Since the holidays are just around the corner, I thought it was time to put together a small guide on how to stay in shape during the holiday season.
I will not comment on the emotional side and everything else that happens during this time of the year (meeting with folks, friends and other people that we may or may not like). Instead, I will just cover the basic eating rules you should know in order to keep healthy and if you work out – how to keep fit.
There is no magic trick when it comes to eating healthy throughout the holidays as the basics still apply. Let’s start!
Table of Contents
- 1 Avoid ALL processed foods
- 2 Focus on protein
- 3 AVOID ALL SUGARS AND SALT!
- 4 Avoid sauces and anything you can’t identify as a food group
- 5 Avoid fried food
- 6 Skip dessert
- 7 Eat slowly
- 8 Take a smaller portion
- 9 Avoid (excessive) alcohol consumption
- 10 Focus on the people around you
- 11 Workout 1-2 hours before a meal
- 12 Take longer stretches between meals
- 13 Fast and stay a bit hungry
- 14 Avoid sodas and empty calories
- 15 Drink water and stay hydrated
- 16 Closing notes
Avoid ALL processed foods
If it’s man-made, don’t eat it. If you could only use 3 tips from this article, this would be in the top spot.
Processed foods include, but are not limited, to processed carbs, processed fruit products (any fruit in a can), processed meats and all canned foods (including seafood).
Focus on protein
Now this would be rule no2. Prioritizing on protein will prevent you from eating processed foods but also help to minimize excess carb consumption. Too much carbs (in combination with unhealthy fats) will turn into fat which will be stored around your belly, thighs and other body parts.
Protein – unlike carbs- does not cause an insulin spike which turns carbs into fat. Also, the brain -which needs glucose to survive – can actually use protein for fuel through neoglucogenesis. When that happens your body uses the rise in the hormone IGF1 (which happens upon protein ingestion) to convert protein into glucose to be used as energy.
So while at the table, instead of grabbing the breads and sauces first, go for the protein sources instead. Focus on meat, eggs and fish. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, focus on legumes, seeds and nuts but be careful of their fat content which tends to be quite high.
AVOID ALL SUGARS AND SALT!
If it tastes sweet, don’t eat it. The only exception is fresh fruit. NO JUICES EITHER! Boxed juices lack the essential fiber which slows down the insulin spike. Also, their fructose content can often be as harmful as white sugar!
Do not add salt to your food before tasting it. Chances are that your food will be salty already and you won’t need anything extra. Also make sure to avoid foods that are high in sodium such as cheeses and cured or smoked meats.
Avoid sauces and anything you can’t identify as a food group
Sauces and condiments should be kept to a minimum or even better, completely avoided. Most of them are made with unhealthy fats and other unhealthy ingredients, sugars and empty calories.
The rule of thumb is if you cannot identify what you are eating, it is best to avoid it.
Why? Because (again) there is a high probability of this food being PROCESSED!
Some exceptions do apply (for example, if the dish contains veggies and protein which is always a good combo).
But it all comes down to your ability to spot the difference between processed and natural foods and food groups. So if you are not 100% sure of all the components in a dish, then just skip it.
Avoid fried food
Anything fried is instantly added to the processed food category.
First of all fried food is full of deadly acrylamides which are cancerogenic. Secondly, this type of food is mostly likely fried in unhealthy fat, especially trans-fat which you must avoid for optimal health.
Make sure you check out my upcoming article on trans-fat to learn more about its health hazards.
Consuming any type of sugar is not a healthy practice. I will cover this extensively in my upcoming article on the dangers of sugar.
It’s supposed to be a holiday table, not a race. Take your time, chew each bite and enjoy the flavor before swallowing. Eating slowly will protect your leptin sensitivity and will ensure that you do not overload your digestion.
Take a smaller portion
Doesn’t matter if you are at a buffet or at a table, you should be taking a smaller portion.
This rule is important especially for those who will be going to different houses in a 6 hour period. If you eat a huge plate of food thrice in 6 hours, then you already tripled your normal food quota.
Spread your food intake throughout your ‘feast-day’ or at least be conscious of the fact that you are eating multiple times.
Avoid (excessive) alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption will slow down digestion and wreak havoc to your hormones, skyrocketing your estrogen production which will result in more fat storage.
1-2 glasses of wine or beer per day is fine. Wine is one of the best types of alcohol to consume. However if you love beer, make sure you get one that doesn’t contain hops in it as they are very estrogenic.
Focus on the people around you
The purpose of the holidays it to enjoy ourselves along with our loved ones.
In the last few years, the focus has only been around food and this what is causing the obesity epidemic in the first place (in combination with breaking all the rules above).
Workout 1-2 hours before a meal
By doing a brief strength workout 1-2 hours before a meal, you will stimulate your hormones and get your body prepped to use the meals to come as fuel to recover from your workouts and thus lowering their fat storing effect on your body.
If you are not into strength training, you can do a couple of sets of bodyweight exercises such as pushups or squats. 2 sets of 50 reps per exercise should do the trick.
Take longer stretches between meals
If you know you will have a big dinner at night, try to minimize calorie consumption during the day.
To do that, you can eat very small protein meals with a bit of fat to keep your metabolic rate up during daytime (2-3 maximum). Then later on, you can have your dinner which will be used to cover the calorie deficit you created during the day.
Also, don’t forget to time this right. The idea is to allow enough time for your body to digest the previous meal before you begin with the next one! As a general rule of thumb, try to have at least 3-4 hours between meals.
This will also increase your insulin and leptin sensitivity and they will in turn, dial up your growth hormone which is your best friend when it comes to fat loss.
Fast and stay a bit hungry
If you know you are gonna have a big meal, prepare accordingly. Skip meals during the day (if you can’t have small protein meals with fat) and focus on the dinner ahead as a reward. Drink only water for a period of 12-24 hours.
Also, if you have a big meal at night, you should wait at least 14 hours before your next meal. Which means if you ate at 20:00, your next meal should be at 10 in the morning instead of 7.
This will increase Ghrelin in your body which will dial up your HGH levels, optimizing the entire cascade of your hormones (leptin, insulin, testosterone etc) thus keeping you healthy and thin.
Avoid sodas and empty calories
Sodas, normal or sugarfree, are responsible for more health problems than most people realize.
Normal sodas are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other toxic ingredients which drive our hormones crazy and make us fat storing machines.
But sugar free sodas are equally as evil. Most of them are loaded with aspartame or other artificial sweeteners which is shown to destroy the healthy flora in our gut (I will cover this in an upcoming article on artificial sweeteners).
If our gut is not working, our digestive tract will be messed up and we will be unable to digest our food properly. This will lead to a lot of other problems such as indigestion, gout, obesity and even cancer.
Drink water and stay hydrated
2 glasses of water before a meal will help us stay hydrated, improve digestion and make sure we don’t over-eat.
Regardless of season, we should always strive to stay hydrated by drinking at least 2 liters of water per day as a minimum!
There you have it. 15 simple strategies to eat healthy during the holidays. Do them right and you will be able to enjoy the holidays (and some food) without seeing your weight go up.
What do you usually eat during the holidays? Do you have a food that you cannot resist? Or perhaps you have a cool tip to prevent over-eating. Let me know in the comments section below.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on Share buttons and show your support to this blog. Thank you and Happy holidays!
by Nick Sigma
C.W.C, E.H, E-YRT200