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How to Keep Fit During the Holidays

We all make resolutions every year to keep fit whether we have diabetes or not. The difference is that as people with diabetes, we need to keep fit, and we know that even if we don’t do anything about it.

One only has to read the medical abstracts and the articles on this site each month to know about the complications of diabetes. To make matters worse, I just put down an article on osteoporosis and diabetes, a topic that we don’t see that often although the relationship between low bone density and diabetes has been known for some time.

So, with the holidays here, we who have to exercise to protect our hearts, kidneys, veins, and bones, have to figure out how to not gain weight and keep fit from November through January.

First, we all need to set goals. If yours is to maintain your current level of fitness, you will need to exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes at a moderate pace. If you have read these articles on exercise, you know that we need to exercise for longer periods of time, but just for the sake of this article and statistics, it does boil down to twenty minutes.

This exercise might be walking, biking, aerobics etc. If you want to increase your fitness level you will need to exercise more than 20 minutes, so aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and pick up the pace. This does not include your 10 minutes of warm up and 10 minutes of cool down. No cheating here. Your muscles will thank you.

As our schedules fill up, we have to figure out, why keep up with your exercise program. I keep up with my exercise because playing catch up after January 1st, usually fails. So why should we continue with our cardiovascular fitness by exercising?

  • Our hearts will be able to pump more blood.
  • This blood will be delivered to our muscles
  • More oxygen can be extracted from the blood by the muscle cells so that you will continue to increase blood volume
  • Increase capillary density in muscles
  • And increase the number and activity of the mitochondria, the muscles’ “energy” factories.

When we stop exercising, plasma volume decreases rapidly. Mitochondria activity and capillary density decreases more slowly. Substantial losses in cardiovascular fitness can occur in just two weeks after exercise is stopped. And here’s the clinker, once you stop exercising, it takes about three times longer to regain former levels of fitness.

The good news is that merely reducing exercise frequency, and not stopping altogether, can effectively forestall serious declines in fitness levels. Studies have shown that people who decrease exercise rather than stop were able to maintain cardiovascular fitness if they continue with exercise of moderately intensity. The moral of this information is, don’t stop just because you have a busy schedule.

If you are booked solid, why not try for 2 quality 30-minute exercise sessions per week, or better yet add to those more walking during the day. All you have to do for that is to park as far away from where you are going as you can and still be able to complete your tasks. Start walking up steps instead of taking an elevator and give yourself an early holiday gift of new work out clothes that call out for use. Reduce stress with stretching or yoga.

Take a walk after dinner to keep blood glucose levels down. Bring your exercise rope or elastic band with you when you travel, and offer to play with your nieces and nephews instead of tasting the gravy. Deliver gifts to neighbors by walking instead of starting up the car, and finally, cut off 10 minutes from your lunch break and walk or climb steps. Remember two walks a day are as good as one long one.

Every year magazines have articles about exercising during the holidays. Perhaps you have wondered about this. Well, before we begin with our suggestions, it is important to understand that the average person gains SEVEN pounds as result of overeating and exercising less during November and December. This is a hard time for those of us who have to exercise and watch what we eat.

It is the time of “Try grandma’s cookies”, and “One more glass of wine won’t hurt”, “Don’t hurt her feelings; take more”, and “Just take more medicine”. The problem for some people is that old “all or nothing” one. They either splurge or stay on their regime. Complete deprivation may not be the answer and in fact, erasing that feeling of deprivation and feeling different is the main reason our first book was written and has sold so well. It allowed families to dine together for the first time. This is the time of the year that it is very important to balance healthy habits with enjoying the holidays.

A few years ago, we shared with you the necessity of changing how we look at parties. As someone with diabetes, I had to learn how to think of the social reasons for being out with friends and family, rather than the extra champagne, food and stress. Let’s examine some other thoughts that will help you make it through the holidays.

Think moderation. The new guidelines say that a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate. We all know that, but we have to count carbs so that we keep our diabetes under control. Deciding not to eat the main course so you can eat Būche Noel will give you too much fat and not enough nutrients that you need. The worst part is not knowing what you are eating. Is it 5 carbs and 6 fats or 3 carbs and 2 fats? The difference counts. Look at our Joslin Gourmet cookbook for an excellent Būche de Noėl with nutritional data.

Think moderation when it comes to alcohol consumption. Drinking can lower your blood glucose level. I can tell you from first hand experience that drinking and diabetes control can be a nightmare. Look at the calories in alcohol. It’s an eye opener.

Think moderation when you attend a party. If you are not sure what is going to be served at that business or family buffet, but your memories of past events are replete with creamed sauces and fried foods, then eat at home and enjoy a salad with dressing on the side, and try the vegetables which may well have only a bit of sauce.

Whatever you do, make a pact with yourself to use exercise to keep blood glucose levels in tow and to keep stress levels down. Diabetic or not, these are times that bring up unresolved issues which can lead to overeating or other destructive behavior. Get a friend who understands and work together so that, at the end of the holidays, you will be better off than last year.

Whatever you do, don’t play doctor at parties. I’ve talked to too many people with diabetes who share that they get through parties by changing their medications without talking over the repercussions with their physician.

Finally, do not moderate the number of times you check your blood glucose levels. This is the time to really know what is happening to you, not just guess at how you are doing.

Here are some tips that experts share to help you stay fit during the holidays:

  1. Get a partner to work out with, preferably someone with the same goals you have.
  2. Make an appointment to exercise and put it on your calendar so it has the same importance as a dental appointment or business meeting. It’s more difficult to disappoint a friend than to do the same to yourself. So, as we’ve shared before, a friend in need is a friend indeed, especially when it comes to getting to the gym or out walking.
  3. Keep a journal or log so that you know what you are doing as you exercise. We do a sculpting routine that changes every two weeks. We try to up the repetitions and the weights as we go along. No easy sledding for us. We want our muscles to pay attention.
  4. Set holiday goals that you can meet. Treat yourself to a stress reducing treat when you meet your goals. Why not find a place for a good massage or a manicure? If you are too macho for those, think about a ticket to an athletic event.
  5. If all else fails and your friends go their way, hire a personal trainer for a few months. He or she will not want to hear that you have to go shopping during your hour.
  6. How you deal with food during the holiday season is also important. Look through your recipes that you know are healthy and pick some you want to try. Make a shopping list from these recipes and purchase only what you need. Shop the perimeter of the super market. Why? Because, that’s where the fruit, vegetables and meats are. Those aisles have crackers, nuts, ice cream, cakes etc.
  7. What ever you do, don’t skip meals. Before my pump, I would not have thought to add this one, but now I do. If you get very hungry before attending a party, we all know what may happen.
  8. Drink a lot of water and limit the amount of liquor you drink. Remember that alcohol has almost as many calories per gram as fat. If you are cleared to have a drink, try water or diet soda for every other drink of the night. When you drink water during the day, it will suppress your appetite so you can eat less at a party.
  9. During the holidays, try smaller meals rather than a few very large ones.
  10. Schedule an extra workout each week. You will congratulate yourself by the beginning of the year.
  11. Don’t be the last one to leave a party. Arrive on time and set a limit on the time you stand around the food table. Remember that these are social events, not feeding frenzies.
  12. Finally, don’t beat up on yourself if you happen to slip. Just pick yourself up and get on with it. Go to the gym, talk to your friends who understand and enlist their help, call your health care team for advice, or figure out how to keep yourself healthy during the holidays.

Each month we talk about exercise and how important t it is for all of us with diabetes. Let’s all enjoy the holidays and be here for years to enjoy those of the future. We love having you read our monthly magazine, and reading your e-mail . . . let us know if you have any personal ways of making it though the next months. We’d love to credit you with your successes.