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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.

Eliminating Foods to Successfully Lose Weight: Does It Work?

It’s probably safe to assume that most people trying to lose weight have attempted some sort of food elimination type diet to achieve it.  Whether that was through the latest fad diet or a self-attempt at eliminating foods we think or know are bad for us, it’s been a popular form of dieters in the U.S.  But, with around 70% of the U.S. adult population overweight (including those obese), it doesn’t appear elimination strategies are working.  

Let’s lay it out there.  Rarely does eliminating foods completely from your diet work in the long run.  And, eliminating some foods and micro-nutrients (carbs, fat, protein) aren’t particularly healthy no matter how badly you want to lose weight.  Rather than trying to find that perfect diet, or blaming yourself for not having the discipline to stay away from certain foods, we need to look at what happens in those great big heads of ours.  Then, just maybe, a weight loss attempt will be more successful.

The Wonders of the Human Brain…You Can Blame Your Food Problems On That If You Need a Scapegoat

Our desire for certain foods is a very complex combination of biological, cognitive and cultural factors that unconsciously affect our relationship with food.  So, instead of being in a constant battle with food, let’s understand what naturally happens around food and work with it, instead of against it. 

Neuroscientists have studied the brain’s activity in relation to food.  Do you know what draws us to sugar, besides of course the taste of it?  Dopamine.  Sugar releases dopamine, and dopamine makes us feel good.  And who doesn’t want to feel good! 

But what draws us to certain foods?  Our food preferences are actually part of our genetic make-up (biological factors).  The dominant or recessive genes associated with certain tastes determine if we can even taste it, let alone like it.  Additionally, if the food smells good to us we are more likely to want it, and if the texture is pleasing to us, (i.e., smooth, crunchy, etc.) we are more likely to consume it.  So, it’s not really all that surprising that eating something you really like gives you a sense of pleasure, and is pleasing to your palate.  That makes it difficult to eliminate it from your diet.

Then there’s how we think and feel about food (cognitive factors).  Ultimately, this is related to the decisions we make about what, and even when, to eat.  Why do you eat eggs and cereal for breakfast, rather than dinner?  Why do you eat 3 meals a day at certain times?  Why are certain foods associated with good or bad memories, or memories of childhood?  What foods conjure up feelings of reducing stress and being happy?  Exploring these questions gives an insight into such things as our eating habits and why we eat and associate certain foods with reward, comfort, or stress reduction.  Eliminating such foods will likely not change how you feel about, or desire, them.  Often depriving yourself of them results in an overindulgence later that leads to weight gain and yo-yo dieting. 

The other factor that most influences what you eat is from your culture.  Did you grow up or are you surrounded in a culture where red meat, white meat, fish, rice, potatoes, beans, or any number of other foods were/are the main components of meals?  There are traditional foods in all societies and cultures, and thus the beauty of a wide range of food options available to us.  Will eliminating these foods really limit such cultural influences drawing you to eat them?

Bottom Line on Eliminating Foods from your diet

Oftentimes the foods that we naturally love, make us feel good, and grew up around, are the ones that we try to unsuccessfully eliminate in order to lose weight.  This smacks right up against our natural and emotional desires, making it difficult to adhere to such a method of dieting.  And while short term success is possible, long term success is not because it didn’t address working with your natural inclinations or changing long term habits and/or beliefs. 

Instead, success lies in making slower changes so that you achieve eating healthy 80% of the time.  Rather than eliminate, limit unhealthy foods bit by bit and find ways to slowly replace them with healthier choices most of the time.  Over time, you may find those pounds drop off and stay off!

As with any dieting, be sure to speak with your doctor and a registered dietician to see what’s right for you.

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.