Rec | Scaling down holiday pounds

ifts of the holiday season often include weight gain. Average Americans gain approximately 12 pounds during the holidays. Traditionally, individuals let themselves go during the winter months only to set a New Year's resolution to lose weight.

It's a natural inclination to consume less food. This is only a temporary solution to the problem. For long-term results try eating fewer calories and exercising. Losing weight is not an easy process and keeping it off takes careful planning and commitment. It is vital to use common sense when developing a plan and adhere to realistic guidelines. Make a list of goals with a reward, that isn't food, for when it's achieved.

"I plan to reward myself for all my hard work and exercising by buying a new outfit for the first 10 to 15 pounds that I lose," says Johanna Holdorf, a Communication Studies major. "If I lose that weight then it will put me back into the ideal weight according to my height and body build."

Holdorf is not alone. According to the non-profit group of Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, an amazing 90 percent of women diet while in college. It's estimated that 55 percent of adult Americans are overweight.

Most health professionals agree that the most sensible approach to weight loss is a balanced diet composed of a variety of foods, juxtaposed with aerobic exercise.

"There are three key elements when trying to lose weight," says Stephani Hahaj, a cycling instructor at the Northwest YMCA. "Those are cardio, strength training and modifying their diet."

Dieting tends to make people hungry because they are eating less food. Try eating six small meals a day or continue eating three meals with low-calorie snacks.

Determine what physical activity would best fit into your lifestyle. In order to be effective, the activity should be moderately vigorous, but not tiring. Most health professionals recommend exercising 30 minutes or more each day for maximum results.

Setting up an exercise schedule should be approached in a manner similar to setting up a class schedule. Plan on exercising at a certain time everyday. Abide by the schedule religiously, like you would with a class schedule. Select a routine that works and stick to it.

Local fitness facilities are sure to be busier with the new year. "Business has already picked up," says Hahaj, of the YMCA. "There are lots of new members joining right now, but they will begin to trickle off within the next few months. People lose the commitment and dedication to hit the gym on a daily basis."