Chicago Fitness & Recovery Center

Black Friday of Holiday Foods: The Splurge and the Deals

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It’s that time of year again and we are in the thick of it: holiday parties, family gatherings and lots of delicious food and drinks.  From Thanksgiving to New Years, the average person consumes an additional 500 calories per day, which can lead to an extra 2-3 pounds per week. You also may experience dehydration due to the increased dry heat and decrease in water intake, which can make you feel tired and sluggish. We all know this time of year comes around, but we never prepare ourselves for its arrival. So here are my tips on how to survive the holidays and still stay on track of your goals.

Most of you will think that I am about to talk about a diet or  cleanse you can do to stay healthy this holiday season, but you’d be wrong. No diets or cleanses here because we are athletes and those are never sustainable for you whether in season or out of season. What I recommend are tools that require no food logging and can be used well beyond the holidays to help you achieve your goals: Portions and Mindful Eating.

Portions is defined as the part of the whole, and that’s exactly why each type of food as a different portion that is best for its serving size. It allows you to become more aware of your food and understand how much of each food group you need just by looking at your plate. There are two methods I teach: Household items and the Hand method.

  • From a deck of cards to a baseball, the items around your house can help you look at your food in a whole new way. For example, as you pour your cereal, compare what you pour out to your fist. 1 fist is about 1 cup of cereal which is one portion. A deck of cards is 3 ounces of meat. A package of dental floss is 1 ounce of chocolate.  1 die is 1 teaspoon of oil. 4 dice are 1 and a half ounces of cheese. This is a great method to use with kids too to help them start understanding their food.
  • Hand method for portions are easy to use and can be used discreetly at any holiday party. The diagram below shows not only the equivalent but also understand the calories of food items. For example, 1 cup or 1 fist of pasta is about 200 calories OR 1 cupped palm of nuts is about 170 calories.
  • Now for the typical holiday food, that would translate to 1 palm is 1 serving of turkey/roasted chicken OR 1 fist is 1 serving of mashed potatoes (so that means I had 3 servings at Thanksgiving ha!)

Mindful eating is a way of eating that allows you to become more in tune with your body and learn more about your body’s needs.  By practice meditation while you eat, noticing your food with all your senses, you gain understanding and ultimately control over your eating habits. Research has shown that practicing mindful eating can help with weight loss, reduce binge eating and help you feel better emotionally.  It can also benefit those who experience depression and anxiety as well.  Now there are many ways to begin practicing mindful eating, but the 4 that are most appropriate during the holidays are these:

Let your body catch up to your brain – it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate with your brain the signals of full, so take your time with your food. This doesn’t mean you have to eat super slowly, but more becoming aware of the food you are chewing and pay attention to each bite.

Know your body’s personal hunger signals – Emotional want or comfort foods are abundant this time of year and knowing when your body needs food (after a workout) and what you just want for comfort is key. And we all know how emotional the holidays can be, so arm yourself and know what your triggers are for emotional eating.

Eating Environment – This is eating alone vs. eating with others, so the holidays help you do this practice fairly easily.  You are almost always around people, which for mindful eating allows you to be more conscious of what is on your plate.

Attend to your Plate – Avoid multitasking while eating, so that means eating in front of the TV or at your desk. When you eat and multitask, you tend to over eat and you aren’t able to truly enjoy your food. Keeping it intentional with your plate is key in season and out of season.

 

The overall message with mindful eating is that it is gaining insight into the practice: slowing down, doing one thing at a time, listening to your body and thinking about all that went into the making of a meal. Learning to take these practices into your daily eating habits will also carry over into your daily habits and allow you to become more mindful for life.

As we get into the thick of the holidays, practice portions and mindful eating during the weekdays, so that when the weekends and parties come around, you have made the practices into habits. These practices should not be a chore, but an easy way to enjoy your holidays without guilt and staying on track for your goals. So enjoy your holidays guilt-free and start now making steps to a healthy new year!




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