Optimal Self with Dr. Katherine Birchenough
Most everyone looks forward to holiday festivities and gatherings, but they always seem to center around delicious food and drink! At the same time, we dread the tight jeans and self-loathing that comes around just in time for our New Year’s resolutions. Although most people accept that the holidays inevitably result in up to 10 pounds of extra weight every year, it doesn’t have to be that way! The “winter weight” is not necessarily your fate.
I’d like to give you some tips to help you enjoy yourself this holiday season while defending your health and your sanity. Save those New Year’s resolutions for something more creative.
Think of these tips as “basic training” for the real battle coming up and as general rules for the care and maintenance of a healthy body.
Tip #1: Start cleaning up your diet now.
Don’t wait until after the temptations start! Take a hard look at the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. How much of what fills it is refined, processed, preserved “fake food?” If it has a label with more than a few ingredients, it’s not real food. As a general rule, 80 percent of what you eat should be fresh, whole food that requires refrigeration and preparation other than just a microwave.
Your refrigerator needs to be void of anything “prepared,” and that includes the convenient stuff in plastic tubs from your local gourmet market as well as most everything on the inner aisles of the grocery store or in the freezer department. Most of what is stored in your pantry should be whole, unrefined nuts and seeds, grains and legumes, herbs and spices and some key things like canned tomatoes, olives and artichokes.
What should not be in there? Jars of juice, boxes of cereal, cookies, macaroni, cake mixes, soft drinks or other junk that is higher in chemicals than actual nutrition. Empty calories do nothing but raise your blood sugar, starting a cascade of inflammation in your body. It’s what you do every day that counts, not a decadent meal or two around the holidays. Eat clean, whole food on the regular, and your system can handle the Christmas casseroles with ease.
Tip #2: Get moving.
to maintain. If you do not have a regular exercise habit, develop one now. The weather is cooler and perfect for a walk or run outside. If you live in a neighborhood with hills, incorporate a few of those each time you go out. Start slow if you’re not in shape or if it’s been a while. The body needs time to acclimate and strengthen the connective tissue camp, yoga, CrossFit, barre, cycling or interval training workout close by.
You don’t even have to think—just show up in your workout clothes with a bottle of water and a towel. These classes make it easy to get a variety of activity, and since many are franchises, you can take advantage of other studios when traveling. Remember, you need strength, aerobic and too complicated. Just get up and move!
Tip #3: Fix your sleep.
With fewer daylight hours, we naturally get sleepier earlier in the evening. Take advantage of this time of year to make sure you are getting hormones and blood sugar to go up, resulting in weight gain. Sleep is also when our bodies repair the damage of the day, restore neurotransmitters
Tip #4: Don’t succumb to holiday stress!
can all put a big damper on the holidays and create a lot of stress. And guess what? Stress releases hormones like cortisol that, over time, wreak metabolic havoc. That expanding waistline can be directly related to how on what’s really important. There are things you can’t control. Take a deep breath, and let it go; don’t let it ruin your day or your health.
Tip #5: Try time-restricted eating.
Limit your caloric intake to 10-12 hours a day. By eating during a 12 to 14 hours to eat the next day. Allowing at least four hours between dinner and bedtime is ideal if you want the best sleep. By engaging in time-restricted eating, you are allowing your blood sugar and insulin to decrease and your fat-burning mode to kick in. It’s a great way to maintain weight over the holidays and to achieve optimal health in the long term.
Tip #6: Exercise in a fasted state.
It takes about 20 minutes to use up the fuel in your muscles before the body turns to fat for fuel. Once there, the longer you can maintain that steady fat-burn of your maximum, which for most people is a brisk walk or a moderate jog. Most people feel good energy and a clear head in this state. Drink water. If you’re hungry, eat. You don’t want to stress your body. This will help you maintain and even lose weight over the holidays!
So there you have it: a clean diet, exercise and movement, great sleep, stress management, and a couple of smart tricks to amp up the fat- burning. The holidays never looked so easy!
By Dr. Katherine Birchenough