Raise your hand if every year the last few months roll through and you’re left at least a few pounds heavier and definitely hungover come New Years Day. I bet you raised your hand. And then, after feeling terribly guilty with a dash of motivated you spend your hard earned money on a new workout program, joining a gym or the latest juice cleanse. All totally unnecessary and probably a waste of your money, which you realize after February comes around and you’re begrudged after having fallen off your new “program.”
This destructive cycle doesn’t have to be permanent, even though it may feel that way. It all starts with behavior change. You might be thinking, “great, but I knew that and it’s so much easier said than done!” Okay, so we all know what we should be doing as we willingly do something else. Some would say it’s a matter of will power, in which case, you either have it or you don’t. Truth is, research shows us that it’s not the case. The issue lies in not having the necessary tools to achieve what you’re after. Perfect! Now you just need to find that damn tool box.
Look no further. Below, I have laid out five of the most useful “tools” for you to successfully stay on track through the most wonderful time of the year (and always).
Tip #1: Be Prepared On the Go
The most wonderful time of the year can also be the busiest and most stressful. This makes it imperative that you are prepared for the days when you’re out of the house, running errands all day and checking off to-do lists galore. No one likes to be hangry, especially when you’re not at home and the nearest food is likely to be heavily processed and/or expensive.
When you know you’re going to be out of the house for more than three hours, bring food! Something with a little protein is going to help keep you feeling full for longer, so throw some trail mix made of raw almonds, walnuts, pistachios and semisweet chocolate chips or a quality bar like the cashew cookie Larabar made of two whole ingredients: cashews and dates. Another great packable snack is buffalo or turkey jerky. It’s basically impossible to find them made without sugar, but Epic all natural meat bars are at least sweetened some with fruit juice instead of solely cane sugar.
If you want to get creative and fuel yourself proper for those crazy holiday errands, make a power smoothie before you venture out. You can literally create a perfectly balanced, nutritious meal in a single to-go cup. For best results, use a high speed blender and choose about 1 cup liquid, 1-2 scoops protein, about a thumb sized portion of fat, 1-2 handfuls vegetables, and 1-2 handfuls fruit from the list below.
- coconut water
- whole cow’s milk
- coconut milk (unsweetened)
- soy milk (unsweetened)
- almond milk (unsweetened)
- whey protein
- casein protein
- pea protein
- egg white protein
- hemp protein
- nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.)
- nut butters (peanut, almond, etc.)
- seeds (hemp, chia, flax, etc.)
- coconut oil
This list is of course, not all inclusive. Get experimental and see what combinations of flavors you enjoy. Making a shake to take with you on your busy days (and actually drinking it) or throwing some yummy snacks in your bag on the way out the door will be sure to help prevent the onset of hangry and the surrender to fast food or whatever other holiday junk you can get your starving hands on.
Tip #2: Make a Mental Plan
Before you head over to Aunt Jo’s or Grandma Jane’s house for a holiday feast, walk yourself through a mental game plan of what you’re going to enjoy. If you know you absolutely can’t go without a piece (or maybe two) of grandma’s blueberry pie, mentally plan to eat that. If you are a little obsessed with your aunt’s green bean casserole, by all means, mentally plan to eat it.
Basically, before you just dive right into the domino effect of appetizers, cocktails, dinner and dessert, ask yourself what you really want to enjoy and then plan it out in your head. For example, you could say to yourself, I’m allowing myself three appetizers (maybe that’s cheese and crackers, chips and dip, olives, a cookie, whatever), two cocktails (or glasses of wine, doesn’t matter), one full plate of dinner, and one serving of dessert (pie or whatever is available where you are of course). This way, you arrive knowing what you’re having and there is much less temptation to go back for thirds or fourths of something.
Tip #3: Eat Slowly
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I know everyone (including myself) is ecstatic. I mean, who doesn’t love turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes?! And PUMPKIN PIE! We build up and wait for this one special meal all year, slave in the kitchen from sunrise until dusk and then inhale an overflowing, extra-large plate of it in less than 10 minutes. If that doesn’t vaguely describe your past experiences, then great job, you’re ahead of the game. For most of us, the day usually ends in being miserably and regrettably stuffed.
This year, try a different approach. Consume the beautifully crafted, delicious meal with care. Savor every bite. Chew slowly. Pay attention to the flavors dancing on your taste buds. Do you notice sweetness, bitterness, sour, or savory? Take a mental note and appreciate every texture and taste. Physiologically, your brain and stomach need some time to communicate that you are full. This typically takes 15 to 20 minutes. Psychologically, taking this extra time to deeply enjoy your food rather than shovel it down, helps you to feel more satisfied off of less.
Tip #4: Understand Appropriate Portions
It’s easy to over eat any time of the year. Then Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years hit and it’s pumpkin spice this, hot cocoa that, and a sweet treat for every day of the week. We loose all control as marketing tactics create new found dietary desires. We find ourselves eating when we aren’t even hungry, portions that are way too large, of foods that are overly calorie dense. But, but, but… it’s the — stop right there! No more buts.
I’m not going to ask you to give up holiday treats or count calories. Although, you may need to enjoy in moderation rather than with the “well, it’s the holidays” attitude. So, if you’re not going to be tracking every gram of fat and calorie you put in your mouth, how are you going to understand portions? Easy! Your hand.
Yes, the one attached to your arm. It actually works perfectly as a guide because your hand is sized relative to the rest of your body, and thus to your needs. You can reference your hand when you’re gauging the correct portion sizes of different foods. It’s the best measuring tool because it’s easy and always with you.
Hand Portion Control Guide
- 1 serving protein = your palm
- 1 serving carbs = your cupped hand
- 1 serving vegetables = your fist
- 1 serving fat = your thumb
A general suggestion is for women to have one serving of each food at every meal and for men to have two servings of each at every meal (assuming you’re consuming 3-4 meals each day). This gives women a ball park daily intake of 1200 to 1600 calories and men a range of approximately 2300 to 3000 calories. This can of course be adjusted for things like having a larger stature, smaller stature, being more or less active, feeling hungry or not being able to finish your meals, etc.
Tip #5: Don’t Skip Your Workout
It’s the holiday season and you have a million things to do before you get in an Uber, on a train, and then a plane until eventually you arrive at your in-law’s house. Whatever the case may be — you’re busy. Time for exercise is unfortunately non-existent in your current life (or so it appears). But I need you to get real with yourself for a second here and consider the importance of staying active.
We all know that working out comes with a myriad of health benefits, yet a good chunk of the population still remains sedentary. This season, try implementing simple compound movements into your daily routine. If you can fit in 10 minutes of movement everyday, that’s perfect! Here’s what will do the 10-min trick:
Do 5 reps of each movement.
Don’t rest between movements.
Do 3-4 rounds.
After each round, rest 1-2 minutes.
- Bear crawl
- Weighted lunges
- Tricep dips
- Push ups
- Hip hinges
Keep posture in mind when you perform the above exercises. Good neutral posture consists of expanding the rib cage, drawing in your navel, and tucking your tailbone under so your spine is nice and straight. Never lunge or squat with your knees over your toes. If you can’t do a pushup without serious struggle, it’s okay to drop to your knees.
Not feeling confident in your form? Search YouTube for a reputable demonstration video. If you don’t have weights, you can do the lunges without them or find some heavy objects in your house. Performing these movements is going to help keep your muscles and joints mobile, reduce your stress level and put that excess sugar in your blood stream to good use.
This holiday season, I encourage you to utilize a few if not all of these tools. Put them in your tool box and use them throughout these hectic season of giving as well as the rest of the year. You might be surprised how much better you feel just by being a little bit more in control and on track.