How to Quickly Shake Off the Holiday (Meals)
By Luke Pearce, Lead Nutritionist, B.Sc. Biology, PN-1, NASM-CPT
Hopefully you got everything you wished for this holiday season. And, if you picked up a few (pounds) you didn’t want, here are a few ideas to help you get back on track throughout the year.
Let go of the past.
Mental health is key to physical health. A little self-love and self-forgiving are healthy starts to any new regime, and sometimes easier said than done.
Start by forgiving and forgetting the past choices you’ve made that led to where you are now, physically and mentally. The goal going forward is to make good decisions most of the time. Perfection is not a realistic expectation, consistency is key.
Be reasonable with yourself.
It’s human nature – the moment you or someone else tells you that you cannot do something or eat something, you crave it even more. So, curb the risk of overeating or eating the wrong thing by always giving yourself good choices.
If you’re absolutely craving something, give yourself permission to enjoy it, and then rebalance your meals to accommodate the indulgence.
You can also try having some, rather than all, of the craved food. For instance, at your kid’s next birthday party, give yourself the choice of either eating an apple or enjoying one to two forkfuls of cake, rather than an entire slice.
There are no such things as bad foods. Just be mindful to keep your choices and calories in balance.
Small wins add up.
Small, achievable goals can create small wins. The key is to make reasonable, achievable goals.
For instance, once you identify a milestone to tackle in the long-term, reinforce the effort by creating a plan with secondary goals – stepping-stones if you will – and short-term deadlines that fortify your path to that milestone. As a bonus, you will create accountability and self-motivation by pairing the smaller goal with a closer deadline. And, when you fall off the path – and we all do – it will be easier to get back on track when you focus on achieving a smaller win.
Reaching each small goal will yield a great deal of positive change to how you feel and even to your workouts. The added benefit to these small wins is regular boosts to your confidence. Once you see yourself achieving a goal, it’s easier to go after the next one.
Get moving again.
Find something that helps motivate you to be healthier. Start with small efforts – anything that you enjoy that gets you moving. Dedicating time to movement is what’s key, not just the kind or intensity of the movement. It’s better to be more focused on the fun you’re having rather than the calories you’re burning. The calorie burn becomes a bonus.
Ease into new activities.
Your body is smart. It will adapt very quickly to new activities.
To make the most of your efforts, and stay on track with your goals, be sure to graduate your intensity – especially if you haven’t been active for a while, and let your body acclimate to the new activity level.
If you go all out from the beginning, you leave no room to progress and may plateau sooner. Worse, you increase your risk of injuring yourself, and are more likely to burn out when you don’t see results.
Get back to eating whole, healthy foods.
You’ve probably heard of the idea that it takes calories to burn calories. Every time you eat, your body has to burn energy just to break down the food and absorb its nutrients. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food.
Different foods break down in different ways in the body to create energy sources. Whole, unprocessed foods including proteins are harder to break down and digest, forcing your body to use more energy (burn calories) to process them. Processed foods (e.g. crackers, cookies, etc.) and other carbohydrates and fats are much easier to digest and absorb. The work of breaking them down has already been done before they enter your body, so your body does not have to work as hard to break them down. You are more likely to store more of these processed calories because your body did not have to burn many during digestion.
As a good rule of thumb, have a whole food as your protein source at every meal – e.g. chicken, beef, eggs, fish – ultimately, something that you like.
Tips to Sustainable Nutrition Habits
- Set SMART goals – To make a change and make it stick, start by setting reasonable, achievable goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.
- Be accountable to someone – Choose a sponsor or exercise partner who can help keep you accountable and who can give you tough love when you fall off the wagon, and ultimately encourage your success.
- Shop the outer ring – At the grocery store, the whole, fresh and non-processed foods are most often found around the periphery of your local grocer, leaving processed foods and sundries in the interior aisles. So, if you spend most of your shopping time outside of those inner aisles, you’re increasing your chances of selecting better food options for you and your family.
Ready to get on track? Ask me for help defining goals and designing a personalized nutritional plan to help you shake off the holiday meals.
DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision.