As a wellness coach, one of the questions that I get asked the most is: How do you stay healthy during the holiday season? Studies suggest that individuals gain an average of one pound per week. Not only is this extremely unhealthy for your body and mental state, but you will be starting the New Year off at a disadvantage. Here are my top 10 tips that will keep you fitting in your favorite pair of jeans, while still being able to enjoy the season:
Your Goal is to Maintain
This is not the time to commit to a Whole 30 or cleanse program. While I am a huge fan of completing a reset, wait until January. You are not setting yourself up for success during this hectic time of year and will be missing out on celebrating with your family and friends. Having your Grandma’s famous (you fill in the blank) is tradition after all.
Never Arrive Hungry
I always coach my clients to have a high-protein snack (turkey and vegetable roll-ups, hummus and vegetables, hardboiled eggs, string cheese and apple, almond butter and flaxseed crackers) before they attend a holiday soiree. This will make it easier for you to pass on the high-calorie appetizers that add up to 100s of extra calories before you even hit the dinner buffet.
Design Your Plate in Moderation
As a rule of thumb, fill ½ of your plate with vegetables and salad (hold the croutons and fatty dressing please), ¼ of your plate with protein, and ¼ of your plate with your favorite holiday dishes (macaroni-and-cheese, mashed potatoes, casseroles, etc.) Refrain from going back for seconds. If you have a sweet tooth, choose one small serving of a dessert.
Be Mindful of Your Alcohol Intake
As the Millionaire Matchmaker instructs: “stick to a two-drink maximum” or the calories will add up exponentially. For example, a 5 oz. glass of red wine (or half the pour you think) is 125 calories. Further, most cocktails are loaded with sugary carbohydrates, so a night of drinking gives your body a sugar rush, followed by an inevitable crash. This leads to the crave-over as I like to call it (a.k.a. deep dish pizza and fried food!)
Skip the Extras
During the season, sugary high-carbohydrate junk food is everywhere. It is readily available as donuts at your workplace, candy dishes at the checkout counter or homemade delights in your friend’s kitchen. Do not skip meals, and thus, leave yourself open to falling prey to your cravings. I always carry a serving of nuts or a collagen protein bar in my purse for when I start to get hangry. Walk away, call a friend, return an email or make J Lo/Tom Brady your screen saver for motivation. Anything to remind yourself that the bagel is simply not worth it.
Exercise the Stress Away
The holidays is a lot of extras (parties, events, family, food, drink, etc.), not to mention the added financial burden. Instead of eating or drinking your stresses away, use movement to release all of those wonderful endorphins and give yourself a mental break. If you have a regular fitness routine, stick with it throughout the season. If you are looking to start one in January, this is the perfect time to experiment with classes and join a local gym. I encourage my clients to shoot for at least 10,000 steps per day, especially on days when their schedules do not allow for a more routine workout. Everyone can get at least 30 minutes of walking in over their lunch hour or Christmas shopping at the mall.
Use Your No Button
You do not have to attend every holiday event and party. You can and should say no or sneak out early. Do not overbook yourself to the point where your health suffers. Please do take a night off to watch your favorite holiday movies in your PJs.
Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to regulate your hormones and keep your metabolism in check. When you are sleep deprived, your hormones ghrelin and leptin get disrupted. Ghrelin is the go hormone that tells you when to eat, while leptin is the stop hormone that tells you when you are full. Thus, more ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain and a slowed metabolism.
Homemade Food Does Your Body Good
Plan ahead and cook when possible, as you are already consuming enough added sugar, flour, salt and fat. Prepare extra portions for lunch and readily available dinner options (fresh or frozen) for when you get home from an after work event. I always have an “emergency make meal” available in my home, even if it is just scrambled eggs with herbs and vegetables. It will stop you from ordering a late-night pizza.
One thing that I always advise my clients during the busy season is to schedule in detox days every week. Meaning no alcohol, grains, sugar and dairy. Focus on eating vegetables, protein and healthy fats and fruit in moderation. A sample day might be: Berry Smoothie, Chicken Breast and Mixed Greens Salad (full of non-starchy vegetables, olive oil, vinegar and seasoning), handful of raw nuts, and grilled salmon with roasted vegetables. You do not need to count calories, just focus on eating super clean to give your digestive system a rest and beat unwanted bloat. You can also counteract this by drinking green, peppermint and ginger teas throughout the day and taking a Detox Bath before bedtime.