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Wellness Matters: Have a Healthy Holiday

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but those celebrations tend to revolve around one thing: lots and lots of food.

The good news is that the National Institutes of Health reports that most of us gain only about a pound during the holiday season. The bad news? Holiday pounds tend to stick, and, before you know it, you’ve got a weight problem. Extra weight raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

The holidays don’t have to mean weight gain. You can stay healthy through the holidays and all year long. Cathy Turner, Director of Health Promotion and Senior Health, shares some simple tips:

1. Be realistic — don’t try to lose weight during the holidays. Instead, strive to maintain your current weight.

2. Don’t skip meals. Hunger leads to poor food choices and overeating.

3. Prepare your favorite low-fat, low-calorie dishes to balance your more indulgent meals.

4. Make exercise a priority. It not only prevents weight gain, but also helps relieve holiday stress.

5. Walking is a great exercise everybody can do almost anytime or anywhere:

  • Aim for two short walks — about 10 to 15 minutes each — every day
  • Get your family moving with a walk around the neighborhood after a holiday feast
  • Incorporate walking into your holiday shopping
  • Sign up for a holiday road race

6. Celebrate sensibly:

  • Before filling your plate, survey party buffets and choose only your favorites
  • Drink alcohol in moderation; too much lowers inhibitions and promotes overeating
  • Be wary of non-alcoholic drinks, too; they’re often full of sugar and calories
  • Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering

Enjoy the holidays, plan time for activity, incorporate healthy recipes into your daily meals, and don’t deny yourself a few favorite seasonal treats. You’ll keep the weight off and start the new year guilt-free!

To register for a Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle class, go to or call the Health Promotion Department at 703-558-6740.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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