The holidays can be a tempting time in terms of eating and drinking. All too often, we pay for our choices in the new year when we step on the scale or find a favorite outfit a bit snug. By maintaining a balanced regimen, you can still enjoy the holiday festivities, avoid the aftermath, and launch into the new year ahead of the game.
Pick your Poison
There are things we indulge in because we want them and then things we indulge in because they are in front of us. Most people know which indulgence they prioritize — commonly sugar, salt or alcohol. These may change from day to day, but like many things in life, knowing what you want is key.
Our bodies cannot store alcohol, and we make every effort to get it out of our system. Alcohol negatively affects our blood sugar and can cause low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia. The hypoglycemia increases hunger, which results in the familiar munchies. Alcohol has no nutrients, fat, carbohydrates, or protein, but this blood sugar imbalance can greatly affect weight.
Follow these guidelines when consuming alcohol:
• Never drink on an empty stomach.
• Consider alcohol your treat, and maintain a clean diet consisting of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
• Moderation is key — for men, no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week.
• Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
• Alcohol impairs nutrient absorption, so take a good B-complex before a night out to avoid or reduce a hangover.
• Avoid diet soda mixers and carbonated beverages, which actually increase the rate of intoxication.
• Drinking alters your liver metabolism, so consult your doctor if you are taking any medications.
Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthful weight and to eliminate accumulated toxins. A good general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces. When properly hydrated, your body is more inclined to release toxins from fat cells to be removed from the body.
Contribute to the Festivities
If you know you have particular dietary needs, bring a dish to your events even if it is not a potluck. People never say no to more delicious food and you remain guilt-free. Here is a crowd pleaser:
Spicy Pumpkin Hummus
1-14 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1¼ cups pumpkin puree
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
(more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place garbanzo beans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very finely chopped. With the motor running, add the garlic through the tube and process until very fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt, pepper and lemon juice, if desired.
Serve with fresh vegetables or sweet potato chips.
Avoid Banking Calories
Many people “bank” food for the day, so they can indulge more in the evening. This tactic usually backfires because you will find yourself ravenous by the time the evening comes. Eat healthful meals consisting of lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables if you know you are going to indulge later.
Sit Down and Slow Down
The purpose of the holidays is to connect and spend time with those you love, so make sure to sit down and be present for the entire experience. Slow down by chewing your food thoroughly (approximately 30 chews per bite) to let your satiety signals keep up with your intake. This eating tip alone can make a giant impact.
Keep up with Sleep
The holiday season can bring about long evenings, but staying on top of your sleep will help you reduce stress and fatigue. The fatigue from lack of sleep can lead your body to crave more food, particularly sugar and salt, to maintain energy levels.
Exercise First Thing in Morning
Studies also support that those who maintain an exercise regimen during the holidays gain less weight. During the holidays, there is more potential for last-minute exciting activities to derail your plans. Getting your exercise out of the way in the morning allows you to check it off the list and stoke your metabolism from the get go.
Implement your new year’s exercise commitment early when the gyms are less crowded. By combining cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling, jogging, or swimming with weight training, you can increase your metabolism and build muscle to burn more calories. If you are traveling, plan a body weight regimen ahead to keep you on track.
IS THIS FOOD/DRINK/EVENT/PERSON NUTURING?
The holidays can bring happy memories for many, but for some, it can also be a time of feeling the loss of family member or some introverts feeling pressure to be more extroverted.
Indulgences are not bad if they come from the right place. If you do something on the “naughty” list, does it feed your soul? Are you present while you are enjoying it? If the answer is yes, then you are probably in the right frame of mind. If you are engaging because everyone else is doing it or simply out of habit, you may want to rethink what is nurturing to your body and soul and follow that compass.
Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor specializing in chronic complex diseases including Lyme disease and mold illness. For more information, visit