Healthy THROUGH The Holidays

Healthy THROUGH The Holidays

Halloween has passed and that means that we’re once again in the Holiday season. Whether you love the holidays or love when the festivities are over, this time of year and the accompanying potential for burnout and weight gain are unavoidable. While not everyone will gain weight between November 1 and January 1 it IS something to keep in mind, particularly if you are already (or ever have been) overweight. If you have a history of being overweight you may find it more challenging to keep the weight off during the holidays and to lose that weight after January 2.

It could just sit there – on top of the five or ten pounds that you gained the year before (and the year before that). This is not a happy prospect.

It’s important to remember that the next two months represent almost 17% of the year. If you can honestly say that you have perfectly healthy habits during the rest of the year then you can ignore this message (and the few that will follow), but for the rest of us I have compiled a list of ways to keep that weight gain in check.

Trick Yourself

There are so many ways that we can trick ourselves into making good choices and this is a good time to practice all of them. For example:
You know that you will be eating at Great Aunt Jenny’s house tonight and that she is, by far the best cook in the entire world. There is no doubt that you will eat too much. So do you avoid eating all day in order to ‘save up’ the calories that you’re sure to pack in that night? No, please don’t!
Cutting back all day so you can indulge later will only backfire. By the time you get to dear Aunt Jenny’s house you will be STARVING and all self control will go out the window.
A better choice would be to make extra healthy choices all day (and maybe the next day too) and have a nutritious snack BEFORE heading out. That will ensure that you will at least be able to make intentional choices when faced with the lovely spread of your holiday favorites. As much as possible, make sure that your snack is full of healthy fats, vegetables, and protein, all of which will help you feel full. Once you approach the buffet, try to use a small plate, studies have shown that it tricks our brains into thinking that we are eating more.
Now if YOU happen to be the fabulous host, do your best to limit ‘tastes’ while cooking – those calories add up and you already know that recipe is fabulous. When dinner is ready leave the food in the kitchen and out of reach. With just the (small) plates on the table you will have to really want seconds – enough to go into the kitchen for them – which can help reduce food intake substantially. When dinner is finished do your best to pass those leftovers to someone else! You can invest in disposable ‘tupperware’ or ask your guests to bring their own but packing up leftovers does the double duty of making you look super generous and getting all of that high calorie food out of your house, you can freeze whatever is left.

But, how can you make sure that you’re making good choices when you’re so busy?

Track Yourself

With everything keeping you busy during the next couple of months it’s very easy to live on autopilot, forgetting all of the plans and goals that you have for yourself. That’s why today’s focus is keeping track of yourself. Think ahead to the new year, what will your goals be for 2016? Wouldn’t it be great if you were already on the right track when New Year’s Eve rolls around? While this thought could apply to any goal that you have, let’s keep the focus on health today.

Don’t get so busy that you stop paying attention. Keep weighing yourself, once a week is just fine, and I’ve read that you’ll get the most accurate weight on Wednesday mornings. If you keep a food journal already, keep it up throughout November and December (you can skip the big days if you’re so inclined, one meal isn’t what wrecks a diet, it’s weeks and months of bad choices). A food journal will help you avoid mindless (or stress) eating too. Whenever possible sit at the table and focus on the food in front of you. Chewing slowly and putting your fork down between bites can help calm you and lower your stress. Avoid eating in front of the TV, pocket the toothpicks that come with the canapes at the party so you know how many you’ve had (this works with drinks too) and WAIT before you take seconds, do a quick scan to make sure that you really need another helping of mashed potatoes.

Another thing to track is your water intake – Drink at least 8 cups of water each day, even though you’re less likely to feel thirsty in the colder months. Water is beneficial for so many reasons, not the least being that it has zero calories. One 8 to 16 oz drink of water before meals will help you feel full faster and eat less. If you plan on having (high calorie) alcoholic drinks or sodas, try to drink stagger drinks with water to help pace yourself and stay hydrated.

And I can never stress enough (to you or my teenagers) be sure to get enough sleep. Sleep loss is associated with appetite changes, accidents, and impaired judgement. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep every night and it wouldn’t hurt to check in to see how you stack up. There are several apps and bands that track sleep or you can just look at the clock before you turn out the light. Either way you can’t really make up for lack of sleep on the weekends, you have to make the time each night. So make your bed extra cozy and tuck yourself in (bedtime story optional).

And always remember to …

Take Care of Yourself

Now, back to those parties that will keep you busy throughout the next couple of months.

Even if you have eaten a healthy snack and are drinking water, social events have a way of destroying our resolve. Fortunately, I’ve found that my willpower is so much stronger when I am taking care of myself. The holidays mean packed schedules just as much as packed tables so it’s important to be intentional when it comes to self-care.

Since eating right can have a big impact on how you feel that’s always an important first step but as we discussed yesterday, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the feast. Being the great guest that you are, I’m sure that you’re planning on bringing a contribution so help everyone out by bringing a tasty low cal alternative, this can be especially helpful for those of us with restricted diets who want to make sure there’s something to eat at the party. This isn’t the best time to try to stick to a strict diet – you just might lose your mind and eat an entire cake! So go ahead and enjoy your favorites, especially if they only make their appearance during the holidays but limit your indulgences to small portions and make sure that it’s something worth the calories. So if your granny makes baklava for Christmas (like the lady I worked for in my early twenties) enjoy your decadent treat free of guilt, chew slowly, and savor every bite (oh, and eat one for me, I sure miss Vasilka). While we’re talking about food please understand that it’s time to let go of the ‘clean your plate’ mentality. Give yourself permission to be choosy about what you put on your plate (again – healthy fats, vegetables, and protein) and don’t let anyone push you to take seconds unless you really want them! Now, not to be a downer but it’s always best to limit your alcohol intake. In all of it’s forms, alcohol is high in calories and you take the risk of losing control over what you eat when you’re drinking. If you don’t want to be empty-handed at the office party, sip on club soda or water instead. And really? While food is fun, the focal point of holiday gatherings and parties should be people – not food. So mingle, laugh and dance, you won’t regret it in the morning!

Even when you aren’t in full social butterfly mode it can be so easy to run yourself ragged this time of year. Be sure to take a little time each day for yourself – a bubble bath, chat with a friend, or curling up with a good book in front of the fire can be incredibly restorative and can help you avoid stress eating too (a sure way to blow your healthy eating plan).
Last (but clearly not least), you must move your body! With cooler temperatures and a longer list of ‘To Dos’ it is so easy to skip exercise this time of year, but movement is important to every single system in your body. Exercise helps you sleep better, aids digestion, improves cognitive function, and reduces stress. So go for a walk (it’s great to get outside) or dance in the kitchen with your kids or significant other (a favorite in our house) for heart strengthening cardio and do Minute Movement throughout the day to keep your body limber and toned so you look your best in all of those family photos! If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to commit to becoming a Minute Mover, you’ll be glad you did!

Change Your Mind

Change Your Mind

I have long struggled with my weight. Regardless of how much exercise I do it’s a challenge for me but there are big things coming up for our family so I  really want to see some improvement. So the past two weeks, our family has been on a very strict diet (kind of a sugar detox). We based our eating plan on the 10-Day Detox Diet by Dr Mark Hyman, MD but with a few alterations here and there.

One cool thing with Dr Hyman’s book is the daily reflections and journaling prompts. While I wrote in my journal one of the nights it occurred to me that I was treating junk food and sweets as if they were a necessary part of my diet instead of keeping them in their proper place. So I jotted this in the corner ‘Treat, treats as treats … Not a food group’.

Does anyone else treat treats like a food group?

I won’t anymore!

Do You Have a Minute?

Do You Have a Minute?

My migraines are in full force this week and I am in complete survival mode. That means taking care of myself, getting a LOT of sleep, and cutting my tasks list to the bare necessities. It doesn’t help that this is also one of the three busiest times of the year (Christmas-time and late spring wrap up that tricky trinity). So I can’t stop thinking about ways to be more efficient (and less crazy)!

So this week, just in case any other Minute Movers are feeling overwhelmed I will share a few articles that I’ve recently found helpful; the first of which is  by Christy Wright (speaker, writer, and coach whose articles I often find via Dave Ramsey’s Facebook page). In ‘Do Less to Live More’, Christy addresses the harmful nature of hurrying and why we should instead appreciate and USE any pockets of free time that occur in our schedule – as free time. Be sure to read her article, it’s great. I’ve been taking her advice and feeling so much more relaxed because of it!

What about you? Do you try to cram one more thing into every window of opportunity, or do you take a minute to regroup when you find yourself with a little free time?

Miracle Grow!

Miracle Grow!

Aaron and I enjoy our little ‘urban garden’ and I love the way zucchini takes over my currently-in-progress side-yard bed, making it look SO MUCH MORE lush than it really  is all summer! I almost stumbled over the biggest zucchini I have ever seen last night as I was walking up to the house so I picked that baby and Aaron grilled it for our supper – but not before I took a photo for posterity. 

I may have said in the spring that I completely adore watching plants grow and flowers bud and it’s so fun to (literally) eat the fruits of our labor. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy without a little garden plot. What about you? What plants do you most enjoy tending to?

PS – We don’t actually use ‘Miracle Grow’, our garden is totally organic – another bonus of doing it ourselves!


Not Perfect

Not Perfect

Last week Coach Wright and I took our little family on a road trip, mostly to tour a couple of schools that our oldest is interested in (gasp – I can’t believe he’ll be off to college next fall).

Despite being on a fabulous fitness and nutrition streak prior to our departure, those nine days were a vacation from EVERYTHING. Other than setting up posts to ensure that our followers wouldn’t feel like they were being neglected, we almost completely unplugged and let the vacation vibe take over.

It was wonderful!

But hours in the car, no kitchen, and late nights driving or bingeing on the Food network (my poor cable impaired foodies love those shows) means that our fitness, nutrition, and sleep were horribly neglected. Fortunately campus tours and sightseeing DID allow us to ‘get our steps’ (and then some) several days but at one point Aaron mentioned our bad choices and this is what we came up with.

We rarely take time off to travel and we make mostly good health choices during the course of our regular lives so this one week out of probably 100 (we hardly ever travel) really isn’t going to impact our health all that much.

So we enjoyed ourselves and each other. We completely relaxed and de-stressed.

And it was GREAT.

Lots of fitness programs can leave you feeling like you have to be super-human and perfect in order to be healthy. The reality is that doing your best, most of the time is probably sufficient – maybe not to win a triathlon or to compete in a bodybuilding competition – but it’s certainly enough to help you look and feel good. And that’s all most of us are looking for.

Now I need to make a grocery store run before I resort to a mustard sandwich for dinner tonight!

So, take a break if you need to and then jump back in to

Make Your Minutes Matter!



I may have said before that I’m not a fan of BMI. This opinion was solidified a few years ago when one of my kids was in 3rd grade.  Some wonderful organization comes to our elementary school to check students for various health points and then sends a little update to the parents.  Unfortunately our update stated that my (still growing) child was classified ‘obese’ The letter wasn’t secured in any way so my child (and any classmates) could have easily seen that label and it could have stuck for years.

The thing is,  we go to our well child visits religiously and if our pediatrician were concerned he would have talked with us about it.  Children tend to experience weight fluctuations for many reasons. Not to mention the fact that their little bodies aren’t fully mature. Clearly no one had actually looked at my child or they would have never labeled one ‘obese’ risking a future filled with eating disorders and low self esteem.

That’s why I love this article and especially the included graphic showing that not all BMI’s are created equally.  Our family, for instance tends to be muscular and carries our weight more in the lower body so even when we are very fit our BMI tends to be on the higher side.  According to the article ‘…body fat percentage and body composition are more important indicators of health than weight alone. That puts the emphasis on exercises that don’t just burn calories, but also build muscle.’ – Minute Movement is a great way to build muscle so check it out now and …
Make Your Minutes Matter!