Let me start off this post by saying I’m not a purist. My food philosophy is to eat well 80 – 90% of the time and the other 10 – 20% not beat myself up about what goes in my mouth. This applies to holidays. On Thanksgiving day and Christmas day I eat what I want (within reason). What fun is it if you’re going to a family holiday event or a Christmas party and you can’t enjoy the food that’s on offer? Same goes when my family and I go on vacation. I’m not about to spend money on a beautiful resort and nitpick over whether or not a dish has gluten in it or what the sugar content is of a particular dessert. So long as when I get back home and after holiday days it’s back to healthy eating as usual, I’m okay with it (but I am lucky, my family and I don’t have any food sensitivities that we have to be concerned with and I don’t go to a ton of Christmas parties).
However, during the holiday season many people gain weight (there are even studies looking into this phenomenon). Not only does this make you feel crappy when your jeans no longer fit, but it’s also not necessarily a healthy thing. Visceral fat – that fat around your belly – is the most dangerous kind of fat. These fat cells release inflammatory cytokines that increase inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to various health conditions and metabolic dysfunction. In fact, fat cells act like an endocrine organ in regards to how they secrete cytokines (inflammatory molecules). They’re also able to produce estrogen in the body via a process called aromatization. This can lead to an unhealthy condition known as estrogen dominance. So, as much as I’m all for being happy with your body at any size, I think it’s important to remember that being overweight is not usually a healthy thing and it can lead to inflammatory conditions, metabolic dysfunction and an excess of estrogen in the body.
So how can we do our best to avoid holiday weight-gain and stay healthy during this time of indulgence? Here are my top tips.
- Drink half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water every day. This very simple act of remembering to drink water can stave off dehydration, which can masquerade as hunger drawing us closer to the baked goods and candy. Not only that, over 90% of our blood is made up of water. Needless to say, water is a very important part of overall good health. This is one fundamental pillar of optimal health that shouldn’t be overlooked during the holidays. Set an alarm on your phone or download an app, which will remind you to drink your water periodically throughout the day. I own a 10 ounce glass drinking bottle, which I keep next to me all day every day and make sure it’s always filled up. Once you get into the habit of drinking water it’s really quite easy to continue.
- Make sure you eat fibre, fat and protein at every single meal. This is to help stabilize your blood sugar, and it might be the very thing that saves you from the dessert buffet at the next holiday party you attend. Fibre, fat and protein help to slow down blood sugar spikes that would otherwise happen if you ate a carb-heavy meal. Having stabilized blood sugar is so important for so many different reasons, which you can read about here. But during the holidays make an extra special effort to stabilize your blood sugar so you have more ability to say no to the tempting treats because you’re not feeling hangry and desperate for some carbs and sugar.
- Make your own healthier treats to take to holiday parties. There are so many delicious but healthy options for desserts that unsuspecting party guests will never guess aren’t bad for you. Try my Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Protein Bliss Balls with Optional Matcha, Healthy Nut Butter Cups, Chocolate Bark, Peppermint Chocolate Mousse or my Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies as a few options most people will go mad for.
- Weigh yourself daily. Yep, I said you should weigh yourself daily. This is especially true if you have an issue with your weight to start with because weight gain during the holidays has been shown to be a bigger risk to those who are overweight or formerly overweight. It’s important to see how you are tracking so you can keep yourself in check.
- Don’t stop exercising! My favourite forms of exercise are yoga and running but when the mercury drops here in Canada it’s hard to keep up my running routine (not to mention when the ice starts to cover the sidewalks! Don’t even talk to me about that – I’m an Aussie who’ll never get used to icy sidewalks). So what I’m planning on doing is going to Bikram yoga instead of doing my runs and sticking to my kundalini yoga practice at home that I do online through Gaia or YogaGlo. I think one of the keys during these holiday months is to not give up your exercise routine. Exercising will keep you feeling good mentally and physically and give you more energy. Plus, it will go a long way to helping you avoid gaining weight.
- Meditate. The holidays can be a stressful time for some so I suggest now more than ever to keep up with a meditation practice. I try to meditate once a day (I’m not perfect – I don’t always accomplish this but it’s definitely a priority of mine). My top tip is to choose a set time and place you can commit to every day. For me, it’s usually when I sit down at my desk before I start my work. I highly suggest doing your meditation first thing in the morning as it really helps to set your day up on the right path from the get go. I simply sit in my big, comfy office chair and put my headphones on and listen to my daily Headspace meditation. Another one of my favourite guided meditations is this yoga nidra. But how can meditation help you not gain weight during the holidays? The answer is; stress reduction. When we’re stressed we released the hormone cortisol. Cortisol’s main role in the body is to increase blood sugar. This increase in blood sugar also increases our insulin levels and all this blood sugar and insulin imbalance can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance will see you pack on the weight because insulin is our fat storage hormone. Reducing your stress will go a long way in reducing stubborn weight, especially belly fat.
- Watch what you drink. Alcohol is nothing but empty calories and carbs. Drinking is certainly a big part of many people’s holiday festivities. I get it. But if you want to watch your waist and maintain your health let me remind you that the safe limit for women is only 3 servings of alcohol per week! If you have a holiday party coming up on the weekend then watch your consumption of alcohol during the week so you can have a glass or two at the party. Be sure to pace yourself and drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage you have.
- Don’t give up your morning lemon water routine. Just like your exercise and meditation routines, be sure to stick to your morning lemon water routine. Adhering to these simple routines will really amp up your health game and keep you motivated and inspired to stay on track. I know that when I’ve let my morning lemon water routine slip it sets a bad tone for the rest of my day. What’s more, lemon water in the morning will support your liver (a key player in our detoxification), which is important when we’re over-indulging a little during the holidays, and it will help to keep your bowels regular and stimulate digestive function, which can be impacted by poor food choices and alcohol consumption. Don’t know what a morning lemon water routine is? It’s simple! Just squeeze half a lemon into some room temperature water and add a bit of pith or peel too. Drink it first thing once you wake up and then wait 10 – 15 minutes before you consume anything else to let the lemon water do it’s thing.
- Don’t let yourself go hungry. Make sure you always have healthy snacks on hand like boiled eggs, grass-fed beef jerky, raw nuts, veggie sticks etc. And never, ever show up to a holiday party hungry if you want to avoid over-indulging.
I hope you find these tips helpful. The holidays don’t have to be a time when you end up feeling bloated, bigger and generally less healthy. However, if you do and you want to get back on track I offer a 7 Day Post Holiday Detox Support Plan that will tell you everything you need to know in order to support your detoxification pathways to feel less bloated, gain more energy, lose weight and love life again! Find out more here.