Dr. Muhamed Saric, a cardiologist at University of
Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
Thanksgiving, "it's even more food and even less exercise from the
already-bad pattern that they had before," he said, noting that
eating slower and conversing at meals leads people to eat
With people eating more and drinking more high-calorie
alcoholic beverages over the holidays, Saric said, they actually
need more exercise. He advises squeezing in physical activity a few
times a day, from parking well away from stores and taking stairs
instead of escalators to dancing and after-meal walks. Alcoholic
drinks should be limited to a couple a day because bigger amounts
push up blood pressure, bring more empty calories and, at high
levels, can damage the liver, pancreas and stomach.
Stephen Siegel, a New York University Medical Center cardiologist,
said lack of exercise is at least as much of a problem as overeating
during the holidays. Besides burning calories, he noted, exercise
reduces stress and helps people deal with holiday
Siegel, vice president of the Greater New York
chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, said people
should try to follow its recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate
exercise most days and set an attainable goal for the holidays, even
if it's less. With colder weather, shorter days and more demands on
time around the holidays, he said people should alter their patterns
to add physical activity where possible, from walking instead of
driving on short trips to limiting e-mail and intercom use at work
and instead walking over to speak with colleagues.
cut that holiday 10 (-pound gain) into the holiday 5 pounds," Siegel
Conventional wisdom has the average American gaining 5
pounds or more from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. While
there's little research on this, a small National Institutes of
Health study published in 2000 found the average weight gain was
barely 1 pound. One-third of the participants, however, put on 2 1/2
pounds or more.