Losing the 'Quarantine 15'

Maintaining Health Through the Holidays

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — The holidays are right around the corner, but you don’t have to wait to make New Year's resolutions to start getting back on track with your health.

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It’s been almost eight months since the coronavirus pandemic hit Arkansas, and an unintended side effect could cause even more problems down the line: weight gain. Betsy Day is a clinical dietician at Premier Gastroenterology.

"Immediately after COVID started, people were returning to comfort foods," Day said.

She said with coronavirus came a lot more snacking, a lot more takeout, and a lot less exercise.

"You had your gyms and your yoga studios, body studios, all those closed, some of them still aren't open, and people just weren't even comfortable to get out and, you know, even walk and do some of the regular activities," Day said.There were also food shortages, and the additional stress of job loss, depression, and anxiety.

"We all know we eat for other reasons other than just hunger," Day said.

While the state tries to get used to a “new normal,” the holidays welcome a whole new threat to health.

"The average American will gain anywhere between seven and 10 pounds, between Halloween and Valentine's Day," she said. "The holiday season seems to be just like a blank check for people to just eat it up and, you know, gain weight between the big meals and parties."

That’s why Day said it’s important to start working on a healthy lifestyle now.

"So that they don't start the New Year with an extra 10 pounds on their New Year's resolution list," Day said.

Day said to try to make exercise a part of your schedule, just like brushing your teeth. She said you don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to get a workout in.

"Even just a 10-minute walk three times a week is exercise so they don't have to have a personal trainer and, you know, workout for an hour and a half each day," Day said.

Day said it’ll not only help with burning calories, but also improve mental health. As for eating right, she said one of the main goals is to not keep the foods you’re trying to avoid around the house.

"You can't eat what you don't have," she said.

In terms of holiday meals, Day said she encourages people to focus on the food that’s most special in the meal, and skip the things you can have any time.

"If your aunt Susie, you know, makes the most amazing pecan pie, but she only does it on Thanksgiving, you know, focus on having a smaller piece of that pecan pie, and maybe give up the Sister Schubert's rolls that you can always go down to Kroger and buy, you know, that's not special about the holiday," Day said.

On top of feeling good about yourself, Day said there are so many major health issues that can be avoided. It can cause serious issues like elevated liver enzymes, fatty liver, and can exasperate acid reflux symptoms.

"When I work with patients, I encourage them that even just losing a modest, you know, five to 10% of their current body weight, if they're overweight can dramatically decrease the risks for so many cancers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, etc.," Day said.

Day said it's not about the number on the scale, but improving overall health and quality of life.

"That also definitely helps with stress, and, you know, increases the feel-good brain chemicals," Day said. "Wouldn't they want to be able to live longer to see their grandkids get married? Don't they want to feel healthier, so that they, you know, can play a game of kickball after that Thanksgiving meal with their kids and just overall have a generally improved quality of life?"

Day said on the journey to weight loss, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. She said to start where you can and work up to more exercise.

"I encourage all my patients to find something they like about their body, and encourage them to try to be positive on the things that they have done," Day said. "Allow themselves, allow their bodies time to lose weight slowly over a longer period of time, and it's always progress, not perfection."

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