The holidays are a special time of year that most of us celebrate with family, traveling, and vacationing. No matter how you spend the holidays one thing we all see plenty of is...FOOD! It won’t be long before members start bringing in trays of sweet treats to pass around here at the Y. No place is off limits when it comes to holiday goodies! When you add in cold weather and crockpots, we are in trouble before the first holiday even arrives.
Being born and raised in California made it difficult for me to adjust to winters in the Midwest. I gained twenty pounds every winter the first decade I lived here. You heard that right, TWENTY! The second decade I was able to dwindle it down to a mere ten pounds. The last few years, I’ve made it to spring with little to no damage.
Here are some of the habits I have developed over the years that have helped me stay healthy through the holidays.
- Pick one weekend to bake. I used to bake cookies with my kiddos every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas, that’s a lot of cookies!
Find healthier ingredient options for your favorite treats and menu options to use less fat and sugar.
► Treats at the Office:
Just say no! Willpower is a skill that can be developed with practice. You may notice it feels good to take charge of your health this way. If anyone gives you a hard time about it remember two things, misery loves company, and no one can take charge of your health but you.
► Choose Wisely:
Only indulge on your favorite things. At the end of the day, it’s not that you “can’t” have these things, but only indulging on the things you love can drastically reduce your fat and sugar intake.
I always tell people, no thank you, to new high fat/sugary foods by saying, “I don’t need to add anything to my list of favorite things.” Feel free to use this line yourself!
Did you know that hunger can be confused with thirst, or that an early sign of dehydration is feeling thirsty? You can stay ahead of both when you sip your water throughout the day. How much should you be drinking? The easiest thing you can do is keep an eye on your urine. If it’s dark, that’s another early sign of dehydration.
Avoid drinking your calories. Most drinks do not provide any nutrients with the calories, alcohol surely does not, which is why we call them “empty” calories. At 150-500 calories per drink, they only add to your waistline.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and decreases your ability to control your choices. Double whammy!
If you still decide to drink alcohol, drink some water between drinks to stay hydrated, and clear headed. Staying hydrated can also help with that next morning headache!
► Plan Ahead!:
Don’t go hungry! If you’re full of good stuff you won’t have as much room to indulge.
Have a light healthy meal before, and/or after, to increase your nutrient intake and decrease your overall caloric intake for the day. You can absolutely ruin a whole week of healthy eating in one day.
► Take Your Time:
It takes approximately twenty minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send the signals of fullness. Eat slow and take a break before going back for more.
► Get Physical!:
Calories burned during physical activity will help your waistline by lowering your overall caloric intake for the day.
It will help your mind and health too! Remember, this shouldn’t just be about numbers on the scale but family, fun, and good health.
The holidays only come around once a year, so if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. All that matters is how fast you get back on track. Avoid eating leftovers for days post-holiday and get back to those good health habits as soon as possible. Eat foods that make your body feel better and keep moving. As winter sets in, it’s an important time to stay active to stave off the winter blues and extra pounds. Many moons ago when I was actively losing big pounds, I still ate cake on my birthday, pie on Thanksgiving, cookies on Christmas, and still met my goals. Focus on moderation, health, and movement and you can’t go wrong.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, and whatever you eat, enjoy the rare and blessed time with loved ones. Happy Holidays YMCA family!
Amber Cornist, Armbrust YMCA Health & Wellness Director