We have now entered the “danger zone” between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. The time in which we indulge, we sloth, we get stressed, we forget about ourselves and put our health on the back burner until January 1 and make silly resolutions that we never keep. Sound familiar? I was on this very same cycle for years when the holidays would roll around. I would sneak extra pieces of Halloween candy when no one was looking, put heaping portions of turkey and 12 sides on my plate and then shovel holiday cookies into my mouth like it was my job! Then, I’d slink on the scale come January 2 and go into shock that I had gained anywhere from 5-10 pounds over the holidays! Well, thankfully that nasty cycle ended six years ago when I started working with a Health Coach, enrolled in nutrition school and made some serious changes to my diet, my lifestyle and my outlook on life. Now, 50 pounds lighter and much healthier to boot, I find myself finding new ways to spend the holidays with new recipes, new traditions and a brand new approach to life. It is possible to avoid the holiday weight gain, you just have to set a few routines in motion and stick to them!
Focus on Managing Stress first. You can say no to those extras that pop up around the holidays. There’s no reason you have to do it all. Delegate. Set aside 10 minutes a day just for you and your favorite activity. Read a juicy gossip mag or get a pedicure or shop online for a pretty new dress or listen to your favorite music. Whatever makes you happy needs to be on your agenda. Try this breathing technique when you get stressed: Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts and exhale for 8 counts. Do this 3 times. Deep belly breaths get oxygen into all the cells of your body and promote relaxation. Stress causes cortisol levels to rise and this cuts through your body like razor blades if it happens repeatedly. Caffeine can exacerbate the problem as well. It spikes cortisol, dehydrates you and causes sleep problems. Try cutting back on your morning java to just one cup a day, but do it slowly. Removing caffeine too fast can cause headaches.
Next up – nix the sugar! Take one day out of the week and write down everything that you eat and drink. Then, tally up the grams of sugar you consume. My Fitness Pal is a free app that can tell you how much sugar is in a particular food or beverage. If you go over 25 grams a day, you’re adding stress, inflammation, the potential for weight gain and even disease down the road. Sugar demotes our health in so many ways and if you can cut back now, your health will greatly improve. Start by tossing the leftover Halloween candy – just throw it away. Don’t take it to work and add it to the bowl on the counter in the break room. Next, review your holiday menus. Where can you cut back? Do you usually have 2-3 pies or a pie and a cake or couple dozen cookies? Cut down to one and try serving sautéed apples or pears as a dessert.
Now, get moving! There’s no reason to wait until January to start an exercise program or weight loss journey. I have clients who have lost weight over the holidays and have done so myself too! It’s getting cold outside, so find a fun video or exercise you like doing. I bought a second-hand stationary bike from a neighbor and that’s how a get my cardio in. I also have a mini-rebounder in my home gym which is fun to jog on. But my personal favorite is using kettlebells to work out with. Find your favorite and get moving!
Lastly, after you have focused on self-care for you, work on giving for others. The act of giving and random acts of kindness promotes feelings of well-being and elation. When you're down, helping others and giving your time to them actually makes you feel better (no anti-depressant needed!).
The holidays can be a really tough time for some, especially those who have lost loved ones. Open your heart and home to someone and give the gift of kindness.
Peace and love,