This time of year often brings a busy schedule of holiday get-togethers with friends and family, resulting in more treats and less exercise. Over the course of the season this can make it hard to maintain your “energy balance”—that is,  the balance of food you eat (“energy in”) with getting enough exercise (“energy out”). A landmark report by the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund in 2007 reported that one-third of cancers could be prevented through a combination of a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and maintenance of a healthy body weight.  With this knowledge in hand it becomes ever more important to manage your diet and exercise through the holidays since this is a time when healthy habits are more prone to fall by the wayside.
Some helpful tools provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research to manage your “energy in” include providing recipes for healthier versions for holiday favorites and offering tips from a registered dietitian on ways to handle those common holiday season problems, such as having a constant array of treats at the office. (Hint: If there is a lot to choose from, focus on eating your favourite things and leave the rest.) The holidays are also frequently a time of New Year’s resolutions. Research shows that over 40% of North Americans make resolutions and getting more exercise is commonly at the top of list. If your goal is to increase or maintain your exercise levels, or “energy out”, in 2014, consider these tips to help you succeed:
1. Use SMART goals:  These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based (SMART).  If your goal is to complete a 10 kilometre walk or run by the end of 2014, create smaller, measurable goals for each week that are specific, such as starting to walk or run for 15 minutes, 3 times per week and then build up to your goal.
2. Build in accountability:  Whether you do this with a piece of paper with your goal written on it posted in a prominent spot in your house or workplace, by telling friends and family, or by sharing your goals on social media, go public with it! Ask friends, family or colleagues to give you friendly reminders and support to help you reach your goal, and try to find an exercise partner who has a similar goal, so you can exercise together and keep each other on track. Enroll in a workplace wellness or exercise program in your office, as these programs have been shown to help encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours.
3. Plan ahead but allow for the occasional slip up: Identify what things keep you from meeting your weekly exercise targets, such as a busy work schedule, upcoming travel plans, or inclement weather, so you can plan ways to overcome these barriers.  And be persistent!  Don’t allow a missed exercise session to derail your goal. Just keep trying. While making a resolution to be more physically active in the New Year is a great goal, why not get a head start by being active over the holidays? Plan a walk as part of holiday events with friends and family or take time to exercise on your own to re-charge from the festivities.
How are you going to maintain your energy balance this holiday season?
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