Photo by @element5digital
(The following article has been adapted from Coach Ayesha’s article in the December 2019 Newsletter)
We may have less of an entourage this holiday season, but many of us are still celebrating within our households. But, indulging in festivities doesn’t have to result in weight gain. With a mindful approach to celebration, you can discover the vast spectrum between hyper-vigilance and self-sabotage. A balanced approach is both possible and advisable. Maintaining your long-term nutritional goals “in the real world,” is as much behavioural as it is about what you’re actually consuming. A state of mind governs how much and what we eat. Staying positive and getting in your rest will go far in terms of making good choices.
Coach Ayesha’s Holiday Health Hacks
Eating to 80% full
Enjoying meals you don’t typically eat, including sweets, spirits, and eggnog, and sharing meals within your pod during the holidays can actually be helpful to ensure you don’t feel so deprived when you skip those treats during the rest of the year. But, doing so doesn’t have to mean you consume until you’re uncomfortably full. Use the 80% guide (stopping at what feels like 80% full). Try more options, but with smaller portions.
Make Your Drinks Last
Raising a glass or sipping holiday punch doesn’t have to mean waking up with a headache. Have a drink or two but make it last. Going double-fisted by carrying a sparkling water in one hand and a glass of wine in the other is one effective way to modulate consumption. With small sips, I can make the same glass of wine last for well over an hour. When we are even a little impaired from alcohol, our decision-making is compromised, and it becomes harder to make wise nutritional choices or even to read our own hunger cues with accuracy.
Just because you can’t get on your trainer or into the pool, doesn’t mean you have to do nothing.
All forms of exercise are good and should be taken advantage of. Maybe the kids want to go tobogganing? Make them chase you back up the hill! Suggest a family push up or plank challenge. Take the lead and keep yourself and your family on the move. In fact, a number of smaller bursts of exercise throughout the day has been shown to be helpful in weight-loss. For optimal blood glucose regulation, exercise physiologist Jenna Gillen encourages what she calls “exercise snacks” –short periods of exercise as little as 2 minutes to break up long periods of inaction. She also suggests that bouts of exercise following meals can offset the rise in blood glucose which has a positive impact of weight. If we extrapolate, and if our aim is weight-control vs fitness gains during this short period, then it may be even more productive to do 3 x 15-minute runs throughout the day rather than a single 45 minute run.
Lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest than other structures. Build up your lean muscle mass by strength-training going into the holidays and maintain short sessions as you can over the holidays. Doing your own 10 to 30 min HIIT circuit at home, will help burn calories immediately, but also long after you have stopped exercising. Better yet, combine your anerobic workout with an aerobic one by super-setting exercises so your HR stays up between sets. Another way to add the aerobic component is to insert 30 sec of high knees or running A’s between every two to three exercises. If you have a bike or elliptical on-site, you can also a 3-minute effort on either (at 80% or higher) between every two to three exercises. This is also a fun way to break up weight training and you’re certain to get your sweat on.
When in doubt run, even for a short time. You can run anytime, anywhere, with limited planning and equipment. If safety or lighting is an issue (we are into the shortest days of the year) then running around a block or up and down a nearby hill are great (if repetitive) options. Furthermore, the meditative aspects of running can be extremely beneficial for off-setting the emotional stress that can build up over the holidays. Even a 15-minute run on the relatively quiet holiday streets can allow you to work through thoughts that are bothering you.
Try these hacks and stay fit, fabulous, and festive this holiday season.
 This research was presented by Dr Gillen at the public lecture “Optimizing Nutrition Through Exercise” on March 5, 2019 at the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at the University of Toronto.