As that first autumn leaf begins its descent, we indulge ourselves in a holiday eating marathon consumed with excess at every turn. It begins with the unwrapping of that first foil candy at Halloween. With chocolate still smeared across our palates, we turn our attentions to a plateful of turkey, stuffing and gravy with all the fixins’. But wait, it’s four weeks until Christmas and we engage in the holiday games filled with folly along with eggnog, cheese logs and good cheer, only to be followed by Judgment Day! Now it’s Jan. 2 and we’re suffering from a liberal dose of postprandial (after a meal) depression and a desire to address that time-honored tradition of resolution setting.
Our resolutions list usually includes saving money, spending more time at the gym and always ends with lose weight! We then foist upon ourselves the notion of a strict, calorie-reduced diet filled with a full-serving of strict deprivation and a side helping of guilt and shame for our previous holiday indulgences. “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” haunts us as each morsel of food passes our lips while the dreaded thought of bathing suit season lingers on our minds.
There is no quick fix or fast food option for undoing these newly acquired pounds healthfully. Out of desperation, we turn to the latest diet trend for help. Unfortunately, beyond giving you an initial sense of control over your eating patterns and portions, diets more often than not create a rebound effect. After a few days, cravings soon take hold along with hunger pangs and lowered energy due to all the low-calorie foods. The desire to rebel against the prevailing diet ensues and then the cheating and weight gain really begins.
If diets don’t work, then what’s the answer? It’s called eating sensibly regardless of the season. Weight loss happens naturally when you make conscious decisions about your eating and lifestyle habits. While these changes may not happen overnight (as seen on TV), they do take place over time in a meaningful way that won’t take its toll on your metabolism, energy balance, lean muscle mass and overall well-being. The bonus: enjoy food year-round while experiencing a life free of deprivation where you know how and why to feed your body with the appropriate types and amounts of foods that heal, build and sustain a healthful mind and body.
Here are a few helpful tips to consider before you consider embarking on an extreme diet:
1. Eat a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods. First and foremost, kick the junk food to the curb! Consuming fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats will make you feel full longer. These nutrient-dense foods will not only balance your blood sugar, they will also provide the necessary nutrients to sustain your activity levels throughout the day.
2. Drink the best quality water you can find. Most people are chronically dehydrated. We often mistake thirst for hunger. Try drinking a glass of water before giving into cravings. Avoid sugar, processed juices and high-calorie, sugar-laden drinks that will only create dips in blood sugar.
3. Consider eating a more plant-based diet and avoid empty calories. Plant foods are typically lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber than meat, dairy and processed foods. Try avoiding products with high-fructose corn syrup or a long list of ingredients that aren’t natural. These foods tend to be highly processed and loaded with empty calories.
4. Chew your food well and eat with intention. By thoroughly chewing your food, your body will better assimilate nutrients and you will also slow down your eating. (It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that the stomach is full). By slowing down, you’ll feel full and satisfied eating less. Avoid eating in front of the TV or the computer; instead, eat at a table and enjoy and appreciate the food you’re eating and the company sitting next to you. Stop eating when you’re 80 percent full – it takes practice.
5. Start your day with a healthful breakfast. Skipping meals causes your blood sugar levels to peak and dip, affecting your energy and moods. It will also cause you to overeat later in the day when you are unable to burn off the calories.
6. Exercise. Do any type of physical activity for 30 minutes every day.
7. Sleep and relaxation. Take time for sleep and relaxation. When you are sleep-deprived or stressed, your body will need extra energy, causing cravings for sugary snacks, caffeine and other stimulants to create an energy boost.
8. Spend more time with family and friends, be active and find your passion. This will leave less time for indulgences in foods that aren’t nourishing. Boredom and stress can also lead to overeating. Make sure to take time to laugh, play and participate in activities that bring you joy.
Valerie Breslow, CN, CHHC, AADP, Founder/Owner, The Wellness Box, is a holistic health and nutrition counselor who empowers clients to create nourishing and balanced lives for themselves by incorporating simple-to-follow, healthful food and lifestyle choices. She can be reached at 858-337-4217 or by visiting www.thewellnessbox.com.