A week from today, most of us will be gathered with family, friends and loved ones, enjoying whatever our respective traditional Thanksgiving feast looks like. Whether that's turkey, ham, spaghetti (yes, some folks go rogue) or vegan lentil loaf, the day will probably include a bit of indulgence. And that's okay. Most experts seem to agree that occasional indulgence is a good thing, and can help keep you on track with your healthy eating in the long run.
I know for me, this is the time of year when, as the weather turns cold, it's easier to stay inside by a fire watching movies (and munching) than to get out and get some exercise. Or eat salads. The holidays seem almost defined by indulgence in food and drink, right? Between family feasts, parties at the office, parties at friends' houses, cookie exchanges, treats for Santa and all of our wonderful clients who bring us goodies, even the most dedicated health nuts among us face a lot of temptation. (Note - please do not take this to mean we want you to stop bringing treats to the office.)
Now, I certainly don't count myself among those most dedicated of health nuts. Those of you who know me know that, while I have dropped more than 120 pounds in the last four years, I have not given up everything I love to indulge in. I mean, what's life without a little egg nog at Christmas? But I also try to remind myself that the last six weeks of the year don't have to be all or nothing when it comes to health. Studies out there estimate that Americans tend to gain somewhere between 2 and 15 pounds in November and December, so we've compiled a few tips that have helped some of us avoid those so-called "festive 15."
First of all, load up on the protein, they say. Now here's one I can get behind! (More turkey anyone?) Turns out, protein digests slowly and keeps you full longer. But I also know that sometimes being full isn't enough to make us stop eating. (Please tell me I'm not the only one?) Lots of nutrition experts recommend filling your plate once and calling it a day, making sure to include at least some veggies. Try to keep your drinks of the non-sugary variety and at least try to stay hydrated. Of course there's the old stand-by tip to take your own healthy options to pot lucks and neighborhood gatherings.
When it comes to exercise, some research suggests that morning workouts can help keep weight gain at bay better than later-in-the-day workouts. Plus, in my personal experience, getting a workout in first thing makes me choose more wisely throughout the day, and eliminates the excuses that come after kids and work have worn you out. Some experts recommend just taking a quick walk after a meal to get blood flowing and kickstart digestion. Or, head outside for a flag football game which - bonus! - wears the kids out too.
For me, and lots of research backs me up on this too, it's just as important to allow some indulgence (and to avoid beating yourself up if you do overdo something) as anything. I'll be keeping my health goals top-of-mind but I refuse to let all of life's simple pleasures pass me by. I'm sure we've all heard that self-depravation can often just lead to overindulgence later, and I agree. The key here is mindfulness, folks.
They say if you haven't got your health you haven't got anything, but this year, let's all practice forgiving ourselves too. Mindful indulgence alongside cutting yourself some slack will make for a lot less stress for the rest of 2018.
What tips do you find useful for staying healthy - mentally and physically - during Thanksgiving and Christmas? We'd love to hear them.