The November through December holiday season can feel a little like freshman year of college. Between the excitement, stress, planning, and partying, before you know it those jeans are a little tough to zip. How can we think about eating healthy when there's cookies, stuffing, pies, and endless comfort food, right?
The problem, though, may be less about the food and more about our habits toward it.
Making adjustments in these seven areas can help you enjoy the holidays and all of the deliciousness that goes with them...without feeling like you've over-indulged. And, while these seven tips may help avoid holiday weight gain, they're also important the other ten months of the year.
1-Relax. I know, stress is synonymous with the holidays. Unfortunately our body doesn't know if we're being chased by a bear, aggravated with endless checkout lines, or worried about spending five days with extended family. In each case, the sympathetic nervous system ("fight/flight") is activated. Chronic stress slows digestion, suppresses the immune system, and decreases our metabolism rate. Not great news for maintaining weight goals. Take 10-15 minutes daily to find your calm and let the parasympathetic nervous system kick in to reverse those reactions.
2. Have a Drink. Of water! We aren't skipping traditional egg nog, hot toddies, or chai lattes, but in addition to empty calories, alcohol is also dehydrating. Too often, the body's signal for thirst is misinterpreted as hunger. Try a one to one ratio- a glass of water for every cocktail. Your stomach, skin, and head will thank you in the morning.
3. Eat Lunch. We all know the trick, skipping lunch because you'll be indulging at that night's holiday party. Only skipping meals later causes over-indulging in, likely, high fat appetizers and desserts. Use breakfast and lunch as an opportunity for healthful nutrients. Then, your body won't be starving by the time you're faced with creamy dips and decadent sweets. Oh, and that water you're adding from habit #2 will help you feel full longer also!
4. Fill Your Plate. Camping at the appetizer and sweets tables catching up with friends makes mindless eating well...mindless. Fix a plate instead. It's easier to gauge portion sizes and limit carefree snacking when you have visual reminders.
5. Keep Moving. The holidays are busy and finding time for getting to the gym, working out, and showering again after may seem like an impossible ninety minutes to fit into your day. Instead of giving up your routine all together, alter it for the hectic season. Talk the dog for a brisk long walk, choose workout apps like Sworkit you can use at home and allow you to set exercise duration, or elevate your heart rate with unfavorable chores: raking leaves, shoveling snow. It only takes a couple weeks to reverse the endurance and strength you've built all year to sedentary levels... so keep moving!
6. Skip the Substitutions. It might be tempting to alter recipes with low-fat, fat-free, or sugar-free ingredients, but remember that fat equals flavor. When fat is removed from an ingredient, it's replaced with something to make it taste good...usually sugar, synthetic sugar, or another chemical substitute. Artificial ingredients are less likely to curb cravings and are more likely to cause weight gain: five fat-free cookies is not a healthier option than one of grandma's irresistible snickerdoodles. If you're looking for a little less decadence, though, try these baking substitutes that offer a nutritional boost.
7. Get a Zipper. I know, those buttery soft leggings are soooo comfy. But, living in expandable sweats, leggings, or yoga pants make it difficult to notice weight gain. Yes, weight fluctuations are normal and health isn't determined by numbers on the scale...but maintaining a weight healthiest for your body is essential for strong immunity, increased energy, and overall well-being.
Enjoying the holiday season doesn't mean micro-managing every tasty tradition, food is an important aspect of every culture. So, have a slice of Aunt Martha's famous pecan pie...enjoy a hot toddie by the fire...have some roasted chestnuts while you admire the holiday decorations. Relax.
Eat real food. Live simply. And share with a friend.
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