HOLIDAY STRESS AND WEIGHT GAIN SURVIVAL GUIDE
Let’s face it, the holidays are a great time for your taste buds, but it’s not really prime time for your waistline is it? What if I could show you how to enjoy the holidays and festivities without sabotaging your health goals.
The holidays are a happy time of the year because we get spend more time with family, sharing home-cooked meals and uplifting social functions with friends and co-workers. At the same time we are faced with added pressure from shorter work weeks, co-workers taking time off and holiday parties leave us with less time to get to the gym or stick to our healthy routines. All of this adding to stress that makes it easy to get off balance if you don’t plan ahead. Avoid succumbing to stress eating and ‘food emergencies’, finding yourself starving somewhere with limited healthy food options.
18 super simple diet and lifestyle tips to help you get through the holidays sane and healthy:
I cannot stress this enough!! As much as we would love to attend every holiday social event , dinner and office party, it can prove to be overwhelming to manage commitments to so many functions and still be able to maintain your routine. Don’t over extend yourself with committing to every invitation. No one expects you to say yes to everything, so do not expect that of yourself either.
Plan for downtime and self-care:
Don’t let the fast and festive pace of the holidays overwhelm you. Making time for shopping, cooking, cleaning, gift wrapping and socializing takes up most of our free time during the holidays and most often we put our own needs on the back burner. Unchecked, this could lead to a lot of holiday stress and unwarranted indulging on comfort foods and holiday treats when we don’t want to. Commit to taking time to yourself everyday to sit in quiet, take a walk, meditate, listen to your favorite holiday music, read a book, take a nap (yes, take a nap!) and make sure to get adequate sleep. There is a reason so many people feel ‘burned-out- after the holidays because they are shortchanging themselves in a time where they need the most self-care.
Maintain your routine as much as possible:
Nothing gets us out of our grooves as much as the holidays. There is less time for self-care, more to do in less time, holiday treats and parties everywhere. Getting off track can be easy, therefore making sure you stick to your routine is imperative and be sure leave enough time for the essentials(wake up time, meal times, workout times) that way you stay grounded and step into the new year unscathed.
Too often during the holidays the first thing we let go of is our exercise routine (along with the rest of our self-care regimen). Yes, it’s challenging to find the time to exercise regularly this time of year. Is it possible? Absolutely it is!!! With most of us being busier during the holidays, it is easy to put if off and then you wake up a month later 10 lbs heavier wondering how it happened? Staying active is very important.
Exercise helps to level out all those calories we take in during December
happens to be a great way to relieve some of the holiday stress.
Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming. It can be going for a walk or a quick group fitness class. It’s much easier to handle two 20-minute workouts during the holidays than one longer 45 minute workout. If you don’t have time to hit the gym, try to splitting your workouts up this way to make them more manageable. You can also workout at home and go for walks in the morning before work and in the evenings after a meal.
Post meal walks are great way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, that way less calories are stored as fat.
Next time you have a heavy meal, remember your ‘why’, muster up some will power, put your jacket on an go for a brisk walk in the chilly December air. It will burn calories, invigorate and oxygenate you as well!! What a deal!!
Keep an eye on your alcohol intake:
Alcohol is so nearly ubiquitous during the holidays that we often associate with joy and relaxations. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself responsibly and in moderation, however, if you are watching your weight or are concerned with not over eating, alcohol is not your friend. Not only do alcoholic drinks contain lots of calories, but they also stimulate an intense craving for more sugar. This can be dangerous when you find yourself at a holiday party on an empty stomach, with the exception of a few cocktails and now you are in a straight up ‘food emergency’ and chances are you won’t be reaching for the celery sticks. Plan ahead, don’t leave the house on an empty stomach and have a glass of water every few drinks. Your body will thank you!
Don’t neglect your sleep
When it comes to stress and routines, few are as important as sleep. Sadly, sleep is usually the first area people sacrifice when they become overwhelmed. If you don’t get the proper amount of rest, everything else will become more stressful and difficult to manage. Adequate sleep is what keeps the rest of your body going, so make the time to get to bed early enough to be rested. If you schedule nothing else in your day, you should at least schedule your sleep. It’s primary.
Choose healthy substitutes
With just a few simple food swaps and adjustments, you can still enjoy delicious foods without packing on the pounds and the guilt. For example, replace mashed potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes and swap out sour cream for Greek yogurt. Choose clear broth-based soups over creamy soups that are heavy with fat and calories. You can swap out potatoes or pasta for roasted veggies and hummus which makes for a much healthier dip than ranch or blue cheese dressing.
If hosting a party, make sure guests have tupperware to take leftovers home, so you don’t get tasked with finishing them off
If you’re watching your weight this holiday season and would much rather kick in the new year feeling fit, then a smart move is to have Tupperware for your dinner guests to take home leftovers in. The last thing you need is 5 more days of Christmas is your refrigerator. Either ask guests to bring their own Tupperware, or for under $15 you can purchase a stack of containers that will make all your guests happy at the end of the night.
Choose your drinks wisely……high calorie drinks can be a fast way to consume way more calories than you need. Festive holiday drinks, with or without alcohol, are full of hidden sugar and can turn into calorie bombs.
Alcoholic drinks create an intense craving for more sugar and can cause you to make poor judgement with food. Stick to calorie-free drinks like seltzer, tea and water.
Practice eating mindfully
Ever find yourself eating a delicious meal so quickly you practically inhaled it and have no recollection of how tasty it was? That is the opposite of mindful eating! When you are eating, take a break from multi-tasking and sit back and allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods and flavors. Chew the food slowly enough so that you can appreciate not only the taste, but the texture, temperature, aroma and the feeling the food gives you when you bite into it. Train yourself to eat slowly enough to be able to maintain a conversation, enjoy your meal fully without overeating. Mindful eating is not only a wonderful way to slow down for a few minutes and truly enjoy your meal and but also helps you to eat slowly enough that you feel full sooner and are less prone to overeating. Be patient, eat slowly until you are satisfied, not stuffed. What’s the point of all the delicious holiday treats if we eat them so quick we can’t remember what they tasted like. That’s an insult to the chef….
Don’t be a recreational eater
Only eat when you are truly hungry when at holiday social events!! It’s real easy to chat up a conversation with someone and as they are talking, we keep taking and continue picking at the appetizer and snacks in front of us. Many times we reach for food instinctively without giving much thought why. Ever walk through the kitchen and open up the refrigerator for no reason when you’re not even hungry?
Check your hunger cues! It is too easy to over consume a few hundred calories at a holiday party just by eating mindlessly.
If you are going to a holiday party or event and you know it will be filled with foods that you may be likely to over indulge in, eat a sensible meal before hand, that way you only eat what you truly want and not what your taste buds are talking you into( those little rascals!!)
Choose your splurges wisely
With all of the wonderful seasonal dishes and holiday treats, it’s difficult not to indulge. Be ‘party smart’……scan the food selection carefully and pick a couple of your holiday favorites to savor instead of splurging on foods that you can have all year long, like bread, macaroni and cheese, apple pie and mashed potatoes. Pick your favorite treat, take your time and enjoy it.
Keep a calorie budget
Just as we need to be careful with who we give our time away to, we need to be judicious in keeping an eye on what foods we give our calories away to. You do not need to sample and eat every food this holiday. Be choosy in what foods you give away your calories to.
Take a timeout
It no news flash that it is easy to keep eating for a while before a feeling of fullness sets in. This is why experts recommend to eat until you are only 80% full. Chances are, within 10-15 minutes, that other 20% of the food you ate will have settled into your stomach and distended it enough to signal your satiety hormones to stop eating. The problem is when we eat too quickly and don’t pay attention to our body’s internal signals, we over consume and overburden our digestive system, leading to over fullness, bloating and the infamous holiday ‘food coma’. After your first helping, sit back and take a 10 minute break, make some conversation, drink some water, help clear the table perhaps, then re-check your hunger appetite. You will be surprised that you no longer want seconds or just half of the dessert instead.
Don’t leave the house on an empty tank
I said it earlier……do not get caught in a food emergency!! Last thing you want is to be at a holiday party famished and let loose on the buffet like you’re training for next year’s hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Don’t leave the house hungry saying “we’ll just eat when we get there honey”. Even if you are rushing and don’t have too much time to grab a healthy meal, don’t set yourself up for regret later on by not planning ahead. Try eating a quick and well-balanced snack like mixed nuts, apple slices with almond butter or a cup of yogurt with fresh fruit. All of those options contain protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates that will go a long way to keeping your hunger in check so you focus on the people, not your plate.
Visit the people not the food……move any socializing and conversations away from the food buffet and table with appetizers.
Be careful to not hangout by the food and strike up conversation in order to minimize mindless snacking and picking at foods. Food can be a powerful distraction when we let it.
Water accounts for over 60% of our body’s total weight and we need to stay hydrated in order to maintain this ratio. Every single cell in your body and virtually every chemical reaction in your body involves water. Water is also necessary for several bodily functions, including maintaining our cell’s fluids and delivering nutrients, as well as helping to detoxify your body. Think of adequate hydration as your body’s way of taking out the trash. If you are dehydrated you run the risk of increased inflammation, brain fog and fatigue. Drink plain or infused water as often as you can throughout the day. Limit your intake of high-calorie drinks like eggnog, martinis and mochaccinos. If you’re consuming alcoholic beverages over the holidays, try alternating with glasses of water in between your cocktails. Your body will thank you the next morning. Also alcohol makes you hungry so be conscious not to find yourself at a holiday party drinking on an empty stomach then going to the buffet an hour later.
Let go of the guilt
If you happen to over indulge, the last thing you should be doing is make yourself feel bad. Shaming yourself never works and that is just NOT what the spirit of the holidays are about. You have a chance to make your next meal healthy and get some exercise in if you have time. The sun rises again every morning and each day we have a chance to start anew. Take the focus off of yourself and focus on family, friends, food and festivities. Remember the ‘reason for the season’ and if you find yourself over indulging, read #19.
Go for an after dinner walk
Postprandial(‘after eating’) walks have been shown to be an excellent method for mitigating the calories that will be stored as fat after a meal. A simple 15 minute brisk walk helps to pull much of the sugar from your meal into your muscles where it is absorbed and used as fuel. This leaves less calories that insulin stores away as fat after a meal. I particularly recommend postprandial walks to people who eat close to their bed time. Ideally we aim to stop eating 3 hours before bed, because we just don’t need all those calories when we are about to sleep for eight hours. But if you find yourself eating later than usual and want to help buffer against going to bed with a full stomach, take a short walk after your meal, then go to bed.
Pinpoint your WHY
You already know your goals of staying trim and staying in shape. Now take it one step deeper. Ask yourself this: what is the WHY behind my desire or need to eat clean, look good and perform better. Write your answers down on a sheet of paper and keep it at your bedside. I advise you to take a gander at it when you wake up and before you go to sleep, at the very least; and then use it additional times on an as-needed basis to avert any crises when they may arise (i.e. considering skipping a workout, taking your frustration out on a piece of cake instead of the pavement or a punching bag). For example, when you are ready to walk into the kitchen, walk to your room instead and read your special note. Better yet, tape that note to the refrigerator to remind you of your true goals every time you eat. Feeding that why into your mind in the short window of time that could make or break you will save you from any unwanted eating or exercising blunders, which could set you back and weigh you down. If someone offers you a food that you know you shouldn’t have, instead of telling yourself that you’re dieting and you shouldn’t have that sugar-filled dessert, tell yourself “I’m just not the type of person who eats those foods”. It’s a hundred times more empowering!! Amazing how a few words can reel you back into the place you need to be and re-align yourself with your goals. YOU GOT THIS!