It’s time to throw off the stigma that exercise is a waste of time during the holidays. I’m here to tell you an extremely important reason why you should start your exercise routine today! Don’t wait until 2015 rolls around.
I’m OK with splurging around this time of year. However, I’m not OK with splurging accompanied by laziness. If you knew what was happening to your body while you indulge, you might rethink what you eat. More importantly, you might rethink your lackluster or nonexistent exercise routine.
The #1 Reason
If I could only give you one reason why you should start exercising during the holidays, I would pick insulin resistance. Yeah- I’m choosing this over dangerous belly fat, stress, fighting heart disease, and fitting into those new skinny jeans. That’s how big of a deal (and how rampant) it is.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin helps the body absorb glucose from the blood to store or use as energy. Insulin resistance is when the body produces insulin, but uses it ineffectively. When insulin isn’t able to do its job, blood sugar levels remain high. Consuming a diet of refined carbs (like white pasta, white rice, store bought breads, cereals, etc) and added sugars skyrockets our blood sugar, blood triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. Doing this consistently can lead not only to insulin resistance, but weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
When our diets contain these foods, the pancreas has to produce more insulin to get glucose into our cells to reduce our blood sugar. Over time, the pancreas can’t keep up with this increased demand, and our body enters a pre-diabetic state. Statistics show that 86 million Americans ages 20 and up are currently prediabetic. It’s safe to say that most do not know their body is in this state.
Our muscles rarely get the fuel they need when insulin resistance is present. It’s also linked with inflammation, belly fat, pain, and diseases like metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and Type II Diabetes. When your blood sugar levels are consistently high, it can damage your nerves and blood vessels. This leads to conditions like heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure, to name a few.
How Does Insulin Resistance Affect Me?
Type II Diabetes might not be on your radar, and maybe that’s OK. But treating our bodies kindly so they function optimally should be. If you plan on splurging a little (and let’s face it… our “little” usually turns into a lot!), think about what you’re doing to your body. Eating a lot of holiday treats, processed goodies, or carb-laden foods can force the pancreas into overdrive. Doing this consistently, like we tend to do during November through January 1, only makes things worse!
Although being overweight and inactive are the main precursors to insulin resistance and prediabetes, skinny people can be at risk, too. People at a healthy weight may have too much visceral fat, which might not roll over your jeans, but is still dangerous. If you eat a lot of the foods mentioned above, you could be physically skinny but metabolically obese. It’s estimated that 40% of skinny people have this so-called “diabesity.” We eat things that aren’t actually “food” and contain too much sugar, and then wonder where our health has gone.
So What Should I Do?
I’m not one to tell you to step away from a delicious Christmas cookie, unless you’re consuming them on a consistent basis. Eat whole foods as much as possible, especially if you have dessert. My hubs and I eat pretty healthy throughout the year so we can splurge during birthdays, vacations, and holidays! But we treat our bodies right by strength training during our splurges, and using our muscle gains to our advantage.
So my answer is to hit the weights! If Insulin resistance is mainly caused by physical inactivity and excess weight, you should get up, get moving, and lose some weight!
Why Strength Training?
Lifting weights will strengthen your muscles, which use more glucose than any other tissue. Active muscles burn stored glucose for energy and help refill our reserves. This helps to keep our blood sugar levels in check. Research has shown that just ONE bout of strength training can increase insulin sensitivity. How awesome is that- you get results right away! The more muscle we have, the more glucose we burn to help keep our blood sugar levels under control.
Strength training also helps to:
- increase heart function
- decrease blood pressure
- improve blood cholesterol profiles
- increase metabolism
- and reverse insulin resistance.
And since talking about your pancreas isn’t always sexy enough to change your behavior: you will also reap the benefits of your clothes fitting better and losing weight! Hooray!
Why Is NOW So Important?
Our bodies treat all carbs like sugar (although ones from whole foods are digested more slowly and don’t usually increase our insulin as much). So as you indulge at Thanksgiving, each holiday party, cookie exchanges, and then again on Christmas and New Years, the calories add up and so does the insulin resistance. This is the time of year where most people gain at least 1-2 lbs, some gaining in the double digits. We gain, thinking in January we will lose, but often times people don’t lose as much as they gained. This gradual waist growth endangers your health.
Since about half of Americans have diabesity, preventing weight gain and allowing our muscles to fight insulin resistance NOW is crucial. You know what’s a better gift to your children than Legos or a new Ipad? Having you around longer, and having you healthy enough to play with them. This holiday season, give the gift of taking steps to improve your health. Some things are out of our hands, but insulin resistance isn’t one of them.
And while I’m at it, a shocking 1 in 4 kids are prediabetic or type II diabetic. Many of them have no control over what they eat, so it’s up to you to set a healthy example. That’s not to guilt or shame you, but to inspire you to try harder, seek help if needed, practice moderation, and start that weights routine! The time is now.
How The Fit Tutor Can Help
Please don’t feel like I’m throwing all of these shocking statistics at you and will give you no hope! The Fit Tutor is for women who are looking to exercise in their own homes! We have exercises for beginners, intermediates, and super in-shape pros. The exercises are taught with good form for safety, and put together into workouts by me, a nationally certified personal trainer. Some workouts can last as long or short as you need them to- which is perfect for this hectic time of year. Sign up today and let me know how I can help! :)
Of course this is a complicated topic and I’m just barely brushing the surface. I hope this information encourages you to put down the egg nog and pick up a dumbbell this holiday season! I believe in you!
Sources and Further Recommended Reading:
- Precision Nutrition: All About Insulin
- Mark’s Daily Apple: Reader’s Response: Insulin Index
- Breaking Muscle: Weight Training Can Help Diabetics Manage Blood Sugar
- Authority Nutrition: Fix the Hormones that Make You Fat & The Bitter Truth About Fructose, Obesity, and Metabolic Disease
- UNM.edu: Training Clients with Diabetes
- American Diabetes Association: Statistics about Diabetes
- CDC: Prediabetes Infographic
- Dr. Mark Hyman/Huffington Post: Skinny Fat People: Why Being Skinny Doesn’t Protect Us From Diabetes and Death
- Huffington Post: How Ironic, I am Pre-Diabetic
- The Fit Tutor: Healthy Holiday Eating Tips (part 1) & 7 Realistic Holiday Eating Tips (part 2)
- The Fit Tutor: 20 Tips to Break Your Sugar Addiction & 11 Reasons to Ditch Sugar
- The Fit Tutor: Why You Should Lift Weights
- The Fit Tutor: Yes. You Are Not Too Busy to Exercise
- 100 Days of Real Food: Recipes
- Recipes, Dr. Mark Hyman: Blood Sugar Solution