Ahh the holidays…a special time of year that’s full of family, shopping and parties which means extra temptations, indulgences, immune challenges and often unwanted weight gain.
The average American gains 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, but that doesn’t have to be you because I’m here to help you make this year different!
The good news is that you can stay on track with your health and fitness goals and actually enjoy the holiday season without guilt. That’s right, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Once you’ve made the decision to make taking care of yourself and to living a healthy lifestyle – as opposed “dieting” or “all-or-nothing exercise programs”, you soon realize that you have to figure out how to make your new way of living work in your “real” life and during real situations like: Christmas parties, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, traveling, etc.
I’m here to tell you there IS a way to do it…and thank God there is, because what good would it be if you are super healthy and fit but your life is so rigid, disciplined and restrictive that you can’t ever partake in some birthday cake, enjoy a great party, or go nuts at a fun celebration?
I don’t know about you, but my goal is to be fit AND experience all of life! Don’t you wanna do both too?!?
Here are some of my top tips to help you keep fit and trim during the holidays while still enjoying all of the special events, parties and the magic of the season:
1. For 8-24 hours prior to your big holiday meal consume very low carbohydrate
Do not exceed 20 grams of carbohydrate for at least 8 hours, if not 24 hours, before your special meal. For example, if your Thanksgiving meal is at 2pm on Thursday, from 2pm on Wednesday (or at least from dinner on Wednesday), keep your carb intake as low as possible not exceeding 20 grams. This will deplete your glycogen stores so that by the time you DO eat carbs – at your 2pm meal on Thursday, there will be a greater chance those calories will be used to replace the missing glycogen stores rather than being stored as fat.
2. For 8-24 hours prior to the big meal, go ahead and eat lots of low starch, organic veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, lettuce, asparagus, bell peppers and spinach
Do NOT however have any starches like bread, cereal, pasta, toast, potatoes, rice, grains, waffles, pancakes muffins or oatmeal. That means none – not even your “whole grain” or “organic”, “sprouted or whatever” grains. A carb is still a carb and right now, they are to be avoided during this period. Also, remember this includes fruit. Fruits are carbohydrates and are to be minimized right now for the best results. Berries are the best choice but avoid bananas, all dried fruits, grapes, melons, dates, raisins, and pears in particular.
3. Consume absolutely NO SUGAR 24 hours prior to your party/event
This includes honey, agave, brown rice syrup and date sugar. READ ALL LABELS and be sure to watch for hidden sources of sugar that are just other names for sugar! For a complete list of hidden names of sugar click here.
4. Enjoy small amounts of light protein throughout the day prior to the big meal/party.
Such as wild tuna and fish, organic chicken breast or turkey (white meat) and free-range eggs. A high-quality whey protein powder is an excellent choice for nutrition and energy right now. Two of my favorites are Defense Nutrition Whey Protein Powder and Jay Robb Whey Protein Powder. Enjoy one or even two servings throughout the day as needed
5. Make sure you are well hydrated before the feast
Often we overeat simply because we are simply dehydrated. It’s VERY common that people mistake thirst for hunger so they eat more than then really need and put on pounds. This happens particularly when you “just aren’t sure what you feel like eating.” Think about it, if you’re REALLY hungry, you’ll eat something! So next time this happens to you, drink a nice tall glass of water first and see if you’re still in the mood to munch after 5-10 minutes.
A good rule of thumb of how much water to consume is: to be sure to drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of pure spring water. You’ll know you are dehydrated if your urine is a dark color and/or has an odorous smell means. A well-hydrated body passes urine that is a light shade of yellow.
6. When you are finally ready to eat your special holiday meal, the order of what you eat is important
Start with a big salad or a plate of raw veggies with some organic unrefined olive oil or even a little fresh hummus or small amount of cheese for flavor. It is important to start your meal with the veggies because research shows that we eat the most of whatever we eat first. So you want to fill up on nutrient-dense, high water, low calorie foods…like veggies. Plus, eating a fresh salad at the beginning of a meal prepares the digestive system for the heavier foods to come. (they do this all the time in Europe and Greece). Next enjoy some protein/fats foods and then finish with carbohydrates like your pastas, grains, breads, etc…that is if you are still hungry!
7. Stop eating BEFORE you are full
This is a general rule of thumb of a healthy lifestyle and very important not only for weight control but also for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients and anti-aging. It requires you to eat mindfully and “check in” with yourself/your sense of “hunger as well as become aware of what you’re doing and slow down while you are eating. All too often we are distracted while we eat and we lose track of when our bodies are telling us they’ve had enough. This happens particularly during the holidays when we are usually chatting away with others or lingering at the table or in the kitchen.
8. Lastly, make it a priority to exercise as much as possible either before or after the big meal/day
I know, at the holiday time even more than usual we are crunched for time and exercise is the first thing to go, but this will really help blood sugar regulation, appetite control and prevent extra weight gain – not to mention emotionally you’ll feel a lot better about yourself just knowing you did something healthy. I like to take a run on the morning of a holiday and if possible move a little after the meal is done as well, whether it be a just little walk around the block or even some fun horse-play on the floor with the kids after dessert. Whatever gets you moving as opposed to sitting and eating more – is a good thing!
I hope this article helps you to not only enjoy your holiday or special event but also keep on track with your fitness and health goals because spending time with friends and family you love and enjoying our lives is is HUGE part of your emotional health and living a fulfilling and happy life.
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