Worried about staying healthy over the holidays or how to avoid gaining some holiday pounds? Not to fear! You can enjoy your holidays, maintain your weight and stay healthy. Here’s your holiday survival guide!
Tip 1 – Moderation
Get rid of the all or nothing mindset – moderation is a great mantra for the holiday season. Keep eating healthy and exercising – it’s not a vacation from everything!
Tip 2 – Sleep
Sleep! Sleep deprivation seems to be common over the holidays. This is problematic because studies have shown that poor sleep can increase appetite and caloric intake because it increases insulin resistance and blood sugar – even to the levels of a diabetic. Even a single night of poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite the following day. My advice? Sleep away your holiday!
Tip 3 – Maintain your Weight
Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays, instead try to maintain your current weight. You want to relax and enjoy the holidays but think twice before you overindulge.
Be aware that half of annual weight gain in the U.S. occurs during the holiday period (1). Stephan Guyenet mentioned this sobering statistic in an article in his series on the neurobiology of eating. And the weight tends to stay on indefinitely!
People tend to lose a little bit in January when the holidays are over, but the rest of it sticks around. Even modest increases like this each year can add up over time. The average American gains between 0.5 and 1.75 pounds a year, and a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey follow-up study found that body weight measured at 10-year intervals increased by an average of 3.4 percent in men and 5.2 percent in women (2).
Here are my favorite eating tips for the holidays:
- Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Savor your favorite holiday treats while eating small portions.
- If you overeat at one meal go light on the next.
- Don’t put foods on your plate that you don’t like very much. Save room for the foods you really like. This does not mean avoid the veggies in favor of pie!
- Wear form-fitting clothes so you’re more aware of how full you are. Elastic waistbands are out!
Tip 4 – Mild Exercise
Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Exercise reduces levels of stress hormones and helps to digest all that food. I recommend daily short walks at the very minimum.
Tip 5 – Stick to Whole Foods
When visiting family members who may not be so health conscious, the food choices can frankly be shocking. I have gone over to family member’s homes for holiday meals and am shocked and saddened at what is being served – MSG, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs, industrial seed oils, gluten and sugar. Yum! Do I say a word or lecture them? Lol, no. I just walk the minefield as best I can. Here are my tips:
- Stick to whole foods – avoid the chemical-laden foods.
- Avoid foods you know can from a box, package or can.
- Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.
- Avoid casseroles with cheap cream of mushroom soups that have MSG, gluten, preservatives and thickeners.
- Avoid bright colored foods you know have artificial food coloring (i.e. jello molds).
- Avoid butter substitutes or anything made with margarine like the plague – only eat butter.
Or, commit to the toxins and clean up your diet after the holidays. This is more akin to most people’s plan.
Tip 6 – Healthy Alcohol
Of course, the healthiest alcohol is no alcohol, but if you’re going to imbibe it may as well be the healthiest alcohol.
Red wine. The antioxidants found in red wines boost many of the body’s processes but are particularly revered for improving heart health. The belief is that the antioxidants found in red wine, particularly flavonoids and resveratrol, are the key ingredients in boosting heart health. These antioxidants improve health by:
- Fighting dangerous inflammation in the body
- Lowering bad cholesterol levels
- Fighting free radical damage with high levels of antioxidants
Dark beer. Polyphenols in dark beer help the body lower cholesterol, fight cancers, and kill off daily virus threats. High folate levels in dark beer lower homocysteine levels, which is good for heart health.
This does not mean that red wine or dark beer is akin to drinking liquid vitamins. And it’s not a license to drink more than one glass. Studies show that the beneficial effects of alcohol diminish after one glass (3, 4). This means two or more glasses are bad for your health. Alcohol can also lessen inhibitions and impulse control and induce overeating. You’ve been warned!
Remember to drink only in moderation and don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver when you go out and stick to the plan. If you’ve had too much to drink call a cab, Lyft, uber.com, catch a ride with a friend, or simply stay the night where you are.
Tip 7 – Family Encounters
Ah, how magical to celebrate the holidays with family. Oh, wait… really? With… family? @&%#!, with family?! People tend to spend holidays with their families, and depending on your relationship with your family that can be joyful, aggravating or some combination of both. Here are my tips for dealing with some of the more aggravating members of your familia:
Give up Hope. Before you meet your relatives this season, take a few moments to sit quietly and acknowledge what you wish they were like. Then prepare to accept them even if they behave as they have always done in the past.
Take a deep breath. If one of your family members is getting on your nerves, take a time out, count to ten and BREATHE. Go into another room and meditate or listen to music. Don’t feed into their behavior with an angry or immature response. Be the bigger person!
Tip 8 – Healthy Travel
Thanksgiving weekend is the biggest travel weekend of the year – and that means ample opportunity to pick up a cold or flu bug! Here are my tips for bolstering your immune system and preventing colds and flu.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to reduce the length of a cold. It also helps the immune system battle the infection. I love Innate Response’s food based vitamin C. Take 800mg a day to bolster your immunity. I also love Amla (amalaki) powder. It is the highest source of vitamin C in nature. Simply add the powder to a smoothie!
- Zinc. Research suggests that zinc can reduce the duration and severity of a cold. Dosage: 20mg a day to prevent infection.
- Cold and Flu Immunity Infoceutical. The Cold and Flu Immunity Infoceutical from NES Health Bioenergetics is my absolute favorite cold and flu remedy ever. The CFI Infoceutical accelerates the body’s natural recovery from cold and flu symptoms. It also provides relief from fatigue, promotes drainage, and retunes cellular function.
- Black Elderberry. This high antioxidant fruit extract, has one of the highest anti-viral properties in nature. It actually prevents viruses from spreading from cell to cell. In studies that looked at its efficacy against influenza strains A & B, Elderberry was found to shorten the duration of the flu from the typical 7 days to 4 days. That’s 3 days less of flu-like symptoms! Dosage: 3000mg a day.
- Selenium. Selenium inhibits viral replication. In fact, researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill found that when influenza viruses pass through bodies deficient in selenium they can mutate into more damaging forms (5). Dosage: 100mcg a day.
Tip 9 – Embrace the Spirit of Giving
Embrace the Holiday Spirit by giving to others. Thanksgiving and Christmas are especially good times to reflect on good fortune and do things for other people. One of the most common types of charity work is to volunteer at a homeless shelter where you can help serve food or provide any other kind of help that is needed. There are also many other charitable organizations you can donate your time and resources to, such as The Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Doing service can require very little time. Bake some Paleo pumpkin bread for your neighbor, help shovel snow from someone’s driveway or give someone a nice compliment or a smile. The holidays can be a lonely time for many, so what better way to brighten another’s holiday than inviting them to your family’s holiday dinner?
Tip 10 – Attitude of Gratitude
The holiday season is about giving and being thankful for what you have. Studies show that it’s not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference. Be grateful for what you have a remind yourself of what you have in a daily gratitude journal. A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long term well being by more than 10 percent (6). Gratitude has caused me to focus less on things that don’t matter, like making money, and more on the things that do, like my family and writing this blog that helps people like you.
Bonus! Tips on How to Stay Safe While Traveling
How did you feel on Black Friday and January 2nd last year? If all that bad food from holiday treats made you feel stuffed and fatigued, don’t let it happen again. Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of health.
Resolve to make this holiday season your healthiest yet, with more energy and vitality. With a few simple steps you can come through the next few weeks looking and feeling your best!
Click Here for References+
1. Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik K, et al. A Prospective Study Of Holiday Weight Gain. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2000, Mar 23; 342(12):861-7.
Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM200003233421206.
2. Williamson DF, Kahn HS, Remington PL, et al. The 10 Year Incidence Of Overweight and Major Weight Gain in US Adults. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1990 Mar; 150(3):665-72.
Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2310286.
3. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
4. Szmitko PE, Verma S. Red Wine and Your Heart. American Heart Association. 2005; 111:e10-e11. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/111/2/e10.full.
5. Beck MA, Nelson HK, Shi Q, et al. Selenium Deficiency Increases the Pathology of an Influenza Virus Infection. The FASEB Journal. 2001 June;15(8): 1481-3.
Retrieved from http://www.fasebj.org/content/15/8/1481.
6. Seligman, ME, TA Steen, and N. Park. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2005.
Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16045394.