Let’s face it: this is the hardest time of year to stick to your health goals. There are plates of cookies everywhere, your schedule is insane so fitting in regular workouts gets tough, and you’re surrounded by friends and family members who insist one more glass of eggnog won’t be the end of you. In a way, they’re right—one extra drink is not worth a panic attack, but shaking up your health routine every day for a whole season can certainly leave you feeling less than awesome come January. Why not get ahead of those New Year regrets (and the too-strict resolutions that come with them) by trying these tips and tricks from Honest friend and nutrition expert Alex McMahon of Evolve Nutritional Therapy:
1. Eat Before Social Events: Make sure to eat before an event to curb the cravings for junk food and make sure you are eating because of hunger, not habit.
2. Eat Adequate Protein and Fat: protein and fat are high satiety foods keeping you feeling fuller for longer and well nourished.
3. Focus On Being Around Loved Ones : When you change the focus to being around friends and family, the food becomes less of a focal point. Remember the holidays are about giving and celebrating with loved ones!
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Say “No Thank You” To Foods: There are always food pushers at events such as potlucks, they try to pressure you to eat certain foods or say things like “you make an exception for…” Be confident and comfortable telling someone “no thank you” or saying “I’m full.” Your health and food choices are yours to make, don’t let others influence what you choose to eat. If you choose to eat something let it be because you want to, not because you’re under pressure.
5. Set Limits: Make agreements with yourself before social events about how many drinks you will have or what foods you are going to strictly avoid. Stick to your agreements with yourself!
6. Get Plenty Of Sleep: Getting adequate sleep allows for less unhealthy cravings, better blood sugar control. Lack of sleep will make you more impulsive around food. Sleep is crucial to your health, and lack of sleep can negatively affect decision making skills (like whether or not to eat that fifth handful of peanut M&M’s).
7. Work Out Before Social Events: If you end up indulging at a social event, the exercise will allow the body to better deal with the extra sugar, fat, and alcohol you have consumed. Exercise can also be a great motivator to help people continue healthy habits.
8. Bring Food To Share: If you bring a healthier option you are guaranteed to have food that meets your needs. Leading by example might encourage some conversations around your healthier option and give you a chance to spread the good nutrition word to others.
9. Start With The Healthier Options: When you start with the healthier options at a party it leaves much less room on your plate for the junk foods we are trying to avoid. By the time you eat those healthier options and nourish your body, the craving for other food will naturally be cured.
10. Eat Slowly: We need to give enough time for our gut to signal the brain saying that we are well nourished and no longer require any more food. This signal from the gut turns the hunger signal in the brain off and can take up to 20 minutes. By eating too quickly we are able to bypass these signals and over consume food before our gut and brain have the chance to shut down the hunger signal. This habit also overloads our digestion, making it work much harder than it should to process the extreme amount of food we have consumed.
11. Before Indulging ask yourself “How Important Is This To Me Compared To My Long Term Health Goals?” When you make a decision, realize that in the moment that is what you valued the most. There is no going back you should not feel guilty about about it. I’ve heard Dallas Hartwig from Whole9 and the Whole 30 say before: “No guilt, just consequences” and that hits the nail right on the head. Typically when we make less than healthy choices we can feel a negative reaction in our body, that is the consequence. The Shame, guilt, and stress that we put on our self is much more damaging that the actual food we consumed. No guilt, just consequences
12. Stay Hydrated: The hunger and thirst signal can be confused. It sounds funny to think that we could make this simple mistake, but we do it all the time with unnecessary snacking. Next time you feel an urge to snack, drink a tall glass of water and see if you still feel the same hunger afterwards. When out at a social event with unhealthy options decrease the chance of mindless snacking by staying properly hydrated, it can also help with hangovers.
13. Be Selective With Food Choices: If you are going to indulge, keep it gluten-free and make it worthwhile. Don’t make an exception for a regular old christmas sugar cookie, make the indulgence something decadent and memorable. In short, go big or go home with the indulgence.
14. HCL and Digestive Enzymes: Overloading our digestion with too much food and consuming unhealthy options is a digestive distress double whammy sure to make it feel like you have a brick in your stomach. Take some of the burden off your digestive system by supplementing with HCL (hydrochloric acid) and digestive enzymes to allow for greater breakdown of foods. These are especially helpful supplements when planning to eat a large meal.
15. Return To Your Normal Routine The Next Morning: While the occasional indulgence can be good for people to kick their heels up and enjoy social events, it is equally important to get back on track the next morning. Many people let one indulgence turn into a few days or week of unhealthy habits. Avoid this by making an agreement with yourself that the very next day you are getting back into your healthy nutrition and sleep habits.
These tips have been very successful for Alex’s clients who use them. At Evolve Nutritional Therapy, Alex is used to going against the grain to help people reach their maximum potential—check out his services to be your healthiest self!