Did you know that 52% of annual weight gain occurs over the holidays? Taking a walk when you’re tempted to indulge and standing by the veggie tray instead of the fudge are good tips, but here are some uncommon holiday tips to help you prevent that holiday bulge and manage your weight throughout the year.
1. Get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep is associated with weight gain, insulin resistance and even cancer! A lack of sleep decreases the fat-regulating hormone and increases the hunger hormone. It also reduces your ability to make good choices. Thus, not sleeping well will make it more difficult to stay away from unhealthy, tempting treats as well as more likely you’ll be packing on the pounds.
2. Fast for 8-12 hours every night. This means consuming only water, tea or coffee with no added milk or sugar. This is counter to the popular advice of eating every couple hours, but our bodies were built for cycles of feast and famine. If we’re constantly in the feast mode, our bodies don’t switch over to processes that repair and rejuvenate.
Studies support beneficial effects from intermittent fasting, which may promote:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Normalizing the hunger hormone
- Fat burning
- Slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Boosting production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which protects your brain from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
If you’re overweight, limit your fasting to 8 hours. If you’re diabetic, consult your healthcare professional for recommendations.
3. Start your day with a green smoothie. Front-load good nourishment and pack in lots of good phytonutrients before things have a chance to go sideways. By loading your body with the nutrients it needs, you’ll be less likely to experience hunger and cravings.
Be sure to include some quality fat in your smoothie for better digestion and blood sugar management. Nuts and/or seeds are a great addition for that purpose. Stay clear of cereal, toast and juice, which will start a blood-sugar rollercoaster.
4. Hara Hachi Bu – Eat until you’re 80% full. This is a cultural habit of calorie control practiced by Okinawans who are known for longevity and extended health as well as an 80% lower rate of heart disease than Americans. Research shows calorie reduction can slow aging and increase longevity as well as benefit gut health, which is where most disease originates. Conversely, chronic overeating is associated with increased risk for cancers.
I’m not a fan of calorie counting or “low-calorie” dieting, but it’s really easy to eat more calories than needed when eating empty calories instead of high-fiber, nutrient-dense foods. I am a fan of crowding out the bad stuff with good stuff. Eating 3 cups of dark, leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur-rich vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, etc. and 3 cups of other brightly colored foods (including fruit) every day leaves little room or desire for other foods.
While you’re attending a holiday party is probably not the easiest time to try implementing this practice, but practicing it at other times will help incorporate it into your lifestyle and train your body to want and need less food when attending functions where you might have less control.
5. Wear snug, flattering clothing. This should help keep you from overeating or indulging in anything that tends to cause you to bloat as well as make you feel good about yourself.
6. Identify your food sensitivities and cravings. Addressing weight gain requires addressing food sensitivities because a reaction to a food can lead to inflammation, damage to the stomach and/or intestinal linings and inadequate digestion. When the body is in a state of chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, obesity and other problems may follow.
Ironically, we often crave the very foods to which we are sensitive. Consider sugar and the gluten found in modern wheat, barley and rye. Sensitivities to these items are very common as are cravings for foods containing them. Sugar is addictive because it triggers production of your brain’s natural opioids. Gluten is notorious for causing leakage in the intestinal lining and once in the bloodstream becomes a potent drug with morphine-like properties.
7. Commit to loving yourself. When you commit to truly loving yourself, you are less apt to feed the temple of your soul things you know will harm it. Sure, we all slip up once in a while, but a paradigm shift occurs when you truly commit to being healthy and enjoying life!
Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, I can’t offer personal nutritional advice online and as a nutritional therapist I do not diagnose or treat disease.