Now that the Holidays are Over

Now that the Holidays are over…

You’ve shopped until you’ve dropped, gave and received presents, recovered from food coma, and uploaded your festive photos on Instagram and Facebook. All that’s left is a fridge full of leftovers and that ‘drained feeling’. The Post-Holiday let-down.

This is typical of the ‘crash’ after the Holidays. In spite of all the good cheer and joy, the days and weeks of socializing, gift shopping, cooking, planning and traveling; the expectations and stressfulness of the Holidays can be overwhelming and often flip a switch inside our brain sending us into overdrive.

The Holiday aftermath. Reality. Stress amplified. Something had to give; exercise routine, meditation, quiet time, healthy meal planning and other self-care may have suffered. Motivation, unanswered emails, over-indulgence in food or drink, too much sodium, neglected routines, all leave the body feeling sapped. There is a reason for this. “The stress of regulating blood sugar during mega-consumptions of junk food can depress our immune systems,” says Justine Campbell, R.D., a holistic nutrition therapy practitioner.

How to face ‘The Reckoning’

1. Unplug. Taking a break from constantly being connected to our devices can drag us down. The feeling of needing to check our devices 24-7 raises cortisol levels and over-stimulates the neurons with too much information, may create anxiety, comparison of everyone’s ‘perfect holiday’ photos (which could lead to envy) and possible depression. Set some time to go ‘Tech-Free’ and be truly present. Set some time during the day to unplug whether it’s during dinner or while taking a walk.
2. Replate your palate.Over-indulgence in food and drink often leads to the attitude of, “Oh well, I’ve already ‘blown it’ so why not eat more junk. After all, it’s the Holidays. The problem is, insulin levels spike when we overeat and the higher they rise, the more drastic the blood sugar crash hours afterward. This tends to leave us feeling irritable, and wanting more sugar. If we have eaten foods that are loaded with sugar, fat or salt for a few days, we end up resetting our palate toward those types of foods, rather than healthier choices. On a more serious note, the immune system is compromised from the food frenzied consumption of junk food.
3. Skip the Guilt. Give yourself some slack. It will take a bit of time to get back on track with your healthier routines. Plate some patience with those extra veggies. Make this the week you write down your goals and expectations and re-align your routine. Rather than totally re-hauling your entire diet; add extra vegetables to your meal rather than trying to scale back on everything ‘bad’.
4. Take time to enjoy. While the weeks leading up to the Holiday may have left you with little time to enjoy due to excessive obligations; now is the time to s-l-o-w down and breathe. Take time to reflect on the beauty of what is around you. Many of us leave decorations up until after the New Year. Now is the time to focus on their beauty.
5. Gratitude. Does anyone write Thank-You notes anymore? Expressing gratitude for gifts and time spent can promote well-being and foster a positive attitude.
6. Looking forward. Research shows that having something to look forward to promotes happiness and elevates the mood. Plan a few fun and simple activities with friends or family. Now is a great time to try something new.
7. Prioritize. Do take time to make your health a priority by including exercise as a part of your day. There is simply nothing better that getting out for a brisk walk. It elevates the mood, oxygenates your body and provides cardiovascular benefits. Find new ways to move! Exercise should be a reflection of your personality. Dance, walk, run, stretch, lift weights or do it all! Mixing up your exercise routine keeps it fun and will provide enjoyment. A Fitness Professional can design a program that is safe, effective and perfect for your fitness level.

HOW TO STAY HEALTHY and FIT OVER THE HOLIDAYS

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We are quickly approaching that time of year when all five of the senses can be tempted by decadent treats, tantalizing aromas, and endless buffets. The reports vary, but generally suggest that most people gain between five to eight pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. While I’m not sure how accurate those numbers are; it is easy to believe most of us are at risk of putting on weight if not careful.

Winter, in general, may cause a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in many people, especially if you live in the part of the country that becomes cold and gray at this time of year. This can cause even the most energetic person to become more lethargic, to lose their focus and drive. In other words; your ‘get up and go’ seems to have ‘got up and went’! This time of year can tend to make you ‘fluffy’ and soft as you slack off on workouts and dietary discipline. Maintaining a healthy balance can be challenging, at best.

It’s not impossible to maintain your weight during the Holiday Season. It does take some strategic planning on your part. You can enjoy the festivities and maintain a lean physique if you practice these successful tips I’m going to share. I’ve gathered these helpful tips from the Pros in every field,  from Dietitians to Physique Competitors. These folks make it their business to know lean and healthy. So listen up:

 

Erin Stern, Ms. Figure Olympia offers these tips:

         1. Be efficient in the weight room. employ compound movements, supersets, and keep recovery to a minimum between sets. Even if you have a dedicated “arm day,” start with close-grip pull ups and close-grip bench or dips. The excess calories can fuel your workouts! I have been known to rearrange my lifting splits so my leg workout falls after a treat meal.

         2. Be aware of NEAT. NEAT is non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or the amount of calories we burn in daily activities. When we’re indoors, eating a lot of food, we tend to nap and sit around. Simply getting up and going for a walk, stretching, and consciously being more active can burn 600-1,000 calories per day. Get up and get moving!

       3. Be strategic about big meals. Who doesn’t want to just dive right into the rich, fatty foods? Before loading up your plate, look at all of the foods. Notice which ones are your favorite ones, and put those on half of your plate first. On the other half of the plate, add some nutrient-dense, low calorie foods like salad and fruit. This way, you’ll fill up on the foods you love, and also on foods that won’t contribute to weight gain.

  1. Chuck the guilt. I know I’m not the only one who is stuffed after a holiday meal. Enjoy and savor the food. Be mindful of every bite. Don’t feel badly if you ate more than you were planning! Wake up the next day, eat balanced meals, and train hard. Guilt can cause us to overeat repeatedly, especially if we try and make up for the excess calories by not eating the next day. Our bodies are amazingly adaptive, and a treat meal here and there won’t have any lasting effects if we just move on and continue to eat balanced meals most of the time:

 

Dietitians offer these tips:

 

  1. Talk about it. Get support from family and friends. Keep yourself honest. Maintain a food journal and write down what and how much you eat. Documenting can show what healthy foods are missing from your diet, as well as when you’ve included too many treats in your day.   

 

  1. Don’t neglect your exercise program. Even on the most time crunched days, you can find 15 minutes to fit in some form of exercise. Go for a walk, take the stairs, find ways to move more. We tend to have an ‘all or nothing’ mentality when it comes to exercise. Just because you don’t have an hour to devote purely to your exercise program doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Compound Moves are the perfect answer for those days when you may be short on time. Work as many body parts as possible in one move. Weighted overhead Squats are an example of a compound move.

 

  1. Prevent overeating. Avoid skipping meals with the idea that you can eat more at a party. Eat a light snack before you head out the door so you are less likely to over indulge later.

 

  1.  Plan Ahead!  If heading to a ‘Potluck Gathering’, choose to bring a healthy option to the party, such as veggie tray, so you won’t be forced to make unhealthy options.

 

  1. Keep an eye on your portion sizes!. Moderation is key. Taking a small ‘taste’ of something that you can’t resist is okay. Just be careful of ‘overdoing’ it. It’s not about deprivation, but about keeping it in check. However; if you know that one little taste will lead to a ‘slippery slope’ and derail your diet; then don’t go there. Choose something healthier.

 

  1. Don’t stay glued to the food…mingle with the guests and keep your mind off the food.

 

  1. Avoid alcohol. This is a tough one, but the reality is; alcohol can make us ravenous and reduce our inhibitions. Another thing to bear in mind is that alcohol contains calories. It’s easy to ‘drink’ your entire days’ worth of calories if you’re not careful.

 

  1. Be sociable. Just make sure your are socializing away from the buffet table. It ‘s very easy to nibble and nosh while catching up with people. Be mindful.

 

  1. Get out and Shop. Walking can burn as many as 275 calories Take stairs instead of escalators and park away from the entrance. Walk, walk, walk!

 

  1. Be prepared: while out running errands carry a healthy snack with you such as a single portion sized bag of raw almonds, apple slices, or raw veggies. This way, you won’t be tempted to dodge in to the nearest fast food establishment.

 

  1. Divert your attention at your next gathering. The Holidays focus on food and drink. That’s no secret. But there is more to be savored than food. Focus on the music, the stories, laughter and dancing. Take your primary focus off the food and allow people to become the reason for enjoyment.

 

  1. Use the smallest plate available at the Buffet. Don’t pile your food on your plate, but keep it to one layer. Choose vegetables and lean protein, such as shrimp. Avoid the dips and sauces. They are notorious for hidden fat, sugar and calories.

 

  1. Watch the Sweets. This is one area that can really wreak havoc on the waistline. If you know you’ll cave once you have one taste; then don’t go there. If you’re that person who has to try ‘one of each’, you’ll be better off having one of something than a whole plateful of ‘a bit of everything’. If you have to have something sweet, then choose dark chocolate. A small portion. If you are in charge of bringing dessert, think fruit. Almost everyone welcomes fresh fruit on a buffet. Even though fruit does contain sugar, it has other healthful benefits.

 

  1. Don’t forget to hydrate! I can’t stress this enough. If you have to have something to drink in your hand while socializing; make it water. No one need know what’s in your glass but you. Keeping your body hydrated will provide endless health benefits in addition to keeping your skin clear and body functioning.

 

  1. Relax! This can be one of the most stressful times of the year. We pile too many social obligations onto our schedules. We expect more of ourselves during this time of year than any other. We feel frazzled and frayed from every angle. Just remember that stress creates higher cortisol levels which can lead to weight gain if not kept in check. According to Prevention Magazine, this is what happens to your body on stress:

 

Here’s what happens: Your body responds to all stress in exactly the same way. So every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you hungry…very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues.

But few of us reach for carrots in these situations. “Instead, we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension,” explains Elissa Epel, PhD, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco. This soothing effect becomes addicting, so every time you’re anxious, you want fattening foods.

With your adrenal glands pumping out cortisol, production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone slows down. “Over time, this drop causes a decrease in your muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories,” explains Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of The Cortisol Connection. “This occurs naturally as you age, but high cortisol levels accelerate the process.” Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat—especially visceral fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes.

 

Take time out each day to meditate, do deep breathing, sit quietly, read a good book, listen to soothing music or soak in a hot tub. But find something to relieve the stress.

 

 

Keeping the Holidays Healthy

holidaycocktails

Keeping the Holidays Healthy

Tips for a healthier holiday season:

Many people experience weight gain of 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years.  For others, it can be as much as ten pounds. Research shows that for most people, this extra weight never goes away after the New Year.  This Holiday weight gain is considered a major contributor to obesity. Holiday parties, the office cookie tray,   even temptations in your own kitchen can wreak havoc on waistlines.  It doesn’t have to be that way, if you carefully plan.

Most experts agree that it can be perfectly healthy to indulge in a treat or two over the Holiday Season.  Moderation is the key.  If you know that the very taste of a Christmas Cookie will send you down a slippery slope and end in binge-eating, don’t go there.  For most, however, a seasonal goodie can actually be healthy.  One thing to bear in mind is to not starve yourself or skip meals in anticipation of treating yourself.  That usually results in overeating.

There are other things to consider when limiting your Holiday treats.  It is so easy to stray off your healthy diet plan during the Holidays.  With a batch of cookies an arm’s reach away, it’s easy to eat poorly during the holidays. And when we overindulge on treats, our waistlines aren’t the only things that suffer. Sweets can also wreak havoc on our mood. According to Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, when stressed, people are more likely to choose sugary carbohydrates that deliver a quick shot of energy to the system. Unfortunately, these same foods cause us to bottom out just as fast — leaving us irritable and exhausted. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain bread, combined with protein, such as turkey or low-fat cheese, to keep your mood on an even keel.

 

Here are a few things you can do to stay in control this Holiday.

 

  • Hydrate.  Drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially before heading out to a party.
  • Don’t skip meals on the day of a party.  Eat small, mini-meals that are filling and nutritious.  Make sure you are including high-quality protein with your small meals. Include complex carbohydrates and watch the fat intake.
  • Limit alcohol.  You can quickly consume your daily calories in beverages if you aren’t careful.  Sip water if you need to have a beverage in your hand.
  • Never go to a party hungry.  Have a healthy snack prior to heading out the door.
  • Exercise.  The holidays can be a busy time.  Find the time to fit in a daily workout.  When short on time, choose some form of your favorite cardio.
  • Practice mindful eating.  Savor each bit.  Eat slowly, chew thoroughly and enjoy your senses.
  • Wait before heading back for seconds.  Allow your food to digest and settle.  It takes approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it is full.
  • Sleep.  Make sure you are getting adequate rest. Research proves that when we are sleep-deprived, the stress hormone cortisol is released at an increased level, which makes us feel hungry, even if we are full.
  • Use a smaller plate.  It will hold less, so the end result is, you will eat less.
  • Fill up at the Veggie Tray.  Not only will you feel fuller, you will be doing your immune system a favor.
  • Choose protein.  Include plenty of high quality protein with each meal.  Protein keeps you feeling full, longer.
  • Step away from the buffet table.  Socialize away from the food.  It will only cause you to nibble mindlessly.
  • Bring a Healthy Dish.  If asked to bring food to a party, make it healthy and low fat.  You will at least have one smart option.
  • Bake Healthy.  There are many delicious recipes available for everything from appetizers to desserts that are not fat-laden and sugar-loaded.  By making simple recipe swaps, you can create a healthier dish which will benefit everybody.