It’s December 1st and feasting season is well under way. Holiday parties, office treats, and drinks with friends, are just a few of the festivities that can disrupt your normal eating routine.
Studies show most people begin to gain weight starting in October and peak around 10 days after Christmas. Too much food, too many desserts, and way too much alcohol … all at the same time can add up quickly.
Around this time, I hear a lot about what is going to happen in January … “I’m going to eat clean” … “I’m going to join a gym”… “I’m going to start running again” … sound familiar?
Why wait until January 1st to start implementing a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t mean you cannot celebrate or indulge in some of your favorite holiday treats, but the key is awareness and planning. Be mindful of your portion sizes, manage your stress and emotions and plan in advance. With that said, here are some of my favorite healthy eating (and drinking) strategies to keep the holidays fun and light:
Do not go to a holiday party hungry
Always have a small snack containing some protein before leaving home. Protein takes several hours to digest, helping to keep you feeling full. Examples would be lean meats, greek yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds. You can also make yourself a small protein shake.
Do not starve yourself all day in anticipation of a big meal later
When we don’t eat, our metabolism slows down in an attempt to conserve energy. The last thing you want going into a large holiday meal is a slow metabolism. Aim for 4-5 small meals, focusing on lean proteins and lots of vegetables. The fiber from the vegetables take up space in your belly also helping to keep you feeling full.
Drink water with lemon … and your wine
Drink a large glass of water with the juice from half a lemon before dinner to aid in digestion. Lemon can help to alkalize your system, which is important when consuming a lot of sugar and alcohol, as these are very acidic.
Staying hydrated is also very important as it can have an effect on your hunger later. When we drink alcohol or caffeine, we end up being more dehydrated because of it. Many times we may think we’re hungry, when we are really just thirsty.
And if the reasons above were not enough to keep drinking the clear stuff – water will help do your liver a favor by expediting the removal of toxins caused by our favorite poison (and yes, alcohol is a poison). Aim for 1 glass of water for every alcoholic drink
I know you hear it all the time, but don’t let your workout routine get cut from the schedule because you are too busy. Think of exercise as meditation in motion … not only will it help to burn off some of that pumpkin pie, but more importantly, it’s a great stress management tool. Getting the heart rate up even for 30 minutes each day has been shown to reduce those daily tensions, reduce symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety and can improve your sleep.
Speaking of sleep …
Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is vital for body repair and recovery, and helps keep the immune system operating at full force which is critical during this cold and flu season. At least 7 hours of sleep will also keep our hunger at bay, as hunger hormones increase the less sleep that we get. Stop drinking caffeine at least 8 hours before going to bed, as it can still disrupt our REM sleep causing us to feel unrested in the morning.
Give up on “Perfect”
Remember what the holidays are all about … spending time with friends and family, not cooking the perfect dinner or buying the perfect gift. Take some of the pressure off by setting spending limits on gifts, make those big dinners a potluck and don’t forget to take some time for you to enjoy this special time. If you’re the host or hostess, don’t spend the entire day in the kitchen – play games, watch a holiday movie or just sit and enjoy your guests. Be a part of your own party!
Hopefully these few strategies will help you avoid some of that holiday weight gain while still enjoying this festive season.
All the best to you and yours.