“The holiday season is a plethora of bad food choices. When we have added weight after holidays then it makes it harder to get that off. With this challenge, we’re not asking you to lose weight, just to maintain,” said Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent in Wilson County.
The challenge starts the Monday after Thanksgiving and lasts until Jan. 5, the Friday after New Year’s Day. Barnes will send one message by email per week during the six-week challenge. Participants get to choose from two options for each weekly challenge.
“More than 140 people participated last year and 82 percent either maintained or lost weight. They only received email encouragement and I think that’s great,” Barnes said. The Healthy Holiday Challenge is now in its third year, and this year the option to choose is new.
• Week 1: Eat from smaller plates, or drink water with your meals.
• Week 2: Eat a healthy filling, nutritious snack before going to a holiday gathering, or eat breakfast.
• Week 3: Focus on food labels to create a healthy meal makeover, or Get enough sleep.
• Week 4: Eat healthy lunches and snacks, or Avoid “tasting” while you are cooking.
• Week 5: Move during television commercials, or park farther from store doors.
• Week 6: Choose a healthy meal when dining out, or add a new fruit and vegetable to a meal this week.
Participants said they enjoyed being part of a community of people in the challenge, and even though there is no communication between participants it helped them to remain accountable to decisions made during the holiday season.
“Several people say they’re trying to use smaller plates. They’ll use dessert plates for dinner instead. Some are cutting down on bread or staying away from multiple servings of sweets,” Barnes said. “It’s all about setting a goal and then sticking to it.”
Participants also get free use of Sports Village during the challenge just for signing up. The free trial period ends Jan. 5.
“I believe in being as healthy as possible and as the owner of Sports Village, I like to reward that mindset. These people are making a healthy choice to maintain their current weight during a very unhealthy time of year. I think it’s important that we help them achieve their goals free of charge,” said Sports Village owner Peggy Keel.
Free use of Sports Village includes more than 60 group exercise classes per week like yoga, spinning, cardio kick, Latin jam, barre and line dancing, as well as access to the indoor pool and track, cardio and strength equipment and all amenities including the sauna, steam and hot tub.
“The food is so good, I get it. I love the holiday season, and I’m part of the challenge, too,” Barnes said. “I pick things that resonate with myself, too. If we want to live healthier longer lives we have to make these choices now.”
Anyone can sign up for the program by emailing Barnes at [email protected] She will send information about the free trial at Sports Village and a weekly email detailing the challenge. The deadline is Monday to sign up for the Maintain, Don’t Gain Healthy Holiday Challenge.
“It’s a really easy program for people to be a part of. You don’t have to go anywhere. You can read it from comfort of your pajamas. Just get an email every Monday, and you don’t have to respond,” Barnes said.
The program also counts as a healthy living program for employers that offer discounts on insurance.