Did you get stressed over the holidays last year? Maybe you put on a few unwanted pounds. If this is true, you are not alone. Most people rate the holiday season as the most stressful time of the whole year. Weight gain can be a problem as well. If you ask someone for their average holiday weight gain, most think they gain between 5-10 pounds and they lose it by spring. The good news is that most people do not gain that much weight. Typically, it is closer to 1-2 pounds. The bad news is that those 1-2 pounds usually do not come off by spring. You can think of holiday weight gain like a ring growing around a tree each year… something you do not want!
This year, you don’t have to be stressed or gain weight. In fact, with a tiny amount of strategizing and planning, these could be your best holidays ever! The trick is all in managing your cortisol. The main issue is that the food, the inactivity and the family dynamics can ruin your hormones. Cortisol, your main stress hormone, is thrown off of its healthy, daily rhythm. When this happens, you feel anxious, edgy and get pudgy!
On the evening before a holiday celebration, remember that just because you don’t have to work tomorrow does not mean that you need less sleep. By making a quality 8 hours a priority, you will also find yourself able to automatically resist those second servings.
2. HIIT Your Workout
Holiday mornings will no doubt be busy for you. Between primping your food and primping yourself, it might be tempting to forgo the workout. What if you could rev up your metabolism for the whole day in 15 minutes? Here is a holiday version of a High Intensity Interval Training workout that you can do that leaves plenty of time to deck the halls.
Choose an aerobic activity: running, hiking, swimming or biking. Your favorite aerobic stationary machine like a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or stair-climber will work fine as well. Doing this in the morning will send your meal to your muscles and not to be stored as fat. Here is how it works:
First, start with an easy, 3-minute warm up. For 30 seconds, go all out, then cool down for a minute. Plan to do six intervals like this. By the time you get to number 3, give them 110% effort. To really get in the spirit, visualize that a giant carnivorous turkey is chasing you! After your 6th sprint, stay in cool down mode for 4 minutes and you are done.
3. API For Your Kin
API means assume positive intention. Holiday time means big gatherings of people you don’t normally gather with. Next time someone rubs you the wrong way, just imagine one scenario in which they really meant well, despite how they came off. You don’t even have to believe it was their intent, just imagine for a moment that it is possible and your stress levels will plummet.
4. Start With Fiber
Have a large serving of green salad and a few spoonfuls of cranberries. Wash it down with a big glass of water. Now take a few minutes and help everyone else get situated. This fiber and water will make everything else you eat spend more time in your stomach. You will feel full more easily and stay more energized throughout the day.
5. More Turkey, Less Stuffing
Did you ever hear that turkey will make you tired because it has tryptophan? This idea may be fun to share, but it is not true. The truth is overeating makes you tired not because you are eating tryptophan, but because it is being driven into your brain because of too many sugary foods and carbohydrates. If you do crash later, blame the double servings of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, not the turkey.
6. Polite Bite
OK so you have done great at socializing and eating as you planned, but now Aunt May will be heartbroken if you do not have some of each of the 6 desserts she brought. Yes, your brain’s pleasure center will light up when you taste a good dessert. But guess what? Only the first bite does this, the following bites do not.
The other cool fact is that people notice much less than we think. If you have a bite and make a big deal about how great it is, all you have to do is handle your fork and plate a few more times and no one will notice that you did not finish it. Plates will get taken away later and no one will notice who did or didn’t finish each dish. By the way, the “polite bite” can also be the “polite sip.”
7. Astragalus Tea
As the afternoon winds on, instead of coffee, serve some Astragalus tea. It will prevent you from picking up any colds or flus, and any unwanted pounds. Tell your guests it will make them immune to Ebola and see how many drink up! Please be sure to also tell them the truth, which is that it’s a great immune tonic, but really nothing is known about it and Ebola. You can find tea bags of it in most health food supermarkets. Bonus points if you find the actual root slices! They look like tongue depressors and can be found online or in most Asian food markets. To brew them, use 1 slice and 6 ounces of water per person. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.