This is the first of a three part series of how to manage what may seem like the inevitable slide toward less exercise and increased weight around the holidays. Fresh after Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about the range of ways the holidays affect us. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the attitude of “who cares, it’s time to celebrate! When’s a better time to just let loose, eat and drink all I want, and forget about what’s good for me for a while?” On the other end is the knowledge of how I’ll feel if I overindulge, and the aftereffects that last hours, and often days. I’m always seeking the middle ground.
This year, I had an interesting experience. There was less of a “how can I resist that” feeling, than a “that’s not my food” feeling. When I saw the stuffing, noodle pudding and cheesecake, I wasn’t as tempted. I’ve noticed a real shift to being less drawn to rich, high calorie foods. As usual, I roasted and brought a boatload of veggies to the Thanksgiving feast. The vidalia onions, beets, parsnips, eggplant, red and yellow peppers and sweet potatoes were so sweet and savory, I had no need for rich side dishes and desserts.
I prepared for this week by gradually decreasing my sugar intake, eating a bit less to shrink my appetite, and being conscious of eating slowly. On Thanksgiving day, after we drove the four hours to New Jersey, we took a nice walk, then went right to the big feast. Once we got there, I drank some hot tea and had a glass of wine before I ate. I often wolf down my food which is long-standing bad habit of mine. Instead, the drinks allowed me to eat more slowly. I loaded up my plate with the veggies, salad and some good, juicy turkey. I made a decision to not go for seconds, as I knew I’d be satiated after I filled up my plate one time. At one point, I found myself hanging around the food table after I ate. I began nibbling even though I was no longer hungry. I moved away from the table once I realized what I was doing- so easy to just keep eating! Here are a few strategies when confronted with the many opportunities to overindulge during the holidays:
- Drink hot liquids and plenty of water before you eat to increase the feeling of fullness.
- Make a decision ahead of time to avoid going for seconds. Allow yourself 20-30 minutes to eat and digest your first helping so your brain can register satiety.
- Position yourself away from the food during appetizer time and after you’ve eaten.
- Focus on filling at least 1/2 your plate with healthy options such as veggies and salad, and 1/4 of your plate with lean protein (no more than the size of a deck of cards ) to increase satiety (combination of protein and carbs will do this). The last quarter of your plate can be whole grains, but you can skip these if you’ve had your carb allotment for the day.
- Listen to your body- you may not even be that hungry. You may just eat because of the abundance of food around you and the fact that everyone around you is chowing down.
- Exercise before or after eating to stoke your metabolism. If you exercise within 2 hours of eating, the beneficial effects are maximized.
Using the techniques above, you can control your caloric intake. You can also reduce your chance of weight gain by stoking your metabolism. There’s a whole body of science which examines how to increase your metabolism through exercise. The higher the intensity of your workout, the longer you’ll experience EPOC, which is your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In my blog in the next few weeks, I’ll go into more detail on EPOC, or afterburn, which is the prolonged metabolic effect of exercise . Stay tuned to learn how to put the major components of weight management, exercise, and excellent food choices together to keep your weight on track during this holiday season. You’ll look better, feel better and have more energy to enjoy the season’s festivities!