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Thanksgiving

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By Barbara Beltrami

Is it really about the turkey? I don’t think so. Personally, I think the turkey is just an excuse for the myriad side dishes that crowd the Thanksgiving plate. And whatever they are, it’s not Thanksgiving without them. Each cook prepares his or her specialty, and each guest arrives, stepping gingerly up the walk and carrying a foil-covered dish. Aunt Somebody always does the Brussels sprouts, Cousin Somebody has to bring the cranberry sauce, Uncle Somebody has whipped up his irresistible mashed potatoes and Somebody’s mother-in-law always presents her “famous” sweet potato creation with the usual flourish, fanfare and self-congratulatory prelude. They all think their recipes are classified information and inimitable, but I’ve pretty much figured them out so here they are.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pint Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half, top to bottom

1/4 cup olive oil

6 peeled garlic cloves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, then place sprouts cut side down in oil; add garlic and salt and pepper. Cook until sprouts start to brown on bottom; transfer them in the pan to oven; roast until they are evenly brown, about 15 to 20 minutes; toss with balsamic vinegar and serve hot or warm with turkey and all the trimmings.

Drunken Cranberry Sauce

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 large tart apple, peeled and diced

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange liqueur

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup bourbon

Grated zest of one orange

Grated zest of one lemon

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large saucepan combine the cranberries, apple, sugar, orange liqueur, water and cinnamon; bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer until the berries start to pop.  Remove from heat, stir in bourbon and zests; cover and refrigerate. Serve with turkey and all the trimmings.

Golden Mashed Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

Salt

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

1 whole onion, peeled

1 stick unsalted butter

1/3 cup whole milk

Pinch of freshly ground white pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add potatoes and onion and cook over medium-high heat until very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, then return potatoes to pot without any of the water; discard onion or refrigerate and save for another use. Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat 6 tablespoons butter and milk together until butter melts and milk is hot but not boiling. Go back to potatoes and toss them around in pot over low heat for a minute or so; transfer them to mixer bowl and mash them on low speed; add the hot milk and butter gradually, then the white pepper, and increase mixer speed to medium. When fully combined and creamy, transfer to warmed serving bowl, top with dots of remaining butter and, as soon as it’s melted from the heat of the potatoes, serve with turkey and trimmings.

‘Famous’ Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Make a series of 1/8” slices cross-wise, slicing only 2/3 of the way down on the potatoes, so the bottoms of the slices are still attached. Place potatoes, evenly spaced, on foil-lined pan. In a small bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, salt and pepper. With a pastry brush, coat tops of potatoes and let mixture dribble down in between slices. Bake until insides are tender and outsides are crispy, about 45 to 50 minutes. Midway through cooking time, run a fork gently along tops to fan out slices; when potatoes are almost done,  sprinkle nuts over tops and in between slices. Serve hot with turkey and trimmings.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. The leaves are changing colors and will soon fall to the ground once again covering the earth. As we prepare for this most important American celebration, we have so much to be thankful for.

This brutal pandemic seems to be coming to an end; leaving us with so much death, so much sickness and suffering, but also a powerful reminder that life is fragile and sacred and that we as a people and as a nation are resilient.

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, to give thanks for our many blessings. It should not be a noun but an action word. In other words, it’s not enough to just say we’re grateful, we need to show our gratitude by our actions.

If we ever needed to come together as a people, it is now. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for us to build bridges and not walls; for creating a new narrative that is focused on healing and not hatred. It is a time for celebrating our strengths, not harping on our weaknesses.

It is a time to end the vulgar discourse that is infecting and polarizing our political landscape. It is reprehensible when an elected member of Congress stands in that sacred chamber without a mask that metaphorically gives the finger to the elected President of the United States! What has happened to our elected leadership? Have they lost their moral compass and their commitment to lead by example? What are we teaching our children about respect for the dignity of all people, no matter what their political affiliation?

Thanksgiving can be a time for new beginnings. Let us leave all the hatred and venom behind and focus on all the goodness that makes America great today! Professional football player Tom Brady, after a big win, took the time to shake hands with a little nine-year-old boy who is a cancer survivor. What about local students from a youth fellowship who bake cookies on a regular basis and bring them to a local homeless shelter, or the recovering heroin addict who became a social worker and wrote a book about hope and transformation?

Every day there are big and small miracles that are transforming our world. We need to slow down enough in the midst of all of this chaos and take off the blinders.

This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your family and loved ones to give thanks, set an extra plate at your table for that person in our community who might not have a table to sit at. Be grateful this Thanksgiving and remember “it’s not the breaths you take, it’s how you breathe!” (Augie Nieto).

Happy Thanksgiving. I am forever grateful that I live and work among you!

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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Boy Scout Troop 125 (Commack) with the collected 1,207.2 pounds of food for the Commack United Methodist Church’s food pantry.

By Troop 125 Historian, Wyatt Bode

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful … Boy Scouts from Troop 125 were out in force on Sunday, November 8 participating in a call to service for a Thanksgiving time food drive. Canned and boxed goods were donated by community members, as the scouts requested donations from shoppers at Commack’s ShopRite (Crooked Hill Rd).  An impressive 1,207.2 pounds were collected that day.

Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 125(Commack) during the food collection at Shoprite in Commack

The food variety included staples such as soup, tuna, assorted canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, rice, olive oil, sauces and cereals. The food collected helped restock the shelves for the Commack United Methodist Church’s pantry. Much thanks go to all the members of the community who helped in this effort and participated in donating all the food.

Boy Scout Troop 125 meets every Tuesday from 7:30-9:00pm at the Commack United Methodist Church (486 Town Line Road, Commack) and is open to boys ages 11 through 18 residing in Commack, Dix Hills, East Northport, Kings Park, Smithtown and their surrounding communities. Due to Covid, the meetings are currently being conducted remotely until the weather warms up, but the Troop is planning bi-weekly outdoor activities which lend themselves to social distancing.

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Comsewogue school administrators and the owners and coach at Port Crossfit gather for a donation of 20 turkeys and 51 gift cards to go to residents in the district. Photo by Kyle Barr

Members of Port Crossfit in Port Jefferson Station are giving back to the needy in the local community through the Comsewogue School District.

The crossfit gym delivered a host of turkeys and gift cards to Boyle Road Elementary School Tuesday, Nov. 24. 

Gym members raised money by asking family and friends to donate funds for every pound or inch on their waistline they lost over the past few weeks. As members lost over 100 pounds and a whole lot of inches, the gym acquired close to $2,000, which they used to purchase 20 turkeys and 51, $25 gift cards for Stop & Shop, the total of of which were worth approximately $1,200.

“It’s less about the turkeys and less about the gift cards — it’s always good to feed people in need — it’s more about the support system in the community,” Port Crossfit co-owner Kyle Tiringer said. “You’re inner circle, your family, those are the people that help you push through struggles to reach your goals. If we can pull together our powers to keep families together, maybe they can help accomplish a whole lot more for themselves and ultimately the community will benefit from that.”

Principal of Boyle Road Elementary School Nicole Sooknanan said the district’s nurses and social workers combined their efforts to identify families in need at this time of year. The turkeys will be going to families not just at Boyle Road but throughout the district.

The food and gift cards supplement a food drive hosted by the school where they gather nonperishables to put together  thanksgiving dinners for local families. 

“Comsewogue is really about family and coming together,” Sooknanan said. “Obviously this year has brought on new circumstances for families, and I’m proud to be able to help our community. We help one another — that’s what we do here.”

Port Jefferson Farmer's Market

While 2020 certainly had its downfalls, Thanksgiving is approaching and it’s reminding us what we’re grateful for this year. Our reporter, Julianne Mosher, headed down to the Village of Port Jefferson’s weekly Farmer’s Market to ask stand owners and their friends what they’re thankful for this year, and what they’re doing for Thursday’s holiday.

Erin Reid, NahMaStay Vegan

I’m thankful for love. Love is something everyone lives for, and that’s why I do this because I love what I do.

 

 

 

Rob, Darlene, Bobby and Francesca Baslie

Rob: We’re just so happy to be healthy.

Bobby: I can’t wait to eat corn on Thanksgiving. Francesca likes Lunchables.

 

 

Gary Newman, Beewitched Bee

I’m still working, so that’s really good. I’m thankful I was working throughout the pandemic. A lot of people weren’t, so I’m lucky I was.

 

 

 

JoAnn DeLucia, JoAnn’s Desserts

Family. That’s the first and foremost important thing. I’m thankful for our health and for our family.

 

 

 

Agathe Snow, Mushrooms NYC

I’m thankful for my health, but more importantly my parent’s health. I’m also thankful for our farm surviving – we moved from NYC to Mattituck to expand and it’s going really well!

 

 

Theresa DeGregorio, Bambino Ravioli

I’m thankful for health, my family and good food that we’ll be eating this week.

 

 

 

Marc, Jacob and Melissa Gordon, Sweets by Amy G

We’re thankful for family and having time with our family.

 

 

 

Danielle Paul, Pecks of Maine Jams

I’m thankful for my family and friends – and being able to work during a pandemic. It’s been hard for everyone.

 

 

 

Naela Zeidan, Naela Organics

We’re thankful for our health. Luckily our whole family has been COVID free this whole time, and we’re keeping Thanksgiving small this year.

 

 

Photos by Julianne Mosher

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thanksgiving 2020 will surely be remembered by all. Other Thanksgivings blend into each other on the impressionist edges of memory, in a sepia-colored haze. But this one will stand out like a gargoyle, in bas-relief at the center. Never before have we disinvited our children from our homes during this holiday. Never have we set the table for so few. Never have we been urged not to travel to reconnect with our families. Never have we been drilled on the three Ws: wash your hands, watch your social distancing, wear your mask. COVID-19 overhangs our lives.

Nonetheless, for most of us, there is so much to be thankful for, even as we have to push past the anxiety and the upending of our lives the pandemic has caused to remind ourselves of the many ways we can be thankful.

First is for the good health most of us are lucky enough to enjoy: for our own and that of our loved ones. Perhaps, never has good health been viewed as such a blessing as now, as hundreds of thousands fall ill. Even without the coming vaccine, we can work to keep the virus at bay by diligently following the three Ws.

Next is the love we have in our lives that has become so manifestly important to acknowledge and declare. It is that love: for our spouses, our parents, our children, our dearest relatives and friends that is our safety net during these challenging days. We have always been aware of that love but perhaps not so appreciatively as now. The need to connect with them has not been so vital as now. And if we have a warm home and people who live in it with us, and enough to eat each day, how thankful we can be.

We can be thankful for our jobs, if we have them, and if we don’t, for the country we live in that supports us at least partially during our temporary unemployment. And if we are holding on ourselves, we can help others around us through our churches, soup kitchens and donations to our neighbors in need. To help others is a great privilege.

Though I never particularly embraced the computer when it appeared in our daily lives in the 1970s and 1980s, I am thankful for technology. Because of my computer, I can see my children and grandchildren regularly. I even have a place in the house nicknamed the Zoom Room. I can also see my friends, attend meetings, albeit virtually, and learn new subjects if I choose.

I escape from the news and the responsibilities of daily life with movies on Netflix and other streaming services. I still cannot stop marveling at Siri and the ability to find the answers to all sorts of questions by just pushing a button on my cellphone.

I sometimes think of my husband, whose poor sense of direction was legendary in the family, and how he would have loved the GPS. The ability to call someone from this marvelous invention I hold in my hand and tell them I am on my way but will be 15 minutes late or that I need help because I have a flat tire is a commonplace miracle of the 21st century. How lucky we are to be alive in these times, when a vaccine to overcome our version of the black plague can be developed in a matter of months.

Difficult times force us to turn inward and find the resilience to cope. And we can cope, we all can. If we believe in ourselves and have faith that this pandemic will end, which it surely will, we can then build back our lives and our world again. We can give thanks for that inner strength. Governments must help, charities and philanthropies do help, and we can help ourselves and each other. We can take inspiration from the natural world, which goes on in all its seasons of beauty despite periodic upheavals, and thankfully we will too.

Thanksgiving 2021 we will all together sit around the dinner table and profoundly give thanks.

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By Beverly C. Tyler

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day as the end of the season of harvest was and still is an important milestone in people’s lives. Diaries, journals and letters provide some of the earliest records of seasonal activity and how people connected with each other to mark occasions. In America, before the telephone became a standard household item, family members and friends stayed in touch through the U.S. Postal Service.   

In 1873, a new phenomenon began when the United States Postal Service issued the first penny postcards. During the first six months, they sold 60 million. The post office department stated: “The object of the postal card is to facilitate letter correspondence and provide for the transmission through the mails, at a reduced rate of postage, of short communication, either printed or written in pencil or ink.”

With the postcard, brevity was essential due to the small space provided. Long descriptive phrases and lengthy expressions of affection, which then were commonly used in letter-writing, gave way to short greetings.

Soon after the first government postal cards were issued, American greeting card manufacturers began to print Christmas, Easter and other greetings on the back of the cards. By the 1890s, picture postcards were widely sold in many European countries, but in the United States, privately printed cards cost 2 cents to mail.

On May 19, 1898, an act of Congress was passed in the U.S. allowing privately published postcards the same message privileges and rates (1 cent) as the government-issued cards. These were to be inscribed, “Private mailing card – Authorized by Act of Congress May 19, 1898.”

Then in December 1901, new regulations were issued saying that private cards would have the word “Post Card” at the top of the address side and government-issued cards would say “Postal Cards.”

Before the telephone, the postcard was an easy and pleasant way to send a message. A postcard sent from one town in the morning usually would arrive in a nearby town that afternoon. A postcard sent from another state would not take much longer. Edward Griffin took the steamer “Priscilla” from New York to Boston, arriving at 8 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1902. He wrote a brief note on a postcard when he arrived, addressed it to his mother in Brooklyn, and dropped it in the mail. The postcard said: “Arrived ok this morning at 8 o’clock – Eddie.” The postcard was postmarked in Boston at 11:30 am and postmarked again in Brooklyn at 8:30 pm the same day.

In October of 1907, the United States, following the lead of other countries, changed the rules and began allowing messages to be written on half of the side reserved for the address. This left the whole of the other side for pictures or photographs. Postcards then became a major collecting craze, and for many, a profitable business. They were produced in such quantities that they were often given away with copies of popular magazines.

The feasting aspect of Thanksgiving has continued to be an essential part of the holiday and many of the postcards that were sent reflected that theme. In addition, the postcard helped to tie the family members together with those who were absent during the holiday.

As the telephone became more widely used, the postcard became less and less important as a means of daily communications. However, it provided us with a view of the early years of the twentieth century that became a permanent record of contacts between family members and friends.

Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

All images from Beverly C. Tyler’s postcard collection

Turkeys waddle around Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park as customers stop by looking for potential Thanksgiving meals. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Despite new state restrictions on gatherings, some local small businesses are thankful this year for all the support they’ve received at the start of the holiday season. 

In pre-COVID times, a typical Thanksgiving dinner could host a dozen or even more people. But as of last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new guidelines for the upcoming holidays, asking people to host small gatherings of 10 people or less. 

Lisa Harris, the owner of Torte Jeff in Port Jefferson, said although they are down in sales, people are still buying Thanksgiving day pies. Photo by Margot Garant

But small groups aren’t stopping people from spending time with their loved ones — just less of them this year. And with the tradition of family get-togethers comes the big Thanksgiving meal, full of sides, pies and of course, turkey.

Cathy Raleigh-Boylan, co-owner of Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park, said sales have actually increased this year, much to her surprise. 

“There are a lot of people asking for small or medium sized turkeys, but people are still having Thanksgiving,” she said. “Even if they’re not having a large gathering, they still want a big bird and just have a lot of leftovers.”

The farm has been a staple to the Smithtown community for more than 61 years, she said, and usually people come from all over to pick up their Thanksgiving meats. This year is a little different, but not necessarily in a bad way.

“With COVID, we’re realizing a lot more people are eating at home with families and teaching the young kids how to cook,” she said. “Generations are going back a bit. As bad as COVID was, a lot more family time came out of it.”

Raleigh’s also sells pies, making it a one-stop shop for local Thanksgiving needs. “We’ve sold more pies than ever,” she said. “I think people just want to make Thanksgiving special this year. We can’t do a lot of things right now, so people are looking for some normalcy.”

Some people are opting not for the bird this year, and are switching it up. At Cow Palace in Rocky Point, owner Debbie Teitjen said there are other options they offer. “A lot of people are doing turkey breast or turkey London broil,” she said. “We’re doing tons of catering for smaller events and a lot of curbside catering.”

But Arthur Worthington, of Miloski’s Poultry Farm on Middle Country Road in Calverton, said many of his customers are choosing to size down. 

“There definitely are still a lot of people going along with the tradition,” he said. “There are a lot of inquiries similar from years before.”

He said customers who still want the bird are preferring smaller ones for this year’s dinner. 

“They’re looking for the 12 to 16 pound range, which is tough because everything we do with raising turkeys, we have to plan years in advance,” he said. 

But over in Huntington, Nick Voulgaris III, owner of Kerbers Farm on West Pulaski Road, said it’s been busier than typically this time of the year. 

Turkeys waddle around Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park as customers stop by looking for potential Thanksgiving meals. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“This is normally the busiest time of the year for us,” he said. “We’re slightly above normal, which is a good thing especially during the current economic climate.”

Voulgaris said people are gravitating towards smaller birds for smaller groups, but as of right now, they have completely sold out of turkeys for the holiday. 

“We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales over the last six months, or so,” he said. 

While they’re out of birds for the upcoming holiday, they still have plenty of pies to preorder before Sunday Nov. 20, he said. 

Lisa Harris, owner of Torte Jeff Pie Co. on East Main Street in Port Jefferson, said her shop has been down about 25% in sales from last year because gatherings are smaller, but people are still looking to celebrate with their favorite pies for the holiday. 

“We’re selling less pies, but to the same amount of people,” she said. “We have definitely had a request for smaller pies.”

Although it’s a small hit to her business, she’s still happy people want to shop small. Some, she said, are starting new traditions ordering and bringing home her savory Thanksgiving Day pie.

“It’s everything you would have on Thanksgiving in a traditional pie,” she said. “That’s becoming really popular.”

To deal with COVID-19, Harris implemented online ordering through Nov. 20 on a new portal on the shop’s website. 

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is once again upon us and the holiday season is fast approaching. This time of year is a time to give thanks. With all that has happened, with all the senseless loss of life because of the pandemic, we are reminded in the midst of all of that how blessed we are.

Our human landscape has changed so dramatically this past year. However, it has reminded me even more profoundly that all life is sacred, all life is fragile and we need to be so much more attentive to each other. We need to focus on all the things that bring us together rather than the things that separate us. This holiday season should be about building new bridges and not new walls.

With the election season behind us, we have an opportunity to begin a new chapter in our American journey; an opportunity to reclaim our soul as a nation, heal our wounds, stand together and celebrate all that makes us great. We are a tenacious people, diverse but extremely talented and gifted.

In the midst of all this chaos, I have continually been humbled and inspired with the random acts of kindness and compassion from ordinary people in our neighborhoods. On their own initiative, countless student groups have done extraordinary things for the poor and homeless in our larger community. The doctors, nurses, first responders and all of the support staff in our hospitals have been courageous and heroic in their response to the virus. They are a living example of what commitment to public service and community is all about.

We have an incredible opportunity to stand in solidarity with each other and work to make a better tomorrow or we can feed the divisive rhetoric that has become infectious and remain complicit by our silence.

This Thanksgiving will be my 41st Thanksgiving in Port Jefferson. I am forever grateful for these past 41 years. I have seen a community of tremendous diversity and talent stand with each other through good times and bad, always looking to build upon the goodness and kindness in our midst. This experience has inspired me to stay the course and to do my best to help make our community a better place. Every day I see miracles of hope and transformation take place because of the collaborative spirit to reach out to the most vulnerable and broken among us.

As we celebrate the holiday season, no matter what our faith tradition, let this be a time for renewed hope, a time for compassion and renewed understanding, a time for realizing that each and every one of us, no matter where we’re from or what we do, have the power to make a difference that really does count.

May we all be blessed and renewed during the holiday season.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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Diet choices trump exercise for weight loss

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

To quash guilt about Thanksgiving meal indiscretions, many of us will resolve to exercise to burn off the calories from this seismic meal and the smaller, calorically dense aftershock meals, whether with a vigorous family football game or with a more modest walk.

Unfortunately, exercise without dietary changes may not actually help many people lose weight, no matter what the intensity or the duration (1). If it does help, it may only modestly reduce fat mass and weight for the majority of people. However, it may be helpful with weight maintenance. Ultimately, it may be more important to reconsider what you are eating than to succumb to the rationalization that you can eat with abandon during the holidays and work it off later.

Don’t give up on exercise just yet, though. There is very good news: Exercise does have beneficial effects on a wide range of conditions, including chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, fatigue, insomnia and depression.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Exercise for weight loss

The well-known weight-loss paradigm is that when more calories are burned than consumed, we will tip the scale in favor of weight loss. The greater the negative balance with exercise, the greater the loss. However, study results say otherwise. They show that in premenopausal women there was neither weight nor fat loss from exercise (2). This involved 81 women over a short duration, 12 weeks. All of the women were overweight to obese, although there was great variability in weight.

However, more than two-thirds of the women (55) gained a mean of 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of fat mass by the end of the study. There were a few who gained 10 pounds of predominantly fat. A fair amount of variability was seen among the participants, ranging from significant weight loss to substantial weight gain. These women were told to exercise at the American College of Sports Medicine’s optimal level of intensity (3). This is to walk 30 minutes on a treadmill three times a week at 70 percent VO2max — maximum oxygen consumption during exercise — or, in other words, a moderately intense pace.

The good news is that the women were in better aerobic shape by the end of the study. Also, women who had lost weight at the four-week mark were more likely to continue to do so by the end of the study. This was a preliminary study, so no definitive conclusions can be made.

Other studies have shown modest weight loss. For instance, in a meta-analysis involving 14 randomized controlled trials, results showed that there was a disappointing amount of weight loss with exercise alone (4). In six months, patients lost a mean of 1.6 kilograms, or 3.5 pounds, and at 12 months, participants lost 1.7 kilograms, or about 3.75 pounds.

Exercise and weight maintenance

However, exercise may be valuable in weight maintenance, according to observational studies. Premenopausal women who exercised at least 30 minutes a day were significantly less likely to regain lost weight (5). When exercise was added to diet, women were able to maintain 30 percent more weight loss than with diet alone after a year in a prospective study (6).

Exercise and disease

As just one example of exercise’s impact on disease, let’s look at chronic kidney disease (CKD), which affects 15 percent, or one in seven, adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (7).

Trial results showed that walking regularly could reduce the risk of kidney replacement therapy and death in patients who have moderate to severe CKD, stages 3-5 (8). Yes, this includes stage 3, which most likely is asymptomatic. There was a 21 percent reduction in the risk of kidney replacement therapy and a 33 percent reduction in the risk of death when walkers were compared to non-walkers.

Walking had an impressive impact; results were based on a dose-response curve. In other words, the more frequently patients walked during the week, the better the probability of preventing complications. Those who walked between one and two times per week had 17 and 19 percent reductions in death and kidney replacement therapy, respectively, while those who walked at least seven times per week saw 44 and 59 percent reductions in death and kidney replacement. These are substantial results. The authors concluded that the effectiveness of walking on CKD was independent of kidney function, age or other diseases.

Therefore, while it is important to enjoy the holidays, remember that food choices will have the greatest impact on our weight and body composition. However, exercise can help maintain weight loss and is extremely beneficial for preventing progression of chronic diseases, such as CKD.

So, by all means, exercise during the holidays, but also focus on more nutrient-dense foods. At a minimum, strike a balance rather than eating purely calorically dense foods. You won’t be able to exercise them away.

References:

(1) uptodate.com. (2) J Strength Cond Res. Online Oct. 28, 2014. (3) ACSM.org. (4) Am J Med. 2011;124(8):747. (5) Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(1):167. (6) Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997;21(10):941. (7) cdc.gov. (8) Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Jul;9(7):1183-1189.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com.