Healthier holidays

Why not give ‘Maintain Don’t Gain’ a go?

CHARLES TOWN – “Maintain Don’t Gain” is one of those simple ideas that can add up to a major life shift.

The program originated when a Harpers Ferry medical official read that many of us gain weight this time of year and then don’t shed the pounds come spring, a trend that can spell significant weight gain as time goes by.

Years ago after I first wrote about this holiday weight-maintenance concept for Charleston’s The State Journal, I decided to try it myself – and quickly realized why so many people are fans of this approach.

A big part of the initial allure of the program came with those free passes to area gyms, which makes it easy to spend the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s test-driving exercise classes and fitness regimes.

But I found that even more than just having fun, new outlets for working out, I enjoyed the way Maintain Don’t Gain prompted me to alter my mental focus.

Before Maintain, I didn’t do such a great job bypassing temptations, starting with slabs of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie lathered in whipped cream – and Thanksgiving leftovers, Christmas cookies, Christmas candy, milkshakes in festive holiday flavors and on and on and on.

Now, rather than engaging in mindless holiday munching, I approach parties and special meals with more mindfulness.

Instead of moving in at the sight of a plate of adorable Santa-shaped cookies, I found myself stopping and thinking: “Do I really want this?”

Holiday baking also has become less of a temptation. Cookies fresh from the oven are hard to resist, but Maintain helps me limit my sampling. Now I know to quickly package up the goodies so that they make it to their intended purpose as gifts and treats for a specific get-together.

Maintain lets me approach all holiday eating with a much more discerning eye. Scarf some Oreos just because they’re in a Santa tin? Dig into M&Ms just because they’re in holiday green and red? Suddenly, my answer becomes no.

Now I save my indulgences for the foods that are worth the splurge – goodies I can get only this time of year and that I truly love. I will drink some egg nog on Christmas Eve, I want French toast made with egg nog on Christmas morning and after our Christmas dinner, I’m certain to indulge in the rich holiday pumpkin roll my mother makes.

Maintain Don’t Gain starts with participants visiting the health department or a local gyms during the pre-Thanksgiving signup period and stepping (privately) on a scale. That’s the magic number that those taking part are asked to come in at or under when they return the week of New Year’s.

Besides the coupons for gym visits, participants also get a newsletter with tips, healthy recipes and other encouragement. For those who complete the program, there’s a celebration party in January.

It’s been more than a decade now since Dr. Johanna Biola – at the time, a med student at West Virginia University and now a family doc at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine and – came up with the Maintain Don’t Gain concept. I’m glad she did – and I’m not alone. Program organizers say 90 percent of those who complete Maintain do keep their weight steady or even see the numbers on the scale decline a bit.

The program is free and signing up takes only a few minutes. You don’t have anything to lose and a lot to gain.

 

Want to know more?

What: Maintain Don’t Gain

Who: Anyone 18 or older

Where: Weigh-in sites in Jefferson County include the Clarion Health Spa & Fitness Center in Shepherdstown, Curves in Charles Town, the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic, Gold’s Gym, Harpers Ferry Family Medicine, Jefferson County Community Center at Sam Michaels Park, Jefferson County Health Department and the Shepherd University Wellness Center.

When: From Sunday through Nov. 27

What else: Participants who complete the program will get an invitation to a celebration party to be held at the Clarion Hotel in mid-January

To know more: Contact Judy Matlick at the West Virginia University Extension Service (304-728-7413, ext. 3 or Judy.Matlick@mail.wvu.edu).

 

IN BERKELEY COUNTY, Maintain Don’t Gain signups began last weekend and continue through Saturday. For sites and other details, contact Sue Flanagan at WVU Extension Service (304-264-1936 or Sue.Flanagan@mail.wvu.edu).

 

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