The holiday season is a time for family and festive sweaters, but it can also be synonymous with weight gain as health and fitness fall to the wayside. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way – follow these tips to stay on track during the holidays:

 

1. No gym, no problem

Traveling is a common occurrence during the holiday season, and with that, being away from your local gym.  While this may impede on your usual workout routine, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on exercise altogether. Go for a run, or form a circuit workout using bodyweight exercises. Considering the fact that bodyweight exercises require no equipment and can be done nearly everywhere, they’re ideal for instances in which you don’t have access to a gym. Make your circuit routine with two to four exercises – these can include push-ups, pull-ups, tricep dips (on a chair or ledge), squats, lunges, leg raises, and planks, to name a few. Don’t be afraid to throw in some burpees or inchworms as a full-body exercise. Cycle through your circuit as many times as you please, or change it up halfway through. If you’re trying to maximize the efficiency of your workout, a higher intensity (little to no breaks) will lead to a longer period of increased fat metabolism post-exercise. Follow the link HERE for more bodyweight exercise ideas. 

 

2. Portions, portions, portions

Along with travelling, family, and shopping, the holidays are a time for good food and better drinks. Delicious food may lend itself to large portion sizes, but it’s important to try and control the amount you consume during your family dinner. Remember that the stomach is roughly the size of a clenched fist, and portion sizes should follow this logic: serve yourself an appropriate portion at first – you can always serve yourself more after, but a large initial portion will encourage overeating. To quell the desire to gorge yourself, drinking 8-12oz of water before a meal is a good way to satiate your appetite, and eating slowly is a reliable way to prevent overeating. By doing so, you allow the brain to respond to signals released by your stomach in response to digestion and satiation. The brain can take up to 15-20 minutes to respond to these signals, so eating slowly will allow your body to realize it’s satisfied before you overeat. (Read more HERE If you do happen to find yourself with a small mountain of food on your plate, remember that it is okay if you don’t clear your plate. As far as drinks go, try to keep to a maximum of one to two drinks per hour – you’ll save on calories and a potential hangover. 

 

3. Not all holiday foods are created equal

Holiday food isn’t exactly known for being healthy, but are all of these delicious casseroles and side dishes created equally? No. As can be seen HERE, some foods are more calorically dense and rich in fat than others. As can be seen in in the article, stuffing, the dark meat of your favorite roasted bird, and mashed potatoes are some of the main culprits behind your holiday weight gain. That isn’t to say to avoid them completely, but to just consume them in moderation. Another note, make sure to get some greens and plant-based foods on your plate, as they are rich in nutrients as well as fiber to help your body digest your holiday meal. 

 

4. Fear not the vegetarian

Many people look forward to the turkey on thanksgiving or prime rib on Christmas, but animal protein is more often that not very calorically dense. Plant-based protein, such as legumes, beans, quinoa, and tofu are healthy alternatives and are very malleable, allowing them to take many forms to be used in a variety of recipes. Not only this, but plant-based foods are high in fiber and other nutrients to aid in digestion and improve overall well being. Click HERE for some plant-based recipe ideas. 

 

5. Relax!

The holidays are seen by many as the happiest time of the year, but it can also be an relatively stressful one. With shopping for loved ones and dealing with family, it can be hard to slow down and enjoy a moment of tranquility. High stress levels increase the likelihood of overeating, and high levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol can reduce protein synthesis in the muscles, leading to a degradation of the musculature. Bring yourself into the present moment to achieve some calm, and a sure-fire way to do so is by focusing on your breathing. Count to four as you breathe in through your nose, pause for one, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Intentional, slow, and deep breathing is one of the most efficient and effective ways to calm the mind and body, so feel free to try this when your mind is running rampant. 

 

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