The holiday season is a time for family, friends, gifts and, most importantly, food.
During this time of the year, many college students make the trek back home to be with their families, excited to indulge in what could possibly be their first home-cooked meal of the year.
However, before taking a bite into that huge slice of apple pie or extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, here are a few tips to avoid returning in January with some extra holiday poundage:
1. Eat everything in moderation.
Many college students think of the holidays as a time to indulge in tempting treats and see the season as an invitation to overeat.
Kinesiology senior Anna Moore said it’s not uncommon for people to anticipate overeating during the holiday season.
“What happens to a lot of people is that they almost get excited about meals during the holidays,” she said. “It’s like they are looking forward and even expecting to be extremely full.”
Could it be because college students are not used to a home cooked meal and are ready to binge on mom’s roasted turkey? If that is the case, nutrition junior Marissa Kanemaru said there is no problem with indulging in turkey or even a second helping of cranberry sauce, but to keep in mind to just eat until full.
“Eat what you want and just save the rest for leftovers — it’s all about moderation,” Kanemaru said.
It is okay to have the stuffing, yams, dessert and even a glass of wine (if you’re 21) as long as the portions are controlled, said social sciences junior Kelsey Hanly, who works as a personal trainer at the Cal Poly Recreation Center.
“It’s the holidays, so there is no point in not eating what you want,” Hanly said.
2. Don’t arrive to holiday parties on an empty stomach.
An article in “Healthy & Fit” magazine states that people should never go to a party hungry.
The first step to prevent this is eating breakfast in the morning because it can help jump-start your metabolism, Kanemaru said.
“Besides eating breakfast, make sure to have a snack as well before attending a party,” she said.
The same magazine also said there would be less temptation to eat high-calorie foods if your stomach is already filled with healthier options before arriving to a holiday party.
Examples of pre-party snacks include a handful of nuts, an apple or a half of a turkey sandwich.
3. Stop when you are full.
Many people find themselves at holiday parties clutching their stomachs and unable to move from the table after the meal. This does not have to happen to you.
“There are always leftovers,” Moore said. “You do not have to eat the whole turkey in one night.”
If dessert is a necessity, plan on saving room for it ahead of time and eat less of the main course to save room for sweets, she said.
“Anticipate wanting to have dessert,” Moore said. “Remember to work it into the meal and stop eating a little bit before you are full.”
One thing to keep in mind is to pace your meal and eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to realize that it is full, Hanly said.
“Since it takes 20 minutes to register, eating slowly helps your body digest and makes sure you don’t overeat,” she said.
4. Participate in physical activity as a family.
With the holiday season comes a change in routine. Many students go back to the cities they grew up in or travel across the country to visit relatives. In both of these cases, it changes the exercise routine that many students rely on during the regular school year.
Exercise routines tend to become especially out of whack during the holidays, Hanly said.
“It’s a time to spend with friends and family, so many people take some time off from the gym … and that’s not a bad thing,” she said.
It is not a bad thing as long as students still find a way to expend some of the calories they are taking in, Moore said.
However, if your exercise routine normally consists of fighting for machines at the Recreation Center on campus, you may find yourself in need of an alternative during the holiday season. Yet Kanemaru said students can keep up with their exercise routines without stepping foot in a gym.
“If you do not have access to a gym (back at home), take a walk with the family after the holiday meal,” Kanemaru said.
There are also relatively inexpensive free weights and resistance bands students can purchase to keep up with their usual exercises while visiting family, Hanly said.
“You can get bands and weights or even do body weight exercises like pushups, situps, squats and lunges if you don’t feel like going to a gym,” she said.
Also, activities as simple as starting up a family game of touch football or even doing calisthenics while watching a football game on TV are fun alternative ways to stay active during the holidays, Moore said.
This time of the year is also a time to take advantage of the winter season. In many locations, freezing weather causes the ice to freeze and snow to fall. This could be the perfect opportunity to hit the slopes for a skiing, snowboarding or ice skating skating, Kanemaru said.
“Exercise is important to integrate into your life and still important to keep it in your routine during the holidays,” she said.
No matter how many treats you eat (or choose not to) over winter break, more than likely you will want to fall back into that old workout routine — or adhere to that New Year’s resolution to start one when school starts back up in January. But before you set foot in the Recreation Center, check your gym bag for the essentials to your workout:
— Water bottle
— iPod & headphones
— ID/membership card
— Running shoes
— Sleeved t-shirt
And last but not least, no workout is complete without a playlist of music to keep you going, so here are a few songs to keep you motivated throughout your workout:
— Kanye West – “Workout Plan”
— Eminem – “Lose Yourself”
— Girl Talk – “Triple Double”
— Cascada – “Every Time We Touch”
— 69 Boyz – “Tootsie Roll”
— Pointer Sisters – “Jump (For My Love)”
— Lady Gaga – “Just Dance”
— Barbra Streisand – “Duck Sauce”
— Nelly – “Hot in Here”
— Christina Aguilera – “Fighter”
— Fergie – “Fergalicious”
— Prince – “Kiss”
— Quad City DJ’s – “Space Jam”
— Sir Mix-a-lot – “Baby Got Back”
So as you pack your bags and leave finals behind for the home cooked meals you’ve been craving all quarter, remember it’s OK to let yourself enjoy holiday treats, but you may want to keep some of these tricks and tips in mind to prevent a few extra pounds from coming back to school with you next year.