Happy official holiday season! This is truly my favorite 3-4 weeks of the entire year. I am a Christmas freak. I love everything about the tree, the lights, the smells, and even the snow (probably the only time of year I will comment fondly about snow). I even have those ridiculous dancing stuffed animals for children that I play on a daily basis. As much as I wish Christmas came 3 or 4 times a year, I think having it once is what makes it so special.
We lost my papa this year, and he had given me a bunch of old ornaments before he passed. This picture is not the best, but I saved it because doesn’t the lighting here look like heaven is shining down on our tree? <3
While the holidays are a time to indulge, there are ways to do it mindfully while not sacrificing your waistline. I promise a recipe for you by the end of this week, but I wanted to do a special post with a few helpful tips in regards to the holidays. After all, this should be a time of joy and not a time of fearing weight gain!
#1- Drink lots and lots of water. This is the time of year where hot specialty drinks are everywhere. It’s cold outside and having a warm drink to hold on to flavored with peppermint or candy cane or even gingerbread just can’t be resisted. Coming from a girl who has ice-cold hands all year long, I get the appeal! Well, if that drink contains caffeine (which most do- even hot cocoa!), it acts on the body as a mild diuretic. This means that you will be left needing more water to replenish yourself than when you started that tasty drink. As a rough rule of thumb, try to drink about 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of hot drink that you have. Also, I know they’re delicious, but make them more of a treat then an every day occurrence to keep your calories under control.
#2- Self control. We’ve all heard this one before.. “Now I know you’re in a room filled with plates of cookies but you need to control yourself.” Well, isn’t that easier said then done! Some things that I find helpful are to position yourself away from the food at a party. If you’re the host, keep your food in one central location like the kitchen so people with dietary restrictions aren’t tempted by candy bowls right and left. If you are engaged in conversations across the room from the food, you won’t be tempted to reach into a chip bowl mid-conversation. If you are finding the temptations are hard to control, compromise with yourself. If it’s 3 pm and you really want a scoop of that creamy looking crab dip, tell yourself that if you can make it to 4:30, you can have 2 scoops. It’s OK to cheat a little during the holidays, but in moderation is always the key.
#3- Respond to true hunger. I think we can all say that we know the difference between “Oh sure, I can eat,” and “Get out of my way or I will eat YOU,” hunger. If you find yourself about to reach into a candy bowl, literally ask yourself, “Am I hungry or am I just bored?” I guarantee you that most of the time if will be boredom, or desire, but not true hunger. Only put something in your mouth if you are truly hungry.
#4- Eat before the party. Now this one might seem a little nuts to some people, but this is a theory of mine that I think really works. A lot of times I notice that people will basically starve themselves before a big event where they know there will be a lot of food. Bad idea. This gives you license to justify eating whatever and however much you want at the party. Now, I’m not saying to have a feast at 12 pm for a 1 pm party, but a snack with a good amount of fiber, protein and fat will really work to your benefit. For example, try a piece of fruit, a small handful of nuts and a string cheese to keep your stomach from grumbling at the site of food at the party. Fun fact… did you know that just the site of or smell of some foods gets your brain to signal your body that you’re ready to eat? The thought of the food alone can cause your stomach to grumble and even your mouth to salivate!
#5- Watch (don’t eliminate!) your carbohydrates. Now, gaining weight definitely comes from many places. It can be high fat intake, low activity level or overindulging, but more often than not it’s people’s lack of control when it comes to carbs. Here’s the bottom line- You NEED carbs to survive. Glucose (broken down carbohydrate) is the primary source of fuel for your brain, and if your body doesn’t get it in your diet, your brain panics and will break down lean body muscle to get it. Hence, the dangers of a low carbohydrate diet for too long. Not to mention, with higher amounts of fat and protein in your diet, you increase the strain on your kidneys to clear the broken down protein and increase the damage to your heart from higher fat/protein meat sources! Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. So we understand that we need some carbs in our diet, now here’s where the lack of control comes in.. when carbs are digested and absorbed by the body they pass through the stomach and are absorbed in the small intestine. If the carbs are not paired with a protein or fat source, your GI motility is not slowed and your reaction to feel “full” comes much later then it should. As I’m sure I don’t need to explain, this results in weight gain. In addition, when you ingest these simple carbs, it causes an increase in your blood sugar, which triggers insulin to be released, which then causes your blood sugar to plummet. Because of this insulin response, your blood sugar won’t remain steady and you will be back to being hungry again within 2 hours. The lesson here is not to cut out carbs or go on some crazy diet, but rather to choose healthy sources of complex carbs; such as oatmeal, fruit & skim milk over simple carbs; such as candy, cookies and crackers, whenever possible. Choosing balanced meals or snacks including protein and fat will help slow down your stomach emptying and steady your blood sugar to create that feeling of “fullness.”
I hope these were some helpful tips, and if you have any to share yourself, please comment. I’d love to hear them!