It started with Thanksgiving – stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie. Then came Halloween, with a plethora of fun-sized chips and chocolates that make you think “just one won’t hurt”. As I sit here typing, I have a few mini Snickers bars to fuel my work.
And now we begin to prepare for the myriad holiday parties that will soon start. Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Christmas, New Year’s – a blur of sugar plums, cookies, cakes, matzo balls, gluhwein, and egg nog. It’s no wonder that, come January 1, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. There is a way to enjoy some treats and go about the holidays while still welcoming the first day of the year as just another cold winter’s day. We spoke to nutritionist Stephanie Kay and fitness guru Jenna Ladd over at Iron North Fitness for their tried-and-true tips.
“Ensuring that you are eating adequate protein during the day (a serving at every meal, be it animal or plant-based) can help to keep you full in order to reduce cravings,” explains Stephanie Kay. That means you are less likely to eat #allthecarbs on the dessert table and more likely to savour your faves.
Similar to the way the fibre in fruit helps break down its natural sugars, you can try to do the same with treats. “Fibre does help to slow down the digestive process and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Ensuring you are eating lots of vegetables that are fibre-rich at your meals will certainly help if you are eating extra treats around Christmas.” (try Kay’s apricot pistachio oatmeal cookies for a fibre-packed treat)
“Drinking adequate water is also imperative! Lack of water intake is one of the primary causes of sweets cravings, so ensuring you are hydrated throughout the holidays is key. Ideally you should be drinking 0.5 ounces of water per pound of body weight.” i.e. a 150-lb person should drink 75 ounces (9 cups) per day.
Working out around meals
If you want to plan your workouts around meals, Jenna Ladd suggests you sweat right before your sweets. “Food as a reward for hard work is always nice from a psychological standpoint, and it can soften the blow of eating too much sugar/starch/bad fats. Your metabolism is temporarily spiked post-workout, so be mindful of what you do shovel in. You might feel hungrier but you are actually not needing as much as your belly thinks. Eat slowly, eat mindfully, but enjoy that egg nog. Don’t be too restrictive and allow yourself the opportunity to indulge. So long as this isn’t commonplace, enjoy it!”
Fitting in fitness
Think you can’t find the time to get a decent workout in between the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, and parties? If you have 15 minutes to spare, then you actually do.
“The metabolic conditioning class is fast and furious. In a short period of time (usually 15-20 minutes) you will get a head-to-toe burner,” Ladd explains. Metabolic conditioning (or MetCon) is one of the classes at Iron North Fitness. “We utilize intervals, circuits, complexes, and timed groups of exercises. If you have some experience with strength training, this is a great workout to squeeze in over the holidays when you are crunched for time between parties, dinner, and shopping.”
Maybe this sounds intimidating, but Ladd ensures it’s a workout for anyone searching holiday sweet salvation. “MetCon is intense, but everything can be scaled. You can simply slow down. Walk out your burpees or take a second or two rest between reps. Your instructor will never push you past what your body can actually complete. If a MetCon class just isn’t going to cut it, try a spin or yoga class. Your rides can very easily be scaled by using less resistance and your yoga practice will provide lots of opportunity for rest and unwinding. Sometimes when our lives are the busiest, the last thing we need is a high-intensity class.”
Food for thought
“Be kind to yourself!” says Kay. “Don’t feel bad or guilty when you treated yourself. This is where we often get into trouble and eat the whole tin of cookies instead of one. Implement the ‘One Bite’ rule. If you see something and are not quite sure if you want or need it, you can take a bite and decide if it is worth it. Too often we put things in our mouth and then realize it isn’t as good as we expected but we eat it anyway. Ask yourself ‘is it worth it’, and if the answer it no, just put the rest down! The holidays are a busy time of year so it is easy to get off track. I certainly think it is important for people to enjoy them and indulge here and there, but try and keep a routine that keeps you balanced. Avoid throwing all caution to the wind and telling yourself you will get ‘back on track’ in the New Year. Eat a healthy breakfast, pack your lunch, and stay active. If a couple of treats sneak in here and there the overall damage won’t be so bad!”