It's no secret that the average American gains weight from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I have yet to make it through the holidays without gaining weight. However, this year my goal is to not only lose weight in the month of December (still working on that baby weight), but also indulge a little in some holiday treats. Can this even be achieved? Is this too lofty of a goal?
Well, today Dr. Lauryn Lax of Thrive is here to give up some tips on how to stay lean during the holidays and still enjoy the season! Dr. Lauryn Lax is an occupational therapist and nutritional therapist in Austin, TX. Through her holistic wellness practice, Thrive, she helps women of all ages and stages thrive in their lives through nutritional therapy, fitness training, eating disorder recovery therapy, and lifestyle coaching. Yes, she does it all!
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HOW TO GET LEAN DURING THE HOLIDAYSHalloween candy, Thanksgiving feasts and holiday shin-digs—'Tis the season for sugar, temptation...and lack of routine. With the holiday season in "full swing", you may be thinking about how to maintain your healthy eating and lifestyle that you worked so hard at throughout the year. After all, this "most wonderful time of year" is also notorious for being a time of year when people "fall off the bandwagon." We travel; We eat sweet potato and marshmallow casseroles, corn casseroles, (and any other type of food with a name that ends in "role"); We drink cocktails like we are in college again; We pack our schedule with shopping, and gatherings, and family bonding; We lose sleep; We stress over finances; We snack on snickerdoodle cookies and homemade pumpkin bread in the breakroom at work; We lose steam... We wonder: Is it even possible—moreover realistic—to stay lean, healthy and fit during the next month? "Why not forget it until the strike of midnight on January 1st?! THEN, I will be committed..." we say. However, what if I told you, despite all the hype around "staying lean" during the holidays, and the looming fear of gaining 5-7 lbs. in one month, the average American gains only about 1 lb. during this stretch (Phew!) It's true. Not so fast though—you aren't in the clear yet. While weight gain may seem like the "end all, be all" marker when it comes to holiday survival (and staying lean, fit and healthy), your weight is only a small piece of a bigger puzzle of overall health. How are you managing your stress? What are your hormones doing with all that extra sugar? How is your immune system? Your digestion? Your fitness capacity? (Cricket. Cricket.) That's what I thought. While seasons come and seasons go in your health (and healthy living is all about BALANCE anyhow! Not perfection), the holiday season doesn't have to take a toll on you—and your routine—quite as much as it may have in the past. If you want to look good, feel amazing and not let the wind of holiday mayhem carry you away this year—like it does most "every year"—here are eight unconventional tips for staying lean, fit and healthy (inside and out) during this holiday season (BONUS: They don't include the basics you've already been told five dozen times: "Avoid processed foods"; "Eat protein"; "Limit sugar"; etc.)
8 Unconventional Tips for Staying Lean, Fit, & Healthy:
- Short & Sweet. Ain't got no time for training? Don't sweat it. Your workouts don't have to be long and laborious to get the biggest bang for your buck. Try Tabata (or some other HIIT-style at home workout). Tabata workouts are synonymous for "get it done in less time" along with the word "intensity" (work hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 for a total of 8 rounds, or 4-minutes). Tabata sets can be used with just about any movement (squats, burpees, rowing, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, deadlifts, etc.). The best part? In as little as 4-20 minutes, you break a sweat, up those endorphins up, release stress and keep your metabolism revved and burning throughout the day.
- Meal Makeover. WOW your guests and/or hosts with transformations of old stand-by recipes that are not only delicious, but healthy too! (See Recipes for inspiration below). Even better? Get the fam or friends involved with holiday meal challenge of everyone to create a healthier dish to the next gathering...see what they come up with too! Consider hosting a "healthy holiday cookie" swap (as opposed to the old standard classic cookies), or forgoing the solely-food-focused holiday party gatherings altogether by incorporating activities into your holiday shannanigans (i.e. neighborhood caroling; present/Pinterest-making party; a volunteer outing; a fitness sweat session; etc.).
- Chew your food. Really well. Digestion starts in the mouth. Put your fork down between bites and chew that food until you no longer recognize its initial form. This allows for a better connection with your physical hunger/fullness cues as well—keeping you from overindulging or getting out of touch with your body.
- Fake a food allergy. Unsure about how to navigate all the sweets, treats and holiday fare amongst you? If a simple "[food x] makes me feel sick" doesn't work, some people bring out the heavy artillery and pretend to have a life-threatening condition like Celiac Disease or a peanut allergy. Pretending to have a serious allergy when you don't is a very controversial strategy, since many people feel that it's "crying wolf," making others less likely to believe people who actually do have life-threatening problems.
- Carry Around a Plastic Cup (of Water). Alcohol is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to excess sugar and non-nutrient-dense foods we consume during the holidays. It's easy to get a good chunk of your day's intake in empty calories (wine and cocktails alone) if you aren't mindful. One large glass of wine is equivalent to one ice cream cone (approx. 228 calories); a pint of cider equals one sugar donut (210 calories); a Pina Colada with rum equals 644 calories in a Big Mac Burger; and one margarita equals the energy in a taco bell taco (170 calories). While alcohol is not necessarily "off limits", ask yourself how much do you think you really need? And moreover, why do you need it (socialization, taste, buzz, etc.)? Consider carrying around a plastic cup (of water)—and no one else has to know.
- Have your cake and eat it too. Deprivation is the LAST name of the game when it comes to 'keeping healthy and fit' during the holidays. Chances are, if you go into any party or festivity with the mentality you "shouldn't" have this, but you "can" have that (i.e. good vs. bad) foods—you've already lost half the battle in maintaining a healthy relationship with food (food is not about moral choices). Keeping this in mind allows you to be able to have a taste or couple bites of that pie or special Christmas morning pancakes you make for the kids and be satisfied—rather than feeling completely deprived or ashamed for wanting or eating that pie or pancakes; and then move on.
- Keep a log. Really want to stay on track during the holidays? Simply writing down your intentions for your nutrition, fitness and self-care can help keep these 'to-dos' just as important as your holiday shopping list, work tasks and holiday prep activities. In fact, when we write things down, we are 80% more likely to achieve them. Your log is not about calculating every calorie your consumed or burned that day either! More so, I am talking about being in touch with the fundamentals for continuing to thrive during the holidays, with nutrition, fitness and self-care at the core. For instance, your self-care log may include some basics: Eat protein and a healthy fat with every main meal; drink 80 oz. of water today; workout at noon for 30-minutes. You get the picture. Just like you write down your shopping list, write down what you need to do for YOU. Take it to the next level by recruiting a friend to share your goals and intentions with. Consider each other as accountability partners—or even workout buddies—to keep your healthy lifestyle at the forefront.
- Clear the System. See just what you are capable of; consider teaming up with Dr. Lauryn for her 30-day FUEL program (a sustainable non-diet approach to developing a healthy, lasting relationship with food, and fueling your body to thrive—not just survive or get by); or her 10-day Sugar Detox to experience the healthiest holiday you have yet! (No worries...there are still some fun "treat" and vacation times factored in there with the holiday festivities). For more information on both programs, you can contact her here.