Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Healthy Holidays: Tips to Keep you Sane and Slim

Perhaps you think it’s a festive time of year and I get that. There’s the music and the decorations, the parties and the treats. To me though, it seems like a bit of a conspiracy. Even the songs  “Feed the World”, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and for Hanukah “Gather Round the Table and We’ll give you a Treat” all subliminally telling you to do one thing, eat! Then there’s the inflated pound propaganda preparing you for the inevitable five to ten pound weight gain (more on that later).

I loved this graphic from Beth at Weight Maven; I don’t think the terror alert analogy is inappropriate:

Festive Foods are Everywhere

So what’s a well-intentioned healthy person to do short of signing up for a one month retreat

  • Pick an Anchor Behavior. An anchor is something that centers you when things are crazy around you and December is crazy. Pick one behavior: breakfasts on track or gym visits or hydration to stick to for the duration of the season.
  • Run on Empty. A study from the UK followed 3 groups during the holiday season. One group did not work out, another worked out before eating anything and the final group workout out after breakfast. The only group to lose weight was the “running on empty group”. If you have a 10-mile run planned or low blood sugar, eat before. Otherwise try running on empty here and there and eating soon after you’re done.
  • Use Special Days for Special Days. Even if you don’t gorge, celebration abounds this month. In between the events I suggest pulling back a bit. Try, what I call, a Savory Day where you skip anything sweet for one day. Do this once or twice a week.
  • Cook Responsibly. Many sad weight-related tales start with “I baked ________ to bring it __________. You don’t have to bring dessert and if you do it doesn’t have to be handmade.
  • Utilize Your Little Helpers. It’s not just about taking things out of your diet. Both green tea and omega 3’s support you and your diet during the holiday season.
  • Practice Treat Training. My sister makes trifle every year. It’s beautiful and everyone loves it but it’s just not my thing. On the other hand, eggnog is something I dream about.  What are the holiday foods you can’t pass up? Make it a mission to seek out the best version of those one or two foods and call it a day.
  • Try Your Holiday Hotline or TIDEI. If you’re on twitter, I’m here for you. When you’re tempted to get carried away simply use the hash tag #TIDEI which stands for tweet it don’t eat it. Use @Foodtrainers and I’ll tweet you off the food ledge.
Finally, if you want to test your knowledge of food-related holiday songs I loved this quiz from slashfood that I failed miserably (didn’t even know how many maids a milking). And that holiday weight gain of five pounds? The good news is the NEJM found it’s only one or two pounds for most people. The bad news? Those one to two pounds stick around long after the holidays.
What are your favorite holiday foods? Do you tend to overdo it this time of year? Favorite holiday song? And what will your anchor behavior be?


  1. Great tips! (of course)

    I especially love the anchor idea. I think mine are: water, morning workouts and healthy breakfast. I find that when I commit to morning workouts I am less likely to "let loose" at an event, or spend the evening grazing on snacks.

    Eleven Maids?

  2. Lauren, great tips. :) Funny graphic-love it!

  3. Cameo- not just one but 3 anchors, well done. I can't even remember the number of maids and I did the quiz yesterday, try it.
    Ayala I loved the graphic too.

  4. I love the idea of anchor behaviours. Hmmm...I think mine is going to be "be active for 30 minutes every day". The more active I am, the better I eat.

  5. Love "active' Stephanie as that doesn't mean it has to be gym. I agree about the carryover effect of exercise.

  6. I love these tips -- I definitely train myself not to over eat during the holidays. I'm a firm believer that on Thanksgiving and Christmas I can have a few treats, but the days in between and after aren't excuses to go crazy and eat whatever is put in front of me.

    I also think that being gluten intolerant and vegetarian makes is sort of easier for me to resist temptation...nobody is going to bring gluten free gingerbread men to the office, and if I make them at home, I'll challenge myself to make them as healthy as possible.

    And YES to having an anchor! Mine is going to the gym 6 mornings a week, and on my off morning going for a walk. I know that's a part of my day and I make time for it.

    I drink green tea and take omegas -- love that they help with so many things -- great skin, and immune system boosters, too!

  7. Great tips! For me daily activity is very important (unless I'm sick like last weekend). And since it's a very busy time, lots of my workouts are short but intense, and I often do them at home.

    I also think it's important to plan for treats and not assume that I'm entitled to them because it's the holidays (which I unfortunately used to do...). It's so easy to eat an extra treat every single day this time of the year, but it's obviously not a good idea. I pick a few things I really want and try to stay away from the rest.

  8. Christmastime is always a problem for me. Actually, it's straight through from Halloween right through New Year's. These are really helpful tips, and I've found that the best thing I can do is try to limit the sweets (it's my weakness) to the "special" days, and try my hardest to stay away on all the other days. I find that I can easily drop a couple of pounds if I abstain from eating anything after dinner for a week or two - this means no eating after about 7:30pm, and I go to bed at about 10-10:30. If I brush my teeth a bit early and try to keep busy it's not so bad, once I get the habit started.

  9. I love that you call it an "anchor"—I definitely find I need something I do for myself to keep me sane. Usually, exercise and/or activity are important. I also feel like probiotics and the, um, "healthy digestion" they promote help a lot too. It's harder to be nice when your stomach feels off.

  10. Love the overeaters advisory system lol =)
    Love the tips too! My fav Holiday foods are peppermint-flavored things -- coffee ranked the highest, tea a close second!

  11. Since my coworkers and I have started a holiday challenge, I feel a bit more reserved when I am around goodies..well so far at least.
    But these are some great tips! I will try to indulge in the foods I really love and can only get this time of year.

  12. Kristen like the "only this time of year" concept though more and more we can get everything anytime which drives me crazy. #Lessspecial.
    Lisa- I too love mint and peppermint. My Fronteir mint extract bottle gets used a lot.
    Jess- bitchy and bloated go together for a reason, reagardless of PMS.
    Jen- nothing after dinner a super anchor. Conscious and infrequent treats make sense Andrea.
    Lauren- so true, nobody says I brought GF treats (or organic etc which would interest me more).

  13. How about an h. pylori flare up? That's keeping me from enjoying much of anything right now. I'm so distracted, I can't think of how I would otherwise be spending my time avoiding food, but I am sure I would have a plan. :(
    Love the advisory system!

  14. I love TIDEI...the next time I plan to reach for the Trader Joe's dark chocolate, as I did last night, I will tweet about it so you can talk me back from the ledge. Love it. :)

  15. great tips -- love the special days, definitely going to use that. Also thinking of re-doing our dine&detox over the holidays. Less temptation w/ structure!

  16. Found this really helpful, and it certainly made me think!

    My anchors are definitely good, consistent breakfasts and planning out my meals each week and deciding which will be "cheats." Always workouts too, but I do have to be careful not to get into the mindset of "hard workout cancels cake."

    My office is the worst for terrible eating habits/peer pressure. Anyone have a good excuse for not indulging at the office? I want to say that I save my treats for things I really love/make myself/when I am with friends and family but maybe that's insulting, hahaa.

  17. Jessica- true hard workouts don't cancel cake. Menu planning a great anchor. As for office eating, one client pictures someone making something in a dirty, germy kitchen and then doesn't want to eat.

  18. great tips and that graphic is so funny, let me know how your aloo saag goes

  19. I love this post, and I am going to share it with Nick PRONTO! He acts like the entire holiday season is a "holiday" and therefore he can eat whatever he wants, and drink more. It's crazy. Every night he says, "it's vacation!". ugh.

    I've been increasing my workouts by about 30 minutes per week. It may not sound like a lot, but considering I already work out quite a bit, I'm pretty proud :)

  20. Uh oh Gina a month of vacay, have to share the conspiracy theory with him.

  21. Love all you tips, and the poster says it all! I definitely eat more sweets than usual this time of year, so I really like your idea of taking a couple of savory days. I'm also keeping up with the #DecFit challenge-I'm actually getting in more workouts now than I usually do! I'm an eggnog lover too, and this is the time of year I succumb to the lure of Sees Candy!

  22. I think I am in the minority with this one but I never have a problem this time of year haha. I'll have a few sweets and then I am pretty much over it.

  23. Whenever I try to run on empty, I feel literally sick - even if it's only 3 miles. I can usually get by on around 150 cals, but anything less, forget it.