How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Instead of pursuing weight loss during the holidays, a better strategy might be to focus on preventing weight gain. Why such a conservative goal? Ask anyone who is actively trying to lose weight and they will tell you that the stretch between Halloween and New Year’s Day is the most difficult. Instead of focusing on the health challenges (which we are all familiar with), we can focus on strategies for overcoming.

First of all, meditate on the rewards of living a healthy lifestyle. Why not just indulge yourself for the remaining weeks and get “back on track” in January? That’s what a lot of people do, but it will not be any easier in February than it is right now. New Year’s resolutions fade quickly. When you get off track, take a deep breath and refocus. There are many reasons not to delay, but here are the most compelling reasons I’ve heard:

  • Feelings of empowerment. For once, food is not controlling you, but you are in control of food
  • Decreased feelings of guilt and shame
  • Increased energy
  • Weight maintenance or weight loss
  • Better control of diabetes
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased mental fatigue
  • Greater mobility
  • Better health
  • Less stress (You’ve planned for success and you know what to expect)

We always, always talk about the rewarding aspects of eating well and exercising. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much you may think you want to lose weight, the rewards of the lifestyle change must be greater than the cost involved. Many sacrifices are involved in losing weight, but I don’t know of one person who would say that the results are not worth it. So again, just get clear about your personal motivations for losing weight and adjust as you move along in the journey.

So if you decide to go counter culture and commit yourself to balance during the holiday season (while most others are literally eating and drinking themselves sick), then here are some practical strategies to help keep you on track. Most of these strategies have been tested by scientist and expert Brian Wansink who runs the Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. He is also the author of Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, which I highly recommend reading if you are trying to lose weight. Visit his website here.

Strategies to help you avoid holiday weight gain:

  • Survey, then change your environment. Set yourself up for success by keeping junk food out of sight and out of mind. Clear the home and work environment, and if that’s not an option, distance yourself as much as possible from the polluted environment (i.e., stay out of the work break room)
  • Don’t arrive to parties famished. Have a meal or light snack ahead of time so you won’t be physically hungry
  • Wear your best belt or fitted clothes
  • Fill up on crudites and vegetables (fiber)
  • Don’t drink your calories. Sparkling water, unsweet tea and zero calorie, zero sugar beverages only
  • Eat off of a smaller plate. This has a profound psychological effect causing you to eat less
  • Have some protein! Lean proteins such as boiled shrimp or grilled chicken help with satiety
  • Don’t hang around the buffet table. Take the conversation in another room. Better yet, get outside or take a walk
  • Distract your hands by drinking herbal tea or La Croix
  • Chew gum
  • Just say no and practice being assertive

Finally, have the right mindset. What are your intentions when you attend parties and gatherings? Ultimately, each person is unique in regard to their goals and motivations. Attitude and “how” you eat is almost more important that “what” you will eat. If you’re intention is to lose weight during the holidays, that’s great. If you are dedicated and committed to this goal, you WILL lose weight during the holidays. If your goal is to maintain weight during the holidays, that is also noble. If you stay focused, you will avoid the holiday weight trap that so many Americans fall into.

As always, I’m so encouraged to be surrounded by people that do not choose the path of least resistance and instead choose to put their health first. You inspire others without knowing. Kudos to you for working hard all year round and get ready to encourage those New Year’s Resolution health seekers. January 2017 here we come!

10 Things You Should Know (Sincerely, Nutrition Solutions)

This week in class we talked about our programs at Nutrition Solutions.  If you weren’t able to make it, here’s the main points:

  1. We care and we are here to support you.  You are emotionally invested in your transformation and we are right there along side with you. It’s like having a team work for you.
  2. We are the nutrition experts, but you are the experts over your health. Sustained weight loss occurs when a person begins to understand their personal reasons for weight loss (Intrinsic Motivation), which is very different than extrinsic motivation. Your ability to communicate honestly and openly with your coach, friends and family is an integral part of your success. We probe. We listen. We ask more questions. It’s a personalized approach and it’s what works.
  3. Meal replacements work, but it’s not a diet. We provide evidence-based approaches for weight loss, but if you approach this as just another diet, well, that’s just what you’ll get. Diets alone will not cause the transformation necessary for sustained weight loss. It’s important to understand the challenges involved in weight loss such as environment, support, stress and sleep, in addition to the nutrition and exercise.
  4. Hyperpalatable foods are highly addictive. Hyperpalatable foods are “food-like” substances (credit Michael Pollan). It’s all the foods that are engineered to taste really, really good. Betcha can’t just eat one! Think Dorrito’s, Ben & Jerry’s and just about almost all processed foods you find packaged in a grocery store. These foods are so rewarding that it’s almost nearly impossible to put down after just one bite. I find that when a person understands how these foods affect their biology, it actually sets them free. When they began to eat whole, unprocessed foods their body begins to heal and portion control happens more naturally.
  5. Take advantage of the full program. This ties into number 3. We provide educational group classes, one-on-one coaching, cooking demo’s, grocery tours, chef-prepared meals and online tools. What this amounts to is a lot of support, education and accountability. Your time and effort in the program will be worth it.
  6. You have to be active. People that lose weight and keep it off commit themselves to daily exercise. A minimum of 150 minutes per week is necessary, but some individuals need upwards of 300 minutes per week. There’s no one-size fits all approach when it comes to exercise either. It’s important to vary the intensity and duration as well. If the word exercise conjures up negative feelings for you, reframe it. Think of it as movement or activity. I personally like to think of it as the best anti-depression/anti-anxiety/anti-aging/immune-boosting/pain-relieving drug ever known, and it’s free. Exercise is not optional.
  7. Weight loss is not simply going on a diet. Causes of weight gain are complex and so the treatment should be comprehensive. What to eat is pretty straightforward and I’ll quote Marion Nestle: “Eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and don’t eat too much junk food!” Exactly how to accomplish that requires no less than a complete lifestyle change for most people.
  8. Come in when you least want to. Whether it’s coming to weekly classes, or meeting with your dietitian or weight loss coach, showing up is half of the battle. We understand it’s hard to come in when your week hasn’t gone as planned. Maybe stress got the best of you and you fell back on some old eating habits, or maybe you’ve attended one too many holiday parties. Regardless of your feelings, show up. Don’t let guilt and shame interfere with you getting the support and encouragement you need.
  9. To lose weight (and Keep it Off), you must get more sleep, manage stress and find support.  Sleep: aim for 7-9 hours. Stress: find ways to respond differently. Chronic sleep deprivation and chronic stress make it nearly impossible to lose weight. We discussed some of the biological causes for this in class, but a quick google search will convince you. Support: who do you have in your inner circle? If your friends aren’t fully supportive of the new you, it may be time to prune back. Surround yourself with people who are committed to healthy life-giving behaviors–friends that will ask you to yoga, or bike ride or take a walk.
  10. Weight loss is a journey. Weight loss is rarely a straightforward process and a person will cycle through a variety of setbacks. THIS IS NORMAL. It’s quite likely that no one ever discusses this fact, but if you ask anyone who has lost weight, they will share their personal struggles and relapse. It’s especially important to practice self-compassion in the times when you feel the least worthy of it. It’s a bumpy journey, but a journey worth taking. And finally, breathe in. Breathe out. The holidays are almost behind us and a new year awaits you. Get ready for 2017. It’s going to be great.