How do we enjoy the holidays without overeating and gaining weight?
If you’ve worked in healthcare as long as I have, you come to see first-hand the dangers of consuming sugary food products for too long. Diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, the list goes on…
Sugar is not a friend of our bodies. So what does it have to do with gaining weight around the holidays?
Insulin is in charge of feeding or building fat cells (Kahn & Flier, 2000). Sugar triggers insulin production and insulin stimulates fat cells to take in energy and grow (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). This means all the cakes, pies, cookies, sweet alcoholic mixed beverages-even mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are all causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, leading to weight gain. Yikes!
The good news: you can partake in cheer and eat as much as you want!
The caveat: you’re going to want to “crowd out” the unhealthy foods with the healthier ones (Rosenthal, 2018).
Crowding out means the more healthy food you eat, the less unhealthy food you will consume-I can attest this really works! Crowding out is a way to enjoy an ongoing non-diet lifestyle by increasing the intake of healthy foods and decreasing non-healthy foods (Rosenthal, 2018).
Where to start? Look for low-sugar or sugar-free recipes for holiday dishes online. There is a plethora of them out there. Substitute delicious fruits in place of sweet snacks. Have something healthy, like a handful of almonds or a fresh green smoothie made with coconut milk, spinach and banana before going to a holiday party so you won’t feel as hungry. Hunger will tempt you to eat the unhealthy stuff.
Remember to drink plenty of water, it guides us to know if we are truly hungry or just thirsty. And get in as much physical activity as you can. I find a simple routine like a 20-minute cardio session every morning has an incredible effect on my energy, mood and productivity. Getting enough sleep, relaxation, and self-care time aids in keeping stress levels down, which can keep cortisol levels from increasing- causing us to crave sugar.
By being mindful of what goes into our bodies and crowding out the unhealthy foods, we can enjoy a healthy weight, not only during the holidays but the whole year round! Happy holidays and healthy feasting!
Kahn, B.B. & Flier, J.S. (2000). Obesity and insulin resistance. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 106(4), 473-481.
Rosenthal, J. (2018). Integrative nutrition: A whole-life approach. New York, NY: Integrative Nutrition, Inc.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010). NIH study shows how insulin stimulates fat cells to take in glucose. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose