From late October through December, special foods and lack of exercise result in holiday weight gain. Studies suggest that adults gain as many as 5 lbs during the holiday season. This year, avoid ruining all of you hard work with these tips.
Start planning now.
The earlier you develop a strategy, the more successful you will be. Jot down annual parties and family commitments in your calendar. Take note of when you may need to cut back on calories to compensate for celebrations, and set a goal for the number of weekly workouts you will complete. As the season progresses, you will be prepared to make your healthy habits a priority.
Select your splurges.
You will be bombarded with high-calorie foods throughout the coming weeks. It’s important not to go overboard, but it is also important to remember that this time comes only once a year. If you set out to deprive yourself of seasonal treats, you won’t succeed. Plan to enjoy those treats you can only get this time of year. Limit yourself to small portions, and pass on the rest.
Use your slow cooker.
A busy afternoon of running errands makes a quick dinner from the drive-thru tempting. You can avoid this temptation with a little planning. Create a list of healthy slow cooker recipes that you prep in the mornings. If you have a hot meal waiting for you at home, you’ll be less tempted to stop for unhealthy fast food meals.
Eat healthy foods for energy.
During the holidays, it’s easy to skip healthy seasonal produce (such as kale, pumpkin and citrus) when you fill up on party appetizers, casseroles, and cookies. Using high-sugar, high-fat foods as your main energy source will have you ready for a nap, not a workout. Enjoy a treat, but don’t allow the season to completely change your healthy eating patterns.
If shopping is your excuse for skipping workouts, take your shopping to the Internet. Not only can you take care of your gift list, but you can use an online grocer to bring dinner ingredients straight to your door. You’ll save time by avoiding the travel and long lines. Use the time you save for exercise and for planning your meals for the week.
Limit your to-do list.
Once you make your holiday to-do list, set it aside for a day or two, and then revisit it. Cut out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. For example, there will be plenty of sweets around. Do you really need to make all five types of cookies, or could you cut it down to four? This could save you at least 30 minutes on a day that you may have otherwise skipped your workout.
Schedule stress-reducing activities.
The holidays can be stressful. Exercise will help, but also consider taking a few minutes to step back from the hectic day and enjoy the moment. Your list may include deep breathing, reading a novel, prayer, mediation, playing with your children, a massage, or a bath. Schedule these short bouts of relaxation into each day to reduce stress throughout the season.
Shorten your workouts.
Research shows that shorter workouts can be as effective as longer sessions, if you step up the intensity. Save yourself time during the holidays and commit to 20 minute workouts. Add hills, speed, and strength intervals to your regular routine to challenge yourself and burn more calories.
Make exercise part of the celebration.
From Halloween to New Year’s Day, nearly every city has a fitness event to commemorate the holiday season. Look for a night-time Halloween walk, a Turkey Trot, or a Jingle Bell Run. Local yoga studios often offer free classes this time of year, or check the gym for a holiday fitness challenge that will keep you on track with workouts.
Don’t overlook the small stuff.
This is the time when the small things matter the most. Fit in every bit of moving that you can throughout your day. Park on the opposite end of the mall, add an extra flight of stairs, or do a mini-fitness routine each morning with 10 push-ups, 15 squats, and 20 crunches. Individually these activities don’t burn a significant number of calories, but when combined they may help offset the cookie you couldn’t pass up yesterday afternoon.
Marketers of fad diets know how to target your weaknesses and play on your desires to lose weight. Despite the pressure, it is important to remember that these fad diets are not the answer to achieve health. In some cases, they can be downright dangerous. When you feel the lure of the next fad diet, keep yourself on the right track by remembering these key points:
A new fad diet is like an addiction.
For chronic dieters, starting a new diet provides a euphoric high that encompasses the hopes, motivation, and drive to get your life back on track and lose the weight for good. When the program fails, dieters look for hope, and will often find promise in the next diet. Thus, the downward spiral of diet addiction continues.
False hope and certain failure.
Many diet claims are so convincing that your sense of reason is blinded by the false hope that this is the magic bullet you need. When you find that you can barely function on cabbage soup, or by completely cutting out a food group, the first thought is that you failed. You blame yourself and your self-esteem plummets. Constant feelings of deflated self-worth lead you straight back to the core of your weight issues - emotional eating.
Quick fixes become the only answer.
Losing more than a couple pounds a week can be unhealthy. Slow and steady is the best approach. Weight loss is never completely effortless; it takes time to plan healthy meals, grocery shop, exercise, and focus on internal cues. The most effective and healthy path to long-term weight loss and maintenance is through lifestyle changes. While your co-workers may temporarily surpass your weight loss by going on a fad diet, three months down the line you'll be 12 pounds lighter, and they'll be looking for the next new diet.
Harmful to your emotional and physical health.
The process of cycling through diets eventually leads to decreased metabolism, weight gain, frustration, negative body image, cravings and binges, and distrust in your innate ability to monitor food intake. These consequences increase the likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
You lose sight of hunger cues.
Contrary to what the claims may say, most fad diets are too low in calories and you will be hungry. Ultimately you will have to return to regular eating. Chances are you will overcompensate with extra calories to satisfy feelings of intense hunger combined with the stress of feeling like you failed. When you are stuck in a pattern of ignoring hunger pains followed by binge eating, you eventually lose your ability to recognize true hunger and fullness.
When trying to lose weight, sometimes the small changes make all the difference. Here are easy ways to cut at least 100 calories from your meals to help you reach your weight loss goal.
Choose one side item.
Many restaurant entrees come with two sides, but one side is often more than enough food. You can cut the calories for the total meal by choosing only one. A side of mac n’ cheese can have upwards of 280 calories, mashed potatoes with gravy have about 200 calories, and wild rice pilaf has 180 calories.
Drizzle, don’t dip.
Save calories by cutting out the extras that go with your favorite foods. A 1-ounce serving of blue cheese sauce for buffalo wings has 150 calories. Cheese sauce for your breadsticks has about 110 calories in ¼ cup, and a single serving of queso for your chips has about 100 calories. If you simply cannot go without it, cut back how much you use by drizzling a little on your food instead of dipping.
Leave off the whipped cream.
When the waffles, latte, or pie you order come with whipped cream, ask the kitchen to leave it off. It may be delicious, but 2 tablespoons of whipped cream can have 100 calories, and many restaurants pile on much more than that. Ordering no-whip can make the difference between a treat and a calorie nightmare.
Cooking your own food is the best way to control your calorie intake, but watch out for bites and nibbles. If you eat a half of a roll when it comes out of the oven (65 calories), then taste an eighth of a cup of the bowtie pasta (25 calories), and follow that up with a tablespoon of chocolate chips before you add them to the cookie dough (70 calories), you will consume 160 extra calories.
Rethink the dinner roll.
Dinner rolls are often an unnecessary part of a meal that already has plenty of calories and carbohydrates (ex: pasta or mashed potatoes). Passing on one small dinner roll with a half tablespoon of butter will save you 179 calories.
Skip the sweet tea.
A 21-ounce serving of sweet tea contains about 180 calories. You can make your own slightly sweet, fruit-flavored tea with unsweetened iced tea and 2 ounces of pomegranate juice for only 38 calories.
Take fewer toppings.
Adding seeds, nuts, and dried fruits is a great way to make salads more nutritious, but it’s easy to go overboard. A small sprinkle will go a long way in adding flavor and keeping calories in check. If you reduce your toppings from 2 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds (55 calories), walnuts (54 calories), and dried cranberries (35 calories), you will save 144 calories.
Use less olive oil.
Olive oil is healthy for the heart, but each tablespoon contains 120 calories. When it comes to cooking, many recipes use more than you really need. Try cutting back a half to one full tablespoon, and it is likely you will still end up with a delicious dish.
For many people, sweet treats are the trigger foods that set off uncontrolled eating. Some individuals are sensitive to simple sugars and find that by eating sweets, they actually end up craving more. For example, perhaps you have a difficult time stopping at one donut. Your decision to include sweets in your eating plan should be based on your past experience. Here are two methods for developing a healthy relationship with sweets during weight loss.
Eliminate and reintroduce
In the early stages of a weight loss program it can be beneficial to refrain from eating foods you identify as trigger foods. Once the destructive cycle of food abuse has been broken and new habits formed, small portions of these foods can be reintroduced. Ideally, as you progress through your program, all foods can be included in your eating plan. A good rule of thumb is that about 90% of your daily caloric intake should be from nutrient-dense foods and about 10% of your calories can be used for extras, such as dessert.
Portion control over time
Another approach is based on the healthy eating principal that no food should ever be off limits. Some people find that any restriction of food leads to increased obsession with it, which results in overindulgence. By including small portions (as long as they do not lead to uncontrolled eating), over time food obsession will lessen and the cycle of overeating will be broken.
Only you can decide what approach will work best for you. Experiment with different methods and know that the underlying issue with trigger foods is almost always emotional, behavioral, or habitual. Focus the majority of your energy on trying to fix these underlying problems.
When it comes to improving fitness, you likely have two goals – lose fat and gain muscle. Losing fat requires a calorie deficit, while gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus. Despite the contradiction, the body can easily handle losing fat and building muscle tissue at the same time. There are two things you should monitor to help you reach your goal - calorie intake and protein intake. The body requires both to build new muscle.
Muscle building occurs through protein synthesis, and this requires energy (calories). The key is to find a balance that ensures you are eating enough calories for protein synthesis, while also limiting your calories to achieve fat loss. Your body finds this balance by using the energy from the metabolism of body fat to build new muscle mass. This means you do not need as many calories to build muscle as you might think.
If you currently eat the calories suggested to reach your weight loss goal, you can start by simply adding strength training to your routine. If the desired fat loss doesn’t occur, slowly decrease your calorie intake by 100 calories per day. If you feel weak and lethargic, then you have reduced intake too much and you will need to slightly increase your calories until you feel strong and energetic again. Give each new calorie adjustment 3-5 days before changing it. This gives you enough time to assess your energy level correctly.
Although our bodies can use energy from burning other tissues (fat), it cannot provide all of the amino acids needed to build muscle. This makes it important to get adequate amounts and varied types of protein in your diet. Note that adequate protein does not mean excessive protein. There is no need to supplement normal dietary protein with expensive protein supplements. You will need somewhere between 0.8 and 1.7 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, which is easily attained through normal food intake. Remember to vary your protein sources to ensure that you are getting all of the essential amino acids in your diet. In addition, choose protein sources that are low in saturated fat such as:
Beans and legumes
Low-fat milk and yogurts
Nuts and seeds
Poultry and Fish
Soy-based foods (tempeh, tofu)
The timing of your food intake can also help. Include snacks that provide protein and carbs immediately before and after your workouts. This will help replenish glycogen stores and aid muscle building.