Put Down the Candy Corn.
Adults gain on average 5-11 lbs between Halloween and New Years and struggle to lose it every single year. With Halloween already here, let’s use this time between now and Thanksgiving to build a solid routine to navigate the holidays with ease - to not only prevent weight gain but maybe even get a jump start on your 2018 health resolutions!
It's no wonder we struggle with weight gain this season between the high stress levels, abundant office treats, parties and constantly being surrounded by rich foods and alcohol. Our routines get knocked out quite easily and before you know it, you fall into the "F-it" attitude of mindless indulgences until the new year. It is a slippery slope to to let go of all thought and accountability around eating until January - and with something as important as our health at stake, why would we do that? Now I am by no means preaching a holiday season of only clean eating and no fun. My friends and family can attest to me partaking in my fair share of holiday treats and wine, but it is all about striking a balance between enjoying yourself and also respecting your body and health. Finding that "sweet spot" is what I help my clients do on a daily basis and is a major overarching theme here on kaelyRD: living your happiest, healthiest life absolutely includes enjoying Mom's famous Christmas cookies and having a drink with friends. Read below for tips to make it work for you this holiday season :)
Moving your body, particularly in the morning, is not only one of the best stress relievers there is but it is also a way to establish and stick to a routine. When we do this on a consistent basis during the holidays, we send a message to our brain that we are still in control of our routine (even if we are traveling or have in-laws visiting) and that has a HUGE impact on how you choose to fuel yourself the remainder of the day. In addition, the most obvious benefit of consistent movement is that it will help maintain calorie balance with the addition of some seasonal foods.
This can be a morning run or walk with a loved one, a formal trip to the gym or a quick 5-10 mins of bodyweight movements (like squats, jumping jacks, pushups, stretching, etc.) done at home. Put it on your schedule to give yourself that time each day to get your heart pumping and move your body.
We get the strongest "I'm full" signal to our brains when we eat protein. Think about it, you've probably never over-eaten chicken breasts but it is WAY easy to over eat carbs/fat like potato chips, right? Take advantage of the satiety effect of protein by having it with every meal. When at holiday get togethers, I try to eat protein first (sometimes even before I go) so that I give my brain a head start to recognize fullness before I can over eat. The other benefit of protein is it helps to fight sugar cravings!
Fill your plate with lean protein options like turkey, deviled eggs and cocktail shrimp and consider having a snack before a party like greek yogurt, rolled up deli meat or a quick protein shake.
Like protein, veggies go a long way toward keeping you full and satisfied thanks to their water and fiber content. You can fill up on a whole plate of voluminous veggies for very few calories which is great news if you're looking for something to much on. In addition to protein, fill your plate with lots of veggies. Another trick I like to do around the holidays is to make any meal that's not part of an event/social gathering very heavy on the veggies (and protein, of course). By having a salad with chicken at lunch, you save a little "room" in the carb and fat departments so that you can have one of your favorites later in the day.
Make your "non-event" meals full of veggies and gravitate toward that veggie tray at parties. You can always offer to bring a dish so that you can ensure there are veggies that you like present. You can also replace chips with endive leaves for another way to up the veggies!
If you're on my email list (if not, you should be!) you've already seen my post all about the benefits of hydration. In short, water helps prevent cravings, keeps our skin looking radiant and helps our metabolism (and all other body processes) run smoothly. In fact, water is required for the fat burning process in the body so dehydration = less fat burning capacity. It can be difficult to maintain hydration in cooler temps as well as during travel but if you can aim to keep this consistent your body will thank you!
Bring a water bottle with you when you travel and aim for about half your body weight in ounces daily. Set a rule with yourself to have a glass of water with all meals and to have a glass of water before consuming any food or drink at every get together you have this holiday season.
This is a tricky one. Alcohol, while admittedly fun and delicious, isn't exactly a superfood as far as your health is concerned. In moderation (1-2 drinks 1-2 nights/week) it can be manageable, but any more than that in dose or frequency and it may get in the way of your goals. Alcohol is technically a toxin which means your liver is going to prioritize handling alcohol over any other responsibility. This puts a complete halt on all fat burning and reduces metabolic rate. The other major concern with alcohol is that it negatively impacts the quality of your sleep. Though it may feel like it helps you drift off faster, alcohol reduces the amount of deep, restorative sleep you get which is why you may notice fatigue, sore muscles and an increased appetite the day after drinking.
In order to decrease the negative impact of alcohol on your waist line, try keeping it to no more than 2 nights/week during the holiday season and really focus on getting good sleep the other 5 nights. You can also alternate between alcohol and water to offset the dehydration, but you already knew that one.
Similar to the movement tip, having a solid breakfast every day is another great way to establish a sense of routine during the holidays. Starting your day with 20-30g of protein helps stabilize blood sugar, preventing excessive cravings later in the day. When I know that there will be some decadent options at dinner or a holiday party later in the day, I focus on keeping my breakfast high in veggies and protein. This sets the tone for the day and saves me a little wiggle room from a calorie/carb standpoint later.
Eggs + veggies + avocado is always a good option, as is a protein shake with unsweetened almond milk + pro powder + handful of greens + tbsp healthy fat + 1/2c berries. Don't be afraid to have non breakfast foods for breakfast as well, leftover Thanksgiving turkey and green beans would be perfect! Make a pact with yourself to not skip this meal or fall for the desserts-in-disguise breakfast options like pastries, muffins and bagels - these will just set you up for increased cravings and low energy.
Hopefully some of these tips will come in handy this holiday season! Remember, it's not about perfection. The name of the game is deciding what indulgences mean something to you (i.e. mom's cookies vs. packaged generic ones) and balancing those with nourishing foods the rest of the day. When you honor your body while allowing some treats you will find decreased stress, less preoccupation around food, a solid daily routine and a head start on your 2018 goals!