Hey, Spike! offers expert’s advice for holiday eating | SummitDaily.com

Hey, Spike! offers expert’s advice for holiday eating

Miles F. Porter IV
Special to the Daily

The Summit County lifestyle is all about higher-than-average activity levels, which helps boost Colorado's frequently being tagged as the nation's leader in the "fittest" category.

Benefits of our recreational pursuits and healthy eating are well known to nutritionist Gretchen Broecker, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at St. Anthony's Centura Health Physician Group High Country Healthcare based in Frisco.

And now that we're in the midst of the holiday season — Halloween through New Year's — that usually means our eating habits get challenged.

Armed with a bachelor's in human nutrition and exercise science from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and a master's in nutrition earned at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Gretchen offers these pieces of advice:

"The tip I give out most often is to focus on the foods and flavors of the season and try to eat mindfully. Too often I see people really try to cut out the 'bad' foods. Holiday season is one of the most difficult times to do this as there are particular foods/traditions that are only available at this time of year. If someone has it in their mind that Eggnog is 'bad' and decides to have a glass at the holiday party, they have now set up a huge cycle of guilt, which leads to feelings of failure, which leads to giving up and indulging in too much of those bad foods," she said.

"People who have learned the lifestyle skills of moderation and given up the 'good food/bad food' concept seem to do so much better. They learn how to handle social situations and trigger lifestyle skills that you need to have in place to live healthy. You have to eat every single day for the rest of your life — it's a skill that you should be able to balance while still living an enjoyable life, including some of your favorite foods," adds Gretchen.

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Bottom line: A lot of this is in our heads; a mental thing.

If you "fall off the wagon," does that mean a jump in pounds? Gretchen says not necessarily.

"For many, there is an increase this time of year, but oddly enough, it's not as much as one would expect. Research looking specifically at this topic showed that out of 195 people, the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's was only 0.37 kilograms (not even a pound)," she reports.

"What's interesting is that when they separated out those patients struggling with obesity, that increased to an average of 5 pounds. I can't be certain of the cause of this, but in my experience, many people struggling with weight maintenance do have that 'good food/bad food' mentality. This could possibly be related to these statistics," she finds.

Much of Gretchen's workload focuses on diabetes, and those patient numbers reflect Colorado's fitness levels as those suffering from Type 2 are lower than those nationally.

She cites a recent study looking at diabetes rates across the country, which shows Colorado being less than 8 percent of the population (one of the lowest in the country), compared to Alabama and West Virginia, which have rates of 16 percent, and also have some of the highest rates of obesity in the country.

For those of us up on top, the lifestyle we choose — coupled with the altitude — makes a positive difference, she believes.

"I personally think it's the lifestyle. People are much more active here and activity plays a huge impact on insulin resistance, a main precursor to development of Type 2 diabetes. In general, active people tend to make healthier food choices as well."

Diabetes education is a large part of her job and is "a true passion of mine."

She also teaches weight management programs, leads support groups and provides general nutrition counseling for heart health, food allergies and kidney disease.

With her monthly newsletter, "Gretchen's Grapevine," she spreads the word.

Gretchen walks the walk, as the saying goes, with activities that include skiing, yoga, running, hiking, camping and traveling.

Originally from Minnesota, Gretchen and husband Eric moved to Frisco from Denver nearly three years ago, after realizing they were spending more time on The Summit.

"We had a condo here and found ourselves here more than there," she explains. "Our love of skiing, hiking, camping and wanting to raise our kids (three daughters) in a small town were top of the list."

Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to milesfporteriv@aol.com