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  • Jill Maher

Five Tricks to Stay on Track Over the Holidays!

It's that time of year again! The weather is starting to get cooler (it's a chilly 80 degrees today in Phoenix!), and we are beginning to get bombarded with all kinds of holiday temptations.

A number of my clients avoid social situations that put them at odds with their nutrition goals. That's no fun! Also, I want them to learn how to navigate their real life and still stay on track 80-90% of the time.

Here are a few tricks that I have learned in my own life and by helping others stay the course over the holiday period and during social situations:

1. Fill Up on Nutrient-Dense Foods Ahead of Time:

One of the schools I attended, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, coined this concept "crowding out." It's a great strategy. Nutrient-dense foods are those that have a high nutrient to calorie ratio. So, basically, the least processed whole foods that provide the biggest bang for your buck! (Think green leafy veggies, lean proteins, berries, etc.) Party foods tend to be calorie-dense, which are more sugar-laden and processed.

My clients and I strategize different pre-party methods of attack, such as having a big salad with lots of greens and low-starch veggies with a little balsamic vinegar and spices. Top this off with a sparkling water, and you should be feeling pretty full before heading to that party. This prevents the temptation to overeat calorie-dense foods later.

If you try to wing it at the party, there may not be a lot of healthy options, which will leave you starving and possibly turning to brownies and chips to fill that empty tummy!

2. Maintain or Increase Exercise:

While bad food choices are not erased by exercise, increasing your activity level and exercise intensity absolutely help to keep your waistline from expanding. Also, exercise just makes you feel awesome and usually more motivated to be healthy in other arenas of your life (like food choices)!When I go a few days without exercise, I start to feel sluggish and depressed. If you throw in a bunch of sugar and other processed foods on top of the lack of exercise, you are setting yourself up for a tailspin both nutritionally and mentally.

I worked out with an awesome trainer for years, and I would keep to my training schedule over the holidays. She would kick our butts so much that I didn't want to mess it up by eating badly! In fact, if you need that extra accountability, you may consider hiring a trainer at least during the holidays to help keep you moving. Mine showed up at my house...there was no escape!!

3. Prioritize your Indulgences and ENJOY:

During the holidays, you are going to indulge, and you should do it shamelessly, but do it shamelessly MINDFULLY! Have a game plan so that there are parameters.

For example, you know you are going to have a slice of your grandma's homemade pumpkin pie. Plan it, and do it! Have a small slice and savor every bite, and then move on.

I ask my clients, "Is it worth it?" Just make sure you ask yourself this. If you have multiple parties, prioritize where you are going to indulge, and stay on track at the others. If you indulge every single time, unfortunately the scale will reflect your poor choices.

Remember, it's not about the food - although, that is part of the fun! It's more about the people and time spent with your friends and loved ones.

4. Bring a Healthy Dish:

Dovetailing on the above recommendation - bring a healthy dish that you can confidently eat and not bust the calorie bank! Bring a delicious salad or other healthy alternative side dish.

For ideas, I have created a Pinterest page with various recipes I have been collecting for clients:

5. Drink Plenty of Water and Stay Mindful of Alcohol Consumption:

So, you hear that alcohol is "empty" calories, but it REALLY is, along with sugar. At 7 calories per gram, it's the second most calorie-dense macronutrient behind fat, which has 9 calories per gram. The difference is that alcohol serves no nutritional purpose, whereas fat does. There are a number of bad side effects from drinking alcohol, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Here are just a few:

Sleep Disruption: That glass of wine may help you fall asleep quickly, but research shows that alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep you get, which leaves you feeling groggy and tired the next day; usually leading to poor food choices, as well.

Slowed Metabolism: Once you ingest alcohol, it cannot be stored like other macronutrients because your body sees it as a poison, so its metabolism becomes a top priority over everything else! Your liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, so while it is working away at that, it is not able to metabolize fat - therefore slowing fat loss.

Unstable Blood Sugar: Since clearing the alcohol from your system is your body's numero uno priority, glucose production slows (which is your energy source) and your blood sugar is not stable - this is also compounded by more sugary mixed drinks, which cause a skyrocketing effect to your blood sugar and then a huge drop. This leads to the sugar/carb/greasy foods craving cycle. Always opt for the simplest drink possible (e.g. vodka soda, wine, etc.)

My recommendation? Drink tons of water, and if you are going to drink alcohol, establish a number of drinks that you are going to have ahead of time. Also, "prioritize that indulgence" by selecting which day/party you are going to partake. Don't let it become a free for all and throw caution to the wind. It never ends well :)

For more information and help navigating the holidays, contact me today! I can help you stay on track and avoid digging a deeper hole during this tricky time of year!

© 2015 by Jill Maher Wellness, LLC..

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