Now that we are in early December, I am really starting to think about… drumroll please…. weight gain.
You probably thought that I was going to say Christmas, didn’t you? Well, you are sort-of right. The weight gain that I am thinking about is actually associated with Christmas and New Year’s…and to be perfectly honest, Thanksgiving and Halloween, as well.
This time of year is absolutely horrible to my body.
It is getting colder. So I know the number of days that I will have outside—and the more active lifestyle that the outdoors are conducive to—is fading away. I will be wearing big, bulky sweaters soon anyways, so I can just hide those few extra pounds and not worry about my weight until swimsuit season rolls around again.
We have soooo much candy from Halloween. I have three kids, who each hit the candy jackpot on October 31. Yes, I know that was well over a month ago, but the candy still lingers in the pantry… the candy is literally just staring at us every time we open the cupboard. I’m pretty sure the kids hear it calling their names because they ask several times a day if they can have a “treat.” And even though I can’t remember the last time that I actually bought a candy bar for myself, when these little bite-sized treats are around, it is very easy to tell myself that I can have one… or two, it’s really just a bite anyways, not very many calories or fat could possibly even be in something so small…
I want to enjoy the holidays. Christmas is coming. I don’t want to have to worry about counting calories at every family gathering or party that I attend. After all, nothing celebrates the birth of Jesus and ringing in the new year like excessive gluttony.
It is really easy to feel complacent about it too. I mean, these are all really good excuses as to why I will likely gain weight over the next few months, right?
This year, I am making a commitment to not allow myself the excuses and I am taking action. Now, I started before Halloween, but it’s still not too late to either change your eating habits, or lay out a plan, before Christmas to help you avoid gaining that extra holiday weight.
I am not starving myself to do this though. I am eating somewhat normally, but have just tweaked things a bit—and I have lost five pounds in the last six weeks. Ok, that may not sound like much, however, I lost weight instead of gaining it through Halloween and Thanksgiving—and that’s a pretty big deal.
I have decided to make certain lifestyle changes that I can live with and not feel that I am depriving myself or starving my body—because, ultimately, your body will reject that and you may end up gaining more weight than what you lost when you decide to stop “dieting.”
So what am I doing? How am I implementing small changes into my lifestyle? Here are 10 simple things that I am doing—and anyone can do—to be healthier and avoid the holiday weight gain:
Wear an activity tracker. Everyday. Simple, right? Throughout the day, I find it quite motivating to see my progress and if my steps are low, I know to pick it up a bit and go for a walk outside, get on the treadmill, or do something with the kids (they are always begging me to play soccer or basketball or catch…)
Drink a protein shake in the morning. I am not a breakfast person. Never have been. But, if I don’t have anything breakfast, I am so hungry by lunch time that I tend to eat too much or just make terrible, unhealthy choices because I simply want to eat something—anything—and the unhealthy choices are typically convenient. Drinking a breakfast shake gives my body the feeling of being satisfied because it takes away the hunger factor. Now, I have tried several different types of protein powder and definitely don’t like the ones that are infused with manufactured vitamins and minerals. Those tend to have a metallic-taste to me, and give me a headache. Plus, if it is something that I am going to barely be able to choke down, I can tell you that I won’t keep the habit as a part of my life. That is why I love the Complete Shakes from Juice Plus+. (Just so you know, I don’t recommend these because I am a consultant with the company, I am a consultant with Juice Plus because I love their products so much—and I have been trying different products and making a smoothie for breakfast since I was in college, so I have tried a lot!) They are whole food based—no artificial fillers, colors, or flavors—and they actually taste good, so this is a habit that I can keep.
Take a whole food supplement. Studies show that you are basically wasting your money on vitamins and supplements unless you are buying whole food supplements. In fact, a study by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center states, “Whole foods contain a wide array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and a number of other biologically active compounds, collectively known as phytonutrients. These phytonutrients, such as 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) in broccoli or isoprenoids and polyphenols in other vegetables, may work in concert to provide the best support for cancer prevention and control.” A whole food supplement is just that, a supplement to your diet. It does not replace eating healthy, but it does help to bridge the gap in your diet from what you are actually getting and what you should be getting.
Reduce the amount of processed foods that you eat. Many times, we turn to processed foods because they are basically dinner-in-a-box—they are convenient. While they may save you a bit of time, the nutritional value is definitely lacking… and you usually pay a bit of a premium for the convenience. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. For example, when you eat an apple, you are getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are naturally occurring in that particular food. When foods are processed, they have been refined in some way. The natural form has changed, and through this processing or refinement, the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals may have been stripped away, so you are only getting the nutrients from what is left.
Drink more water. This may be the easiest thing that you can do to improve your health. Simply. Drink. Water. There are several health benefits of drinking water, including:
- Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids
- Water Can Help Control Calories
- Water Helps Energize Muscles
- Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good
- Water Helps Your Kidneys
- Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function
If you are looking for more than just “plain” water to add to your diet, you may want to check out why some people drink salt water or lemon water…
Read nutrition labels. Making healthy food choices starts by knowing what is in the food that you are eating. Make choices that are: gluten-free, organic, no preservatives or added nitrates, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors.
Cut down on your intake of soda and alcohol. Just think of all the extra sugar and calories that you are consuming when you drink a can of pop. Not only are there health problems associated with drinking soda, such as a link to obesity, kidney damage, certain cancers, and even elevated blood pressure, but studies have also shown that you can actually lose weight when you do nothing else besides stop drinking soda.
Get enough sleep. It is sometimes hard to see the immediate connection between sleep deprivation and potential weight gain, but your body needs enough time to rest and repair so that you are able to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. If you are tired, then you may not have the energy to cook a healthy meal and may pick up fast food instead. You may also feel like you don’t have the energy to work out or be active, so you would choose to sit on the sofa and watch TV rather than going for a walk… and those choices to eat the fast food and be a couch potato, in turn, make you feel even more sluggish.
Make healthy snack choices. Instead of picking up a bag of potato chips, reach for fruits and veggies. It does take a bit of planning and work sometimes to make these snack available. But if you have a container in your refrigerator with carrot and celery sticks, pre-washed grapes, or apple slices, it is easier for you—and your kids—to reach for a healthier snack. I happen to just love these little California mandarin oranges… they are so sweet it can cure your sweet tooth as well—a much better choice than a cookie!
Breathe deep. Did you know that breathing exercises can help to reduce stress and anxiety, stimulate energy, and benefit physical and emotional health? And all of these things can help contribute to weight loss. Try these different breathing exercises, and breathe your way to better health:
- Deep Abdominal Breathing: Slow breathing exercises may affect corticol activity and help reduce anxiety, according to the report of A.W. Yuen and J.W. Sanders in “Can Slow Breathing Exercises Improve Seizure Control in People.” Shallow breathing can occur during times of stress. Deep abdominal breathing, which brings the breath deep into the belly, helps counteract shallow breathing and creates a sense of calm. Try this deep abdominal breathing technique to reduce stress and regain focus on your weight loss goals. Sit in a comfortable position and begin by slowly exhaling through your nose for a count of five. Let all the air in your abdomen out and imagine your stomach fully deflating. Pause at the bottom of the breath for two counts then slowly inhale for a five count, allowing your abdomen to fill back up with air. Repeat five to 10 times.
- Bellows Breathing Exercise: The bellows breathing exercise stimulates energy. Also referred to as the fire breath or stimulating breath technique, this exercise activates the lungs and chest to allow for normal breathing to occur, according to Marcelle Pick, OBGYN, NP in “Deep Breathing: The Truly Essential Exercise.” Perform the bellows breathing exercise by sitting up straight in a chair. Close your mouth and breathe in and out rapidly. Imagine your breath moving similarly to a bike pump. Continue the rapid breathing for up to 15 seconds to stimulate energy. Try performing this technique for a boost of energy before your workouts or cardio exercise.
- Three-Part Breathing: Breathing exercises benefit physical and emotional health. Use breathing consciously to influence the involuntary nervous system, which regulates bodily functions such as digestion and circulation. Try the three-part breathing exercise to influence your health and well-being. Begin by sitting comfortably. Exhale through your nose and slowly let the air flow out of your body. Release the air in a wave movement by letting the air out of the chest first, then the upper abdomen, and finally the diaphragm. Pause for two counts, then inhale slowly, reversing the order. Repeat for five to 10 breaths.
While I have this plan in place to live a healthier lifestyle, I will still be happy to partake in all the Christmas meals and goodies that will be around. Totally depriving yourself is not good, but overindulging isn’t an option either. As with anything—keep a healthy balance in mind.
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