Staying fit, even during the holidays

For some, the holiday season is the same from year to year. A party here, a gathering there, a handful of chocolates or a plate full of hors d’oeuvres – it doesn’t really matter as long as there’s something tasty to snack on.

After all, ‘tis the season, so many people eat more and focus less on good nutrition and exercise. Unfortunately, while ol’ Saint Nick needs to have his tummy full of jelly, that’s not quite the recipe for the rest of us.

The fact is most Americans tend to gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and, much to their chagrin, do not lose the extra weight as the year moves along. Which means one pound this year can turn into two next year and three the year after, and by the time a decade passes you’ve gained 10 pounds.

While most people may look at that amount and say it’s not a big deal, the bottom line is extra unnecessary pounds can affect your ability to get work done. Perhaps that’s why many employers throughout the state are motivating their employees to shed the extra weight and keep it off, during the holiday season and into the new year.

For instance, this holiday season of homemade treats and after-work holiday parties will be different for some employees at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Manchester.

The health insurer’s “Maintain not Gain” program encourages employees to watch what they eat during the seven-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

By no means has the company become a sugar-free zone, but it has taken a lighthearted approach, with teams of four employees competing against one another with the goal of not gaining weight during the period.

This is the second year the company has participated in the program. This year 28 teams are trying their best to keep the added weight off. Team members are eager to have a good time, which is why they have chosen to call themselves, among other names, the Lint Balls, the Butter Balls and No Jiggle Belles.

The company’s health and fitness center manager, Stephanie Harnie, explained that the week before Thanksgiving the teams gathered together for their group weigh-in, when all four team members jump on the scale to record a combined weight.

“It was fun to watch everyone kick off his or her shoes, count to three and jump on the platform scale,” Harnie says. “The goal is for each team to gain less than a total of seven pounds each or less than two pounds per person,” Harnie says.

The next weigh-in will take place in January. Those involved in the program receive weekly tips on how to lose weight and make the right food choices.

Year-round effort

The folks over at Brown & Co. in Portsmouth focus less on the holidays and more on staying healthy year-round as well. With walking meetings around the city and flexible hours, each employee is encouraged to maintain their fitness.

The company’s office manager, Brenda Gaudet, says she’s glad the company has flextime because it allows her the ability to work out in the morning and arrive at the office between 9 and 10 a.m.

“If we did not have flex time it would be harder to work out,” she says.

At BAE Systems Information and Electronic Warfare Systems in Nashua, employees participate in wellness programs on site, including yoga, basketball, spin classes and walking.

“We don’t just focus on health during the holiday season, but all year long. Our goal is to give our employees the tools and knowledge,” says Catherine Pepler, nursing manager for BAE.

But it’s still hard to keep the weight off during the holidays, especially when co-workers bring in plates of holiday treats. In an effort to combat the temptation the cafeteria offers healthier alternative meals.

In addition to healthier meals, wellness programs and Weight Watchers, the company has adopted the Healthy People 2010 initiative, which was created by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and features a comprehensive, nationwide health promotion and disease prevention agenda. The program’s goals are to increase quality and years of healthy life, and eliminate health disparities.

Healthy People 2010 has more than 400 objectives designed to serve as a road map for improving the health of all people in the United States during the first decade of the 21st century, according to the CDC’s Web site.

“Like the CDC, our hope is to partner with the employee,” says Marge Hamel, BAE’s manager for employee services.

For more information on Healthy People 2010, visit

Categories: News