Looking forward to the holidays season but dreading the extra pounds that come with the consumption of all those tasty treats?
Sara Aloimonos, a functional nutritionist and owner of Nourish North; Devin Madsen, personal trainer and co-owner of the Racquet Club; and Inemesit Graham, a personal trainer for the Racquet Club, share some tips and advice on how to limit the damage and why you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you overindulge a little.
Aloimonos encourages people to fill their plate to increase their intake of healthful foods.
“My main recommendation is to have balance. Fill your plate with lots of fruits and veggies first, and then any empty spaces on your plate you can fill with foods you wouldn’t normally indulge in.
“You can still enjoy being part of the Christmas festivities, but also try to keep in line with your health regime.”
She also suggested that individuals can bring their own healthy dish to an outing where rich foods would be tempting.
Madsen said that managing one’s calories will be the greatest factor for weight gain over Christmas.
“It’s probably the hardest time not to gain (weight),” he said. “The biggest thing in gaining (weight) is your calories in and your calories out.
“Most of the time over Christmas, you’re going to be eating more and you’re going to be just hanging out, relaxing with family, and that’s totally understandable.”
He shared a key strategy in maintaining his own weight over Christmas.
“I’m going to have a little bit of a lot of good food. Smaller portions, I find, is the key to still getting all that good food easier (without) putting on those extra pounds.”
‘Listen to your hunger cues’
Graham said that you should avoid over-consumption by listening to your body.
“My advice is just to eat the way that you usually do. Start eating when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.
“What’s helpful for general health is just learning to listen to your hunger cues.”
When asked if people should seek an alternative to eating sugary foods, Graham reiterated her previous suggestion to eat the way you usually do.
“I don’t think it’s enough to find an alternative. People often stigmatize foods as good and bad, and food has no morality. Food is food and every one offers nutrients. We just have different levels of nutrients and vitamins from different foods.
“If you enjoy the sweets, (do not) deny yourself of that. When we deny ourselves when we tend to crave it, we’ll over-eat it.
“(If) we allow ourselves to have the things that (we) suddenly crave, then (we) feel satisfied and you don’t over-eat.”
Madsen said that when it comes their eating habits, people should extend grace to themselves over the holiday season.
“Don’t beat yourself up. When you’re having fun and enjoying it, just enjoy it. Don’t regret it.
“(When) the holiday season is over… you’re going to get back to (your regular routine). All that weight that comes on will come back off.”
He also stated that it’s not a good strategy to cut foods that you like out of your diet.
Aloimonos encourages exercise throughout the holiday season. She said it can help counter the pressures that the holiday season brings.
“Family drama, buying gifts, decorating, setting up, baking. All that can be added stress,” she said.
“Try to stick to your exercise regime,” she urged. “If you normally exercise every day, don’t use the holidays as an excuse just to dump all of that. Try to keep at it. Just set that time aside.
She said workout momentum can be lost over the holidays — she’s seen it happen to some of her clients.
“They give up their exercise over the holidays, and when they get back on January 1, it’s really hard to get back into it,” she said. “Their bodies are just not where it was before the holidays. They say they’ve lost their motivation just because they stopped their routine.”
However, Graham said habits are formed from doing things consistently over a long period of time. Although she encourages eating only when you’re hungry, failing to maintain routines over Christmas will not make a dramatic difference, she suggested.
“This shouldn’t be a focus about gaining weight over the holiday season. The holiday season doesn’t represent our everyday (lives). The Christmas season happens one time of year, so (we should) be flexible with our approach to our bodies and to our nutrition,” she said.
“Our bodies are a result of our habits — the things that we do consistently — not the things that we do in one single moment. Even if you are over-eating at Christmas, that’s just every once in a while. You can go back to your normal habits afterwards,” Graham added. “Your body’s not going to change dramatically because you’ve changed your habits for two weeks.”
Aloimonos encourages people to stay hydrated but to have water between alcoholic or festive beverages. She also suggested, when cooking or baking, to substitute ingredients for healthier alternatives.
“They can swap out traditional (ingredients). If they’re using lots of butter, (consider) using less butter or using coconut oil in its place,” she advised.
Graham said eating food is not just for satisfying our hunger, but part of our emotional journey as well.
“It’s about the experience of eating. It brings memories. Food can help us feel whole,” she said.