Q&A with Alisha Fielder

November 21, 2012 

City of Residence: Perry

Occupation: Manager, Health Connections Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Houston Medical Center

QUESTION: Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t the healthiest times of year are they?

ANSWER: They’re wonderful, but not always healthy due to what we eat, how little we exercise and the stress involved.

QUESTION: Start with food. What’s the problem?

ANSWER: We tend to make things to eat we don’t have at other times, mostly the desserts: lots of sugar, lots of fat, not a lot of fiber and whole wheat. We eat a lot of foods that aren’t so healthy, and we tend to eat more.

QUESTION: The holidays are usually family times, how does that figure in?

ANSWER: At family gatherings, work or friends gatherings, you tend to bring what tastes the best and is sweetest, and you bring a lot. A dish and a dessert turns into a dish and two desserts. Things we might usually avoid we tend to have at the end of the year.

QUESTION: But turkey is good for you, right?

ANSWER: Yes, but even turkey depends on how you purchase and prepare it. Everything depends on how you cook it. It’s typically healthier to use fresh or frozen turkey you cook yourself rather than processed pre-cooked meats. If you don’t cook it, you lose control over ingredients and should pay close attention to labeling and watch ingredients like sodium. Cooking at home is better, but you still have to watch your own ingredients.

QUESTION: If you go to someone else’s house, there’s not much you can do.

ANSWER: That’s when how much you eat becomes key. You can’t help what goes on your plate, but you can control how much. Guard against super portions. Also, during the holidays you might go to a number of different meals at different family member or friends’ homes. Realize you shouldn’t have a full holiday meal everywhere you go. Orchestrate it, so you have a full meal at one place then a light one elsewhere.

QUESTION: What you’re saying keeps going back to ingredients and portions.

ANSWER: That’s it. Go with reduced fat items and use sugar substitutes. There are a lot you can bake with. You can even do half sugar and half sweetener if you have to. Don’t over salt. Don’t even put salt on the table. If you have to, use salt substitutes. Try to use whole wheat flour. There are other tricks like using apple sauce versus fat and oil. It gives a similar texture and taste. You may not be able to totally change the way you cook over the holidays, so it boils down to portions.

QUESTION: What about stress?

ANSWER: Stress adds to the problem. We usually get pretty stressed during the holidays over getting all the extra things done. Stress is bad for you and worse when you’re not eating right.

QUESTION: What’s the solution?

ANSWER: You can learn stress reduction techniques you can use all year, but tips like preparing food ahead of time can really help. Fix things ahead, and spend more time making them as healthful as possible. Freeze them, and heat them up when needed. It’s less stress, and you get to spend more time with family, sitting down or even going out for a walk or run.

QUESTION: You’re saying exercise. That’s not a holiday tradition for most.

ANSWER: Weight boils down to calories in versus calories burned. If you take them in and don’t burn them, they go to fat. Exercise is always important, but if we take in more calories over the holidays, we’re going to gain weight. Exercise can help burn those extra holiday calories. Plus, if you’ve invested in exercising because you know you’ll be having a big meal later in the day, it might motivate you to not eat as much.

QUESTION: Would it be wise to start an exercise program during the holidays if you haven’t been doing any?

ANSWER: You should exercise. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, but it’s recommended you get 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s about 30 minutes five days a week. That’s the minimum.

QUESTION: What exercises?

ANSWER: Something you enjoy -- that way you’ll do it. If you don’t like running, don’t. Don’t like biking? Don’t bike. Find something you like. The worst thing is to take on too much to start. Do what you can do. Maybe it’s just walking to the mailbox, but it could be a longer walk, running or whatever you do. Just get started even if it’s a little. Keep it up, and do more as you’re able. It’s progress over time that counts. We stress healthy weight loss, which is two to three pounds a week, not more. And don’t forget, exercise is also a great way to relieve holiday stress.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service