The holidays are finally upon us! This probably means you are about to become consumed with shopping, cooking, baking, and cleaning. And it’s quite possible that your health and your weight will suffer a bit if you don’t pay special attention to them and start practicing better habits now that will serve you in the coming weeks.

Here are some strategic tips to help you stay healthy and manage your weight during these busy holidays. Before I go on, I want you to realize that you have to do something different if you want to have different outcomes, as Albert Einstein points out.

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A reminder from one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

One of the first things I suggest is to remain active or get active if you’re not. Winter is a tough time to start working out. It’s cold, snowy, windy, slushy, etc. And if you’re like me, you don’t want to leave your warm flannel sheets and get your workout gear on to head out to the gym. But if you’re wanting results, you’ll do the hard things. Don’t overthink it. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

Here are some simple and free ways to get some cardio in while keeping up with your busy day. If you have a DVD player, check out some workout DVDs at your local library. Zumba, P90X, or Jillian Michaels are some of the inspiring workout videos you may find. Here are the current top 20 workout DVDs you may want to look for: Best Workout DVDs 2018 – A Buyer’s Guide

How about these ideas for more movement: Take a walk around the block after a large meal. Walk with a friend or dog. Walk briskly. Or park in a faraway spot in parking lots. Walk up the stairs whenever you can. Headed the 4th floor? Challenge yourself by using the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Or pick up a new hobby like dance, swimming or wiffleball.

Another key element to weight management is decreasing your hunger. And having sufficient protein and fiber in your diet will help. I’m not suggesting you overload on these things, as that may have the reverse effect. Understand you don’t need an enormous amount of either, but you do need a sufficient amount for your body. And each body is different, so you need to experiment and determine what is best for you. The right amount of protein can help you curb feelings of hunger between meals.

Since most people only think of meat when I say protein, I want to suggest some nuts, vegetables, and legumes that have plenty of protein:

  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Spinach
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans

And for some natural sources of fiber, consider any of the following:

  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Crunchy vegetables
  • Unprocessed foods

Given this information, what new protein or fiber will you try this season?

Another strategy for managing weight is drinking more water. Dehydration masquerades as hunger. So if you feel hungry, you might actually be thirsty. I suggest drinking at least 8 ounces of water when you have a craving for anything. And pay attention to real hunger cues as you may not even feel hungry after fully quenching your thirst.

Water is also beneficial because it lubricates your joints and muscles, boosts metabolism and helps you shed water weight. Consider drinking half your body weight (in ounces) of water. So if you weigh 130 lbs., you might consider drinking 65 ounces of water. Yes, that may sound like a lot. But it will benefit you so much, and lessen your hunger overall. Remember, sugary drinks and caffeine cancel out the good effects of water, so drink extra water when you dehydrate with these drinks.

Get better sleep! Sleep affects hormones, mood, and mental capacity which helps you make better choices throughout the day. Regular poor sleep habits often snowball into health problems. For example, you get poor sleep, then you need extra caffeine to wake up (more lattes = more sugar), skip your workout routine (too tired to workout so you feel sluggish), eat fast food (because you don’t have time to cook), feel more sluggish and get indigestion (because of the poor food choices), and get poor sleep again because of the indigestion and moodiness that comes from this entire cycle. Can you see how easy it is for your health to spiral downward with poor sleep?

A great way to slow down food intake is to practice mindful eating. When we slow down our food intake we are more able to have an appreciation for the food on our plate and for the preparation of it. I also suggest you spend some time noticing the food on your plate with all your senses. Notice the look, the colors, the portions, the smell, the taste, and the texture as you bite into it. Is it crunchy, smooth, creamy, hot, warm, cold? Is it savory, spicy, sweet? Don’t judge it as good or bad. Simply notice it. Regular practice of mindful eating will not only help improve your appreciation for your food but will help you slow down your eating, thereby feeling fuller faster and less likely to overeat.

Stress is a big reason for weight gain in general and the holidays can bring a tremendous amount of stress. Stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which stimulates appetite and may cause weight gain and other health problems. More stress may cause you to skip meals and make poor food choices. To learn more about the science behind stress, cortisol, and weight gain, check out this article: The Stress, Cortisol and Weight Gain Connection (& How to Stop it)

Another tip for managing your weight over the holidays is to watch your meal portion sizes. Remember, your meat should be no larger than the size of your palm. And HALF of your plate would ideally be filled with nutritious vegetables. (Note that white potatoes and corn are not the most nutritious vegetables!) Green veggies, root veggies, sweet potatoes or a salad all make good side dishes. Use smaller plates or dishes if you wish to, as they will look full without making you feel uncomfortably full.

And last but not least, one of the best suggestions I would have for managing weight is to avoid processed foods. It’s so easy to eat food out of a bag, box or can. Or even head to your nearest fast food joint. But processed foods are stripped of nutrients and often full of sodium, sugar or other allergens. It’s a best practice to prepare your own meals. And incorporating more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds into your meals will result in more positive effects on your health.

I hope you try to start a new habit and start feeling the good effects soon! Have a happy and healthy holiday!

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