Habits

The Holiday Season is in Full Swing…How to Avoid the Overeating and Weight Gain

For many of us the holiday season is both stressful and enjoyable.  Stressful from ensuring the gifts get bought and wrapped in time, to getting those big meals cooked and on the table.  Enjoyable because it’s a festive time with pretty lights, gift giving, office celebrations, and gatherings with friends and family.

Underneath the festive nature of the holiday season lurks the overindulgence of food and disruptions to our time to exercise.  So, how can you manage your way around the food at the parties, at the holiday dinner table, and the home baked goodies in the office, so you don’t find yourself a few pounds heavier in the New Year?  Here are some tips to help you still enjoy the holidays without the guilt of weight gain.

Rather than trying to adhere to all the suggestions below, pick the 1 or 2 you can be most successful with and stick to those 80-90% of the time. 

  1. Plan ahead for the holiday parties.  There are several things that can help you navigate the food temptations at parties. 
    • Don’t arrive hungry.  This will most likely cause you to eat more and choose foods you normally wouldn’t.  Instead, eat a light protein-based snack before the party.
    • If it’s a potluck party, bring a healthy dish.  This way if the other dishes are high in fat and calories, you and the other guests have an alternative.
    • First, fill your plate with vegetables and lean meat.  Leave off the desert.  After you’ve finished your plate, wait 10-15 minutes before heading for the desert.  This will give you time to feel satiated, so when you reach for that desert you’ll be more likely to choose the one you most want.
    • If you are the host, send guests home with to-go containers of the leftovers.  If you are a guest, either take one serving of what you really want, or politely use the excuse you have too much at home and it would go to waste if you took it.

2.  Enjoy your holiday food favorites without the guilt.  At the holiday dinner table, what can you skip all together in order to enjoy one of those foods that are cooked special for the holiday?  For example, can you skip the bread, mashed potatoes, etc., that you can get any day of the year in favor of indulging in the candied sweet potatoes?

3.     Keep holiday treats and snacks out of sight.  Out of sight out of mind as they say.  To avoid mindlessly eating high calorie treats, put them in opaque containers on a higher shelf, or if they can be, freeze them in individual servings. 

4.     Stay active.  This is a busy time of the year which can easily derail any exercise routine.  Try working out first thing in the morning to avoid schedule conflicts later in the day.  If all you can spare is 10-15 minutes, you can get a quick body weight workout at home (i.e., squats, plank, push-ups, triceps dips), or take a brisk walk (or jog) in the cooler winter air.

Lastly, be realistic.  Holidays are centered around food, family and fun.  One day of splurging won’t break your fitness and nutrition efforts.  Just be careful one day doesn’t turn into many days or weeks.  Also, avoid dieting during the holidays.  It is one of the most difficult times of the year to lose any weight or weight gain with all the temptations facing you.  Focus on maintaining your weight rather than losing it with the tips provided above.

Want to Lose Weight and Perform Your Best? Avoid Telling Yourself This…

When it comes to weight loss and exercise, there is a missing ingredient in those diets and fitness routines that rarely, if ever, gets included and talked about.  And, it has a greater impact on how successful you can be reaching your weight loss and fitness goals, and being able to perform your best both professionally and personally.  That is, what you tell yourself matters.

Successfully Lose Weight and Keep it Off – Start by Eliminating These 2 Words from Your Vocabulary

Your thoughts and feelings have a great influence on how you act, or not, on something.  If you have a negative emotion towards it, say about exercising, then it’s likely you will not be rushing to do that cardio workout or pick up those weights.  This limits how often you exercise, and increases the chances you won’t lose weight or have the energy to perform your best.  Alternatively, if you have a positive emotion towards something, say eating a healthy diet, then it’s likely you will find ways to eat better more often.

But, telling yourself to be more positive likely isn’t going to solve the problem of exercising more often or eating a healthy diet.  Instead, consider the words you use.  Avoid saying these 2 words to yourself – “Should” and “Can’t,” and replace them with something different.

Why is “Should” so Bad?

Think about how it sounds, feels, or looks like when you say, “I should have exercised this week,” “I should exercise tomorrow,” “I should eat better.”  I should, I should, I should.  That word strongly implies an obligation or a sense of duty of having to do something, not out of choice.  Here’s what happens:

  • It decreases the feeling of having a personal choice, desire, and empowerment to act.
  • It’s a form of self-criticism and we feel bad about ourselves for not doing something that we know is good.
  • It decreases self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.

Contrast this with saying, “I want to exercise so I can lose weight,” “I am eating healthier (even if all you’ve done is substitute one unhealthy item for a healthier one),” “I desire to be stronger and more fit.”  Words like these are much more empowering and create a greater desire to do something that is good.

Why “Can’t” is Bad

The reason for avoiding this word is obvious.  If you tell yourself you can’t do something, well then you’ve convinced yourself you can’t.  It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  For example, have you ever said to yourself, “no matter how hard I try I can’t lose weight,” or “I’ve tried a handful of diets and I still can’t lose weight,” or “I can’t exercise, I’m too busy today.” 

The key is to be aware of the word when you use it.  With awareness comes change.  When you catch yourself saying “can’t,” ask yourself what you can do.  It could be as simple as, “I can eat a piece of fruit today,” or “I will get up from my desk and take a short brisk walk to get a bit of exercise and clear my head.” 

What you tell yourself matters.  It matters if you want to lose weight, be more fit, eat a healthier diet, or perform your best personally and professionally.  So, tell yourself nice things and this will increase your chances of achieving your goals.

Make Fitness a Lifestyle Instead of a Goal to be Reached

If being healthy and fit is important, why do so many of us fail at it?  It’s not from a lack of trying.  Truth is, each year consumers spend billions of dollars on weight loss products, diet programs, supplements, gym memberships, etc.  We spend this money to reach a goal of losing those 20, 30, 40…extra pounds we’ve been carrying around, getting 6-pack abs we see on TV, or being 60 and moving like a 30-year old.  

Are these goals bad or unachievable?  Of course not.  It’s important to know what you are shooting for.  But, it’s more than just about a goal.  It’s about creating a lifestyle, and it’s not as hard as you think.  In fact, you just might be more successful…Here’s why.  

What Happens When We Set a Goal?

Three unfortunate things tend to happen when we set a goal(s):

  1. We have unrealistic expectations.  Those 20+ pounds?  We try to lose them in a matter of weeks.  6-pack abs?  “My body can look like his/hers if I work hard enough.”  60 the new 30?  “All I need is that supplement.”
  2. We go to extremes, we try to do too much too fast.  We jump all in on the latest fad diet or workout trend only to exhaust ourselves, burn out, quit, and feel like a failure.
  3. We look at that goal(s) as the end all.  Once we reach it we think we are done.

Of course, as mentioned above, having a goal is important.  If you don’t know what you want to achieve, then shooting for something intangible is a sure miss.  We have to have goals.  But, if we focus more on making health and fitness a lifestyle, then our chances of not only reaching the goal, but maintaining what we achieved, are even greater.  

A Fit and Healthy Lifestyle…Yours for the Taking

Let’s look at 5 simple ways to make fitness a lifestyle.  Don’t try to do all 5 at once.  Just take one at a time until it is a part of who you are, then move on to what you think you can do next.

  1. Don’t deprive yourself of the foods you love, as it rarely lasts before you eat them again.  Instead, make them healthier.  Love pizza?  Make your own dough (it’s actually quick and easy) and load it up with more fresh vegetables than meat.
  2. Find exercise you like to do.  If you don’t like it, you won’t stick to it.  If you hate to run but love walking, make it really brisk walking to get your heart rate up.  Even consistent low intensity exercise is better than inconsistent high intensity, or worse, none at all.
  3. When you get off track, take 1 small step to get back on.  If you ate junk food today, make yourself a promise to eat 1 healthy meal tomorrow.
  4. While never easy, stop comparing yourself with someone else and how they look.  Your body is your body and it can be fit and healthy.  Our muscles aren’t built all the same and they won’t always take on the same look.  They don’t have to for you to be just as strong and healthy.
  5. Switch things up every once in a while.  Try new foods, mix up your exercise and physical activity/hobbies during the week.  You’d be surprised how this turns out to be a fun and motivating way to live a healthy, fit lifestyle.

Think about fitness as a lifestyle instead of a fixed goal to be won and done.  In the long run, it really is the key to long term success.

The One Thing Holding You Back From… (Excuses)

You want to lose weight.  You want to look and feel great all the time.  You want a profitable business/career.  You want to ditch the dieting forever.  Once you lose that weight you want to keep it off.  You want less stress and more energy.  

These are great things we all want.  Why is it so difficult then to lose that weight, or get off that dieting roller coaster, and achieve everything we want.  The answer most often lies in the excuses we tell ourselves.  

There are good reasons for not doing something we want or intend to do.  It might be an emergency or something of more importance that comes up and we have to postpone that thing we wanted/meant to do.  Any reason we give ourselves is real and valid at the time. 

What happens when we keep using these “reasons” day after day, month after month?  Sadly, these once valid reasons become the “good” excuses we have for putting off what we wanted, intended, or knew we should do.  The excuses we made were good, but they didn’t get us anywhere.

It’s safe to say all of us have used these 3 excuses at one time or another.

Excuse #1: “I Have No Time/I’m Too Busy.”

Time to get real on this excuse.  We all have 24 hours in a day…not more, not less.  People that perform at high levels of achievement don’t have any more time than the rest of us, and in fact it’s likely they are even busier.  Consider Richard Branson, Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey…the list goes on.  What they do is make time for what is important to them, and yes their fitness and health are critical factors to their high performance.

Here are a few options for busting through the exercise time excuse:

  • Been off the exercise wagon a while?  Take 5-10 minutes each day (no more until this becomes so easy and a habit) and do something physical.  Walk, jog, do a few push-ups, crunches, stretches, etc. 
  • Exercise in the morning before your day truly becomes busy.
  • Literally schedule exercise into your day, just like you would a meeting.  If 15-minutes is all you have tomorrow, then 15-minutes it is.   

Excuse #2: “I’ve Tried [such and such] Before and It Didn’t Work.”

There are two things about this excuse.  One, maybe the diet or weight loss program you tried really didn’t work for you.  Fine, but did you try something else or just give up?  Second, maybe you had a failed attempt at losing weight or reaching whatever goal you had.  Did you get discouraged and just give up?

The biggest problem with this excuse is letting failure have its way.  Everyone fails at times.  High performers do.  The difference is they get back into the “game” quickly.

How about trying this:  Have a plan for when you do fail.  For example, 2 days in a row of skipping exercise is all I will allow myself; or if I eat poorly 1 day, the next day I’ll eat a healthy breakfast and dinner.

Excuse #3: “I Don’t Have Money To [join a gym, pay a personal trainer, buy a program].”

This excuse requires a certain amount of honesty.  Do you truly lack money to make even a small investment in your health and fitness?  Is losing weight and being fit really on the top of your list of importance?  How badly and how fast do you want to lose that weight, be stronger, more mobile…?

The key to ditching this excuse is being able to answer these questions.  Because what is important to us, we usually put our resources into and accomplish.  And while money is a legitimate concern, running or fast walking outside and doing bodyweight exercises at home are free.  Small purchases of a few key pieces of equipment to have at home can help you level up. 

Bottom Line…

Examine your reasons for skipping exercise and continuing to eat unhealthy.  Have these become excuses over time?  If so, take one excuse and make just one small change to be better.  Stick with that until it is so easy that you know you can make a second small change.  The road ahead to losing weight, feeling great and having the life you want then becomes that much easier.

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

Yes, you heard me right.  I’m (Therese) giving you permission to eat that piece of cake, or chocolate, or cookie, or pizza, or, well, fried anything.  This probably sounds hypocritical since I’ve written about substituting such foods for healthier options.  And yeah, okay, it kind of does.  But, let me explain…Words Matter. 

What Happens When You’re Told Not to Do Something?  

Don’t, not, and no are some of the strongest words in any language.  Growing up, I’m sure most of us heard things like, “Don’t touch that,” “Don’t do that,” “This [whatever] is not for you,” “No, you can’t have that.”  When we hear the words don’t, not, and no, the brain focuses on that “thing” we aren’t supposed to touch, do, have, etc.  And it ends up being all we can think about.  

There’s a reason I’m telling this story. 

How many times have you been told to stay away from that metaphorical piece of cake?  The same thing happens that is described above.  When we are told NOT to eat “something,” that “something” is ALL we think about.  And that “something” is usually a food we crave for whatever reason, maybe associated with comfort, happy moments, or triggered by sight or smell. 

Now, I’m certainly not advocating going on a binge of eating junk food.  Neither am I saying to totally eliminate them from your diet so they never touch your lips again.  What I am saying is that you can allow for small or occasional indulgences, rather than completely denying yourself.  But, it requires some strategy so that 80 to 90 percent of the time you are eating a good, clean, healthy diet.

Strategies for Cheating (Cheat Meal and item…)

Here are a few cheating strategies so you keep your diet on track and avoid psychological guilt or feelings of failure while losing or maintaining weight.

  • Schedule a cheat meal.  Plan a favorite dinner of pizza, burger and fries, etc.  Refrain from doing this too frequently—1x/week max.  The more cheat meals that are eaten, the longer it can take to reach a weight loss goal.
  • Schedule a cheat day.  Plan only 1 day/month to eat whatever you like that day.  Avoid this strategy if it tends to cause a lingering return to unhealthy eating beyond the one day.  Also, after the cheat day be sure to eliminate those items from your kitchen.
  • Have one small “treat” during the day.  This could be one small scoop of ice cream after dinner, or a piece of chocolate midday, etc.  The key word here is small.  Additionally, only keep 1-2 of these items in your kitchen at a time and allow them to run out before another purchase.

The overall idea is to allow yourself to modestly indulge, which may help stick to an otherwise healthy diet.  The win here is that the cravings won’t control you anymore.  Rather, you control the cravings.  There is power in that!

TV & Junk Food: Are They Related?

I don’t know, maybe I was just burned out a bit from working too hard and needed a break, but yesterday was one of those lazy days for me.  I decided enough was enough and I was just going to relax for the day.  Now we all need those relaxation days to recharge.  But, on this particular day, I was glued to the TV.  And, for some reason, I took more notice of the many food commercials that we are bombarded with. 

It Made Me Wonder if TV Led to More Eating, and Junk Food in Particular.

To be completely transparent, some of what I have to say on this subject is based on my own experience, and some on research.  First, my own experience…

What I Know to Be True for Myself

I fight my food demons like I know a lot of others do.  Growing up, there were always sugary desserts and candies on hand.  While that’s another story in itself, suffice it to say, while we had to eat dinner at the table, dessert was served later in front of the TV.  I took this same practice into adulthood for many years.  Unconsciously, I associated relaxing in front of the TV with treat time.  During my own weight loss journey, it was one of the habits I became aware of that were contributing to my overweight.  (If you want to know what I did…I slowly began substituting for a healthier snack.

Back to Those TV Commercials.

To be fair, not all those food commercials I noticed yesterday promoted bad foods.  Some were certainly healthy.  But, on seeing them, even though I wasn’t hungry, it made me want to eat.  In sight, in mind, so to speak.  So, my natural tendency was to hit the kitchen and forage for food.  That meant extra calories I was consuming, healthy food or not.

What Some Research Says

In 2018, Cancer Research UK1 [United Kingdom], conducted a survey of teens between 11 and 19 years of age to assess if there was an association between TV streaming and ads on diets.  More specifically, on junk food and sugary drink consumption.  They discovered that teens who regularly streamed shows containing ads “were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.”

In another study, researchers looked into whether eating while watching TV increased the number of calories consumed relative to eating with no TV2.  The participants were women.  Interestingly, everyone ate more with TV.  If the show was a favorite, or one they were familiar with, the food intake was even greater.

I always like to leave with a bottom line.  After working with clients and my own experience, one of the ways to combat TV and food intake is to be mindful of it.  The more mindful we are of what we are doing, the more we can move to modify it in a healthier way.

1Cancer Research UK. “Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180115184342.htm.

2Braude, L., & Stevenson, R. J., 2014. Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. “Watching television while eating increases energy intake. Examining the mechanisms in female participants.” Appetite. Vol. 76, pp 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.01.005.