The holiday season is here. This means that many of us will be with families and eating homemade pies and cakes. At work, there will be streams of goodies and sweets seemingly surrounding us. Planning for and attending various holiday functions, we will unconsciously nosh, nibble and imbibe to our hearts content. All of this means that we will be making those New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the New Year. Typically, weight loss is at the top of the list.
However, we need not wait until the results of our holiday activities shock us into more healthy habits. In fact, there are things that we can begin to do right now that will minimize the amount of (unwanted) weight that we accumulate due to the holiday season excess. Specifically, by drinking more water, sleeping more, being more active, eating more fiber and monitoring portion size, we can keep weight gain to a minimum.
When looking to minimize weight gain during the holiday season, one need look no further than though the bottom of their glass; that is to say, drink more water. Water is the liquid that sustains all life on earth. Water also has ‘0’ calories. But more than that, one can actually burn calories due to water consumption. Specifically, men burn more fat while women break down more carbohydrates due to water consumption. So, to hedge your bets against that holiday weight gain, drink more water.
Recommendation: Ideally, 1.5 liters of water per day or 2 (8 Ounce) cups of water before each meal.
According to researchers, adequate sleep can be instrumental to obtaining positive results from dieting and exercising endeavors. Adequate sleep allows for the activation of Human Growth Hormone: this hormone is responsible for “functions in the body such as vitality, energy and weight maintenance“. In addition, adequate sleep brings about a near 50%:50% muscle mass loss to body fat loss. Inadequate sleep can cause five times more muscle mass loss than body fat loss (5:1 ratio). Minimal sleep can stimulate higher levels of consumption because hormone levels, that stimulate hunger, food intake and retention of body fat, increase. One cannot sleep themselves thin but one can insure that caloric accumulation is kept to a minimum with adequate sleep.
Recommendation: Get more than 6.5 – 7.0 hours of sleep.
Walk More/Be Active
To maintain (current) weight and avoid the effects of holiday binging, the importance of physical activity cannot be overlooked. The amount of physical activity can positively affect the efforts to maintain weight. Balancing Calories In vs. Calories Out will yield Weight Control/Weight Maintenance. 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended to maintain weight. If this proves difficult, however, there are options such as parking farther away from the entryway door and walking, taking the stairs, doing little chores around the home and the like. Every little bit helps. Increased physical activity will also help people to improve conditions of:
Heart disease and stroke
High blood pressure
Depression and anxiety
Recommendation: Try to accumulate 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity per day or try to stand up and stretch a couple of times every hour.
Generally, studies indicate that increased fiber intake correlates to better weight control. Fiber is an important constituent of food that assist with the passage of food through the colon. Fiber supplementation, along with adequate water consumption, can be part of a balanced diet. However, if a person needs to see and consume an amount of food that makes them feel full, then eating fiber dense foods will be instrumental in their consuming less. Fiber may not help with calories that are consumed from high-caloric beverages: consider that the average American’s recent, increased calorie consumption has come from increased consumption of high-calorie drinks.
Recommendation: Accumulate more fiber from food sources; drink more water.
One of the best ways to minimize weight gain is through portion control. Many people often eat what is in front of them and most underestimate the amount (of calories) that they consume on a day to day basis by as much as 25%. In order to affect portion control, one must direct their efforts toward assessing, monitoring and regulating the portion sizes of foods that they consume. If you are at a restaurant, eat half of your order and take the remainder home, if possible. If you are at home, eat a smaller than normal portion and wait a bit before going for seconds. If the feeling a fullness is there, you just may not want to go for seconds.
Recommendation: Make a strong effort and adhere to consuming smaller portions and waiting to see if satiety sets in or eat smaller portions throughout the day.
These steps are presented as a way to help in minimizing the weight gain that typically occurs during the holiday season. By adding these steps to your daily routine throughout the holiday season, you can be in control of what transpires with your weight. Of course, if you are exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, then these steps will easily help you in maintaining your weight.
Drinking water will assist in caloric expenditure. Sleeping more will help the body to burn more fat. Being more active will help to burn the calories that you consume. Consuming more fiber will keep the colon clear. Portion control will allow you to regulate how much you are actually consuming.
I have assembled a Percentage (%) of Effort Chart below to give you an idea of how these activities will contribute to your minimizing that dreaded holiday weight gain. The items are the five points outlined in this blog: i.e. water, sleep, activity, fiber and portions. The more days that you do these things, the better your results will be. 100% of effort will yield better results than 20% of effort.
Many daily repertoires include repetitive actions. A lot of times, these actions do not even warrant consideration. For example, while we are doing ‘other things’ or perhaps even multitasking, how often do we try to slip in a ‘quick meal’? Studies have been conducted which indicate that individuals who multitask while eating are more likely to eat more than someone who is focusing on one thing. To take the time to enjoy one’s food in a more contemplative manner could extend many benefits to people beyond mere nutrition.
From the moment many people wake up in the morning, the continual stream of thoughts begin to flood their minds. For example: prepare the kids for school, make sure that I have what I need for work, get gas, get something to eat because I didn’t have time for breakfast, that so and so cut me, etc. At work: finish up last week’s project, research next week’s project, put out today’s fires, meeting A, meeting B, I’d better GRAB something AND EAT, etc. Need there even be any discussion about after work? Can we take out time to enjoy our food? To be able to set time aside for eating gives us the opportunity to gather ourselves and allows for time to stand still.
Eating is a very important life-sustaining activity. It can be a contemplative and an enjoyable experience, as well. Contemplation, not from the standpoint of meditation but from the standpoint of taking time to enjoy the tastes, the flavors, the company, the conversations . . . in short, the experience of the food. English-speaking countries (U.S. and Britain) think of eating as mainly an activity through which one sustains one’s health and vigor. Whereas in continental European nations (France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy), health is a secondary benefit; social pleasures and the joy of life dominate continental Europeans’ discussions about eating. In Italy, people say, “to eat good fish and drink good wine” with friends is the true meaning of eating well. This is the contemplative aspect of food that I write about.
Taking time, actually taking time, to enjoy could bestow other health benefits in addition to nutrition.
Studies show that it takes 20 minutes for the signal for feeling full to register in our brains. Ergo, if we eat more slowly, we will feel satiated while having consumed less food.
Slowing down to eat actually allows for better mastication, more chewing, of our food. As the food is more completely chewed, it is easier for the enzymatic processes to complete the breakdown portion of digestion. Our bodies can then absorb more of the nutrients in the food.
Enjoy your food with less stress.
Because our lives are so hectic, we have little time to really enjoy anything. If we are more mindful about what we eat when we are eating it, we allow ourselves time to settle down and to really experience the goodness of the food.
We detract from our ability to focus as we multitask during our daily activities. Eating is something that merits our full attention to. The hectic pace of life, with it’s pressing responsibilities, causes us to unconsciously engage in activity after activity. Because of the constant ‘go, go, go’ mindset, there is no time taken to reflect on things that are truly enjoyable. Our food, the flavors, the aromas, the friends, the conversation cannot just be haphazardly rushed. In taking time and giving full attention to the food that we eat, we can enjoy it more and actually derive more than just nutrition from it.