Food Is Not Your Enemy

How to Avoid Gaining Weight This Holiday Season
December 10, 2015, 4:51 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

Welcome to December–a month we may love, or a month we may fear. There’s much to love: time with family and friends, parties, gift-giving, and indulging in our favorite holiday foods. But many of us have such a fear of gaining weight this time of year that it colors the whole holiday season for us. It can get to the point where we dread receiving an invitation to a good friend’s holiday party because we know we’ll see those pigs in a blanket and butter cookies there and completely lose control.

Here are some tips to help you through the coming month, and hopefully keep your weight from fluctuating as you enjoy the holiday season …

Feast on feasting days. This is my mantra from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Eat whatever you like on the big holiday feasting days—but don’t treat the entire month of December as one big feasting day. There’s no reason you should be eating twice what you’d normally consume on a random weekday, using the justification that “hey, it’s holiday season!” Writing off all of December in this way is a guaranteed way to gain 5-10 pounds.

Eat super healthy on non-event days. So on days when you don’t have a holiday party or a big dinner at Grandma’s house, choose very healthy foods. On the days leading up to Thanksgiving this year, for instance, I made a point of cooking a few dinners in a row that were vegetarian and pretty light. Eat lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and pay attention to portion sizes.

At parties, be mindful about quantity. For both food and alcohol, you may want to go in to the party with an idea of limits—you’ll only have x number of drinks, and you’ll only eat one of each type of hors d’oeuvre, etc.

Eat warming, comforting foods. This is not the time of year to eat all salads, all the time. It’s cold out there, and you’ll want to nourish yourself with warm, seasonal foods that satisfy you rather than leave you feeling chilled and wishing you had something heartier to eat. Soups, stews, sweet winter squashes, yams, and for some of us, a little extra meat are just what we need.

Take care of yourself. Amidst all the rushing around and last-minute trips to the mall, remember that you don’t want to run yourself ragged. Allow yourself enough time for a good night’s sleep. Stick to your exercise routine. Relax when you can with a good book or your favorite show. Savor your time with family and friends.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Caring for Yourself This Holiday Season
December 13, 2012, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: ,

At a time of year that’s supposed to be associated with family, faith, cozying up by the fire, baking cookies with our kids, and giving presents to those we love, many of us can end up despairing when we realize that we’ve come to associate the holidays more with crushing crowds, rampant consumerism, credit-card debt, calorie-bomb foods, and non-stop holiday events that can leave us feeling depleted and exhausted. The way that many people tend to deal with the onslaught of obligations and to-do lists in December is to abandon their healthy routines–skipping the gym, relying more on takeout dinners, skimping on sleep. But in a month like this, we need our healthy routines and a little self-care–okay, maybe even a LOT of self-care–more than ever. Otherwise we’re looking at burnout, debilitating stress, and perhaps even a very unwelcome extra five or ten pounds.

Here are some tips to help keep you sane and healthy this holiday season:

Take some quiet time for yourself every day. Have a cup of tea. Curl up on the couch and read. Take a hot bath before bed. Or simply close your eyes and do nothing. Decompressing like this is essential after a hectic day holiday shopping or preparing food for a party.

Be honest about money. If the state of the economy has taken a toll on you, be up front with your family and/or friends about what you can handle with regard to gift-buying this year. Don’t max out your credit card out of a sense of obligation if you know it will come back to bite you later in the form of worry or outright panic.

Remember that every day is not a feasting day. Eat to your heart’s content on Christmas or when your family gets together for a big Chanukah dinner. But if you eat this way the entire month of December, you will gain weight. Make a point of eating as “normally” as you can–or even healthier than usual–on the days surrounding the holiday feast days.

Prioritize sleep. If you sleep only four or five hours a night due to all the parties and obligations, you will start to break down. Make sure you’re getting a good seven or eight hours each night.

Exercise. This is non-negotiable, like showering. You don’t regularly hear yourself saying you’re so busy that you don’t have time to shower, do you? Same should go for your workouts.

Do something nice for yourself. Get a pedicure or a massage. Buy that book you’ve had your eye on. Enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner with your partner. In the midst of running around taking care of everyone else, never forget to take care of yourself.

Enjoy your holidays!

Holiday Eating 101, Or How Not to Freak Out

Thanksgiving is behind us, and yet it feels like we’ve only just begun. Food–much of it not super-healthy, to put it mildly–seems to be everywhere. Snowman-shaped butter cookies at the office. Eggnog at a friend’s cocktail party. Chocolates in your child’s backpack from a party in her classroom. And then there’s the looming specter of an outsize ham on Christmas Day, or sweet potato pie during Kwanzaa. Sigh.

What should you do? Is it time to urge your mom to make a lower-fat turkey breast for Christmas, rather than that delectable ham? Should you gear up to refuse to eat a single cookie, telling everyone you’re watching your weight?

No and no.

I’m of the mind that on days meant for feasting, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, you should feast–without guilt. Do you really want to be the killjoy at the table who complains how fat you are, who points out the huge number of calories in the mashed potatoes? On these days centered around eating, eat–eat slowly, joyfully, and savor every bite and moment with your loved ones.

What you don’t want to do is treat every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as a day for feasting. That’s where we can get into trouble. Giant, heavy meals for one day in November and a couple in December will not kill you, or make you gain 10 pounds. But if you’re at a holiday party every few days, shoveling in pigs-in-a-blanket and downing cups and cups of eggnog, that’s when you’d benefit from taking a step back and realizing you can’t keep up this pace of eating and realistically expect to stay at your current weight.

If you do overindulge at one party too many? Don’t beat yourself up about it. When the new year rolls in, recommit to eating healthy foods, get back into your exercise routine, and know that you’ll soon be back in fighting shape. And if you need support along the way, you know who to call!

Christmas and Kwanzaa Foods: Safe or Scary?
December 21, 2009, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Beans, Eggs, Food/Health Blogs, Meat, Sweets, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

Get ready for the imminent Christmas and Kwanzaa feasts, and all the rich, fatty goodness they provide. But is it all bad? Are you and your kids doomed to suffer an empty-calorie, end-of-year bloat? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out if there are some (somewhat) healthy foods in the mix.

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
November 3, 2009, 11:49 am
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

Halloween is over, and the fear has officially begun. We’re moving into the season of overstuffing ourselves.

Dr. Andrew Weil offers some sensible tips on approaching the upcoming gorgefest. Read them here.