Hang in there, only 6 more weeks of holiday food celebration and chaos to go.
You will read this same stuff on blogs all over the internet. I write it every year just to keep myself on track. Holiday eating and good cheer are so much fun but gaining weight is most certainly a drag. All the suggestions are just common sense. Nothing new. All we need to do is not gain.
If you are one of us that celebrates with food then thinks about losing the weight after the New Year Fog lifts, maybe some of my holiday adjustments to your schedule will help.
Find a morning ritual to keep you relaxed and focused throughout the day. Starting the day with stretching, breathing, maybe a few minutes of meditation or a daily affirmation. Drink a big glass of water before you get out of bed. A great morning boost is a cup of hot water, with organic lemon, a drop of honey, and a pinch of organic cayenne pepper. Keeping a daily routine can help maintain focus and energy during the busy holidays.
Eat more protein for meals and snacks. Protein regulates blood sugar, keep us focused and alert. Eating protein for breakfast is especially helpful. Eggs, meat, fish, poultry, tofu…a cheese stick, nuts (raw nuts are mostly fat but good for snacks and added to salads and oatmeal).
Eat less carbs than usual. Cutting your intake of breads, cereals, crackers, high carb snacks and starches can help to regulate blood sugar and appetite. If you have the choice of bread or potato, just choose one, or eat lots of salad and other vegetables and forego the carbs altogether at some meals.
Know your weight…this will give you back the reality so you are not surprised when the new year rolls around.
Know how much food you can eat daily to maintain your weight. Active people can eat 1800-2400 calories to maintain. Studies have indicated that most of us underestimate how much we are eating and overestimate how much activity we get. Use your phone app to log your food or to know the calories in some of the foods you don’t normally eat. You don’t have to do this all the time but trust me, it will change your way of looking at food. A handful of pecans (200 calories), 20 pieces of candy corn (80 calories), an 8 oz glass of red wine (180 calories); see how it adds up. Know what a normal portion of food is. An Einstein Bagel is 3-4 ounces; a standard bagel should be half that size. See the following link to test your knowledge of serving sizes and calories:
Exercise more than usual even if it is walking more… Most of us cut back on exercise during cold holiday months. Exercise is by far the best way to maintain your weight when you are eating more. Just walking 10 minutes is better than nothing if you cannot exercise longer. Exercise will relieve stress, lower cortisol levels, increase endorphins, burn calories, improve circulation, and calm and reduce appetite. There are phone apps that will track your activity throughout the day. Just remember to turn it off and on when you are in the car!
Get 7-9 hours sleep a night. Go to bed earlier than usual when you can. Sleep is like your bank account…When you spend more than you have, you are overdrawn. When you sleep less than your body needs, it adds up and you have sleep debt so catch up when you can. Turn the TV and computer off 2 hours before you plan to sleep, take a hot bath, eat more carbs at dinner time to calm you down. Lack of sleep causes weight gain. Deep REM sleep produces Growth Hormone/Insulin Like Growth Factor-1 to manage cortisol metabolism. In other words, it helps you maintain a normal cycle of cortisol metabolism. Lack of good sleep inhibits these hormones that control cortisol, contributing to central obesity and belly fat.
The Proof: Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain
Ghrelin is a hormone involved in the regulation of appetite and energy balance.
Leptin (from the Greek leptos, meaning thin) is a protein hormone with important effects in regulating body weight, metabolism and reproductive function.
- Subjects that slept an average of 4 hours a night:
↓Leptin (18%), ↑ Ghrelin (a hormone involved in appetite and energy balance) (28%)
↑ reported hunger (24%), ↑carb cravings especially sweets, salty, and starchy high calorie snacks. (1)
- 1000 volunteers: those that averaged 5 hours of sleep had a
↓Leptin (15.5%), ↑ Ghrelin (14.9%), ↑ BMI (3.6%).
Results were regardless of the subjects’ diet and exercise habits.
- Heymsfield and Gangwisch analyzed NHANES I data, and found that subjects with an average of 5 hours per night of sleep had a 73% increased likelihood of obesity over those who slept 7-9 hours. (3)
- The study showed a linear relationship: reduced amounts of sleep are associated with overweight and obesity. (4)
- Chronic partial sleep loss or insomnia associated with decreased glucose tolerance, decreased leptin levels, increases in evening cortisol levels. (5)
Reduce stress as much as possible. Get plenty of rest and relaxation. If you need a nap, take a 15 minute nap. Sometimes I just lay on the floor for a few minutes and I calm down. You know how to relax, just take a little time out.
“Stress that leads to increased cortisol concentrations induces increased food intake. Stress may contribute to abdominal obesity characterized by increases in cortisol and leptin concentrations.”
Try not to party on an empty stomach. Hunger may lead to overeating. Eat breakfast every day and keep the rule that most food (60%) is consumed by 4:30 pm. Eat more vegetables, leafy greens, some fruit, natural nuts, good protein, wholesome starchy vegetables like sweet potato or butternut squash 85% of the time. Eat less processed foods, cereals, breads, snack foods, and sweet drinks (that includes Starbucks!) That holiday Pumpkin latte and snowman cookie got me last week! A 900 calorie snack…But it was “Buy one Get one FREE!!!
Reality check. Stay in touch with your body image by wearing clothes that fit – not clothes with elastic waistbands that are loose around the waist. Wear your snuggest jeans, button and zip pants or skirt throughout the holidays. This will give you a day to day reminder of how you are doing or overdoing. Weigh yourself a couple of times a week to know your true weight. Sometimes you will retain fluid (2 cups of water or fluid is a pound on the scale). Everybody is different but 5-8 pounds fluid shift is not uncommon. Find out your true body weight and try to maintain it.
Drink plenty of water. This cannot be stressed enough. Dehydration leads to overeating, higher numbers on the scale, and fatigue. When you are tired, you go for more food to keep your strength. Chances are you are thirsty. Hunger and thirst are sometimes closely linked.
Drink fluids 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after meals to avoid diluting digestive enzymes. Do not drink big glasses of fluids with meals. Diluted digestive enzymes leave food sitting in the stomach, and create gas, heartburn, indigestion, bloating, reflux, and inefficient digestion of vital nutrients. Consider a digestive enzyme with heavy meal to aid in digestion and minimize bloating.
Plan your food indulgences. Eat your favorite holiday foods just not all the time. Food apps are great for checking calories. You don’t have to obsess just know the calories. Put a food app on your phone and have a ball park knowledge of the foods you eat. Don’t buy tempting foods to have around the house all throughout the holidays. Either buy and hide it away until the company comes, or get it the day they are supposed to come. I am a very weak person when it comes to having a lot of tempting foods around. Check out the food quiz on Huffington post to check your holiday food knowledge. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/thanksgiving-calories_n_4298802.html?utm_hp_ref=food
Avoid sweets and alcohol on an empty stomach. Eating sweets and drinking on an empty stomach causes a peak and drop in blood sugar. People that drink on an empty stomach tend to eat 20% more food.
Eat more vegetables before digging into your favorite fatty foods and desserts. You can fill up and then just nibble on your favorites without the damage.
Think about how much exercise you have to do to burn off extra food. For example, a 4 oz slice of pecan pie (about 1/6th of a small pie) is roughly 500-700 calories depending on the recipe. To burn it off, you need a good brisk 4-6 miles. A cup of eggnog is 350 calories. Add a jigger of whiskey that equals 450 calories – add another 4 mile walk! Know that 3500 calories equals 1 pound of fat.
If you screw up, get back on schedule at the next meal. If you screw up, no big deal. Just get back on schedule at the next meal and it will be fine. It is when we screw up and keep screwing up that gets us in trouble.
Get the nutritional support your body needs! Take the best multivitamin you can buy, Omega 3 oil, and vitamin D if you know you are low. Nutritional supplements can be a safety net for stress, holiday food choices, drinking, fatigue and all the usual side affects of the holidays.
Below is a sample menu to use as a guide on most days. It will steady your blood sugar and keep you calm and energized.
Eggs, turkey bacon, and fresh spinach, slices of tangerine.
Fresh walnuts and an apple
Steamed vegetables and chicken. 1 cup brown rice.
Pomegranate and almonds
Baked Salmon, asparagus, sweet potato and salad.
Happy Holidays! Let me know how it goes and remember we offer 15 minute free consultations!
(1) Ann Intern Med, 2004, vol. 141, pp.846-850
(2) Mignot et al, Stanford School of Medicine, Dec 2004
(3) Study reported at North American Association Study of Obesity annual scientific meeting November 2004
(4) Arch. Intern Med, 2005;165:25-30
(5) Spiegel et al. Lancet 1999 354; 1435-39 and Spiegel et al. J Clin Endocrin Metab 2004, 89(11); 5762-71
(6) Bjorntop P. “Consolatory eating” is not a myth. Stress-incuced increased cortisol levels result in Leptin-resistant obesity. Lakartidningen. 2001 Nov 28;98(48):5458-61.