With the high-calorie holiday season looming, it’s time to address the bloated elephant in the room: what can we do to improve our health over this season of while still enjoying the holidays? There are already tempting seasonal goodies flooding the grocery stores and if we understand anything about brain physiology, it’s that the brain craves what it’s given. This is a function of homeostasis, or an organism’s attempt to maintain a steady state. These changes in diet tend to provoke cravings for more sweets, high fat foods and the desire to eat them in higher quantities. The longer this goes on, the more the brain and body crave them. A colder season instinctively adds to our desire to consume more calories. For most of history, it was vital for mankind to fatten up before winter. Now, with the easy availability of so much food, our biology actually works against us. This is part of why it’s so easy to put weight on, but so difficult to take it back off!
Out of all the tried and true methods to control your weight, these are the most fundamental principles to stick with. Whether you want to stave off gaining the usual holiday 10 or dedicating yourself to total body transformation, here are my top 10 tips to keep the cravings down.
- Stay Active. We want to hole up when the weather changes. A drop in temperature makes us want to climb into bed and snuggle the day away. As I always tell my physical training and weight loss clients, the most important thing is to put on your exercise clothes. Once you do that, your mindset changes. Taking any action puts your mind into an active state, making it easier to follow through on your plan
- Walk Out The Door. We’re warm blooded organisms. If we get cold, our body compensates by generating heat. This raises our metabolisms and helps burn calories. Secondly, once we make it outside, we’re already committed to doing whatever activities we previously decided to do.
- Set Tomorrow’s Goals In Advance. One of the most powerful tools to achieve your goals, whether financial or physical, is to meditate on tomorrow’s plan while going to sleep. It doesn’t take any extra time. You just need to focus on two to three things that you really want to accomplish. This activates the unconscious mind while you sleep to help you follow through.
- Prepare Your Meals In Advance. Once the hunger kicks in, it’s only natural to look for something convenient and comforting. Unfortunately, winter is the time when comfort food cravings are at their max and these next few months are full of them. By pre-packaging your meals and snacks, you’ll be proactive in dealing with all the temptations.
- Keep A Food Journal. This can be an actual notebook or simply recording it into your phone’s notepad. Either way, when you write down everything you eat, it’s proven that you’ll eat less. This is the simplest and perhaps the most effective single method for controlling weight that I’ve come across in two decades of working with people. Those who keep a journal tend to succeed. Other methods work but this is the closest thing to a Holy Grail I’ve come across. It’s also a main key to keeping weight off after losing it. A little discipline goes a long way!
- Portion Control. You can eat just about anything you want in the right amount. If you always binge on Thanksgiving, plan some lower calorie days before and after. Also, take smaller portions so you don’t need more than one plate for dinner. Dessert will certainly be there to up the calorie intake, as will all the snacks and bakery that normally accompanies the holiday season. Between your food journal and using Thanksgiving as your “cheat day,” you’ll have less to account for later.
- Don’t Eat After 7:00 PM. This will give you 10-12 hours to digest your food before eating again. Most people will be in ketosis 8-10 hours after their last meal so you’ll have at least 2-4 hours of ketosis (fat burning.) This practice helps exercise your fat-burning mitochondria, balancing blood sugar and boosting your metabolism’s efficiency. Those late night snacks will certainly add up, and these are the ones that people most often forget to include in their journals.
- Postpone Breakfast. If you really want to maximize time in ketosis, either skip or delay breakfast. There’s a common misconception that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The fact is that as soon as you eat, your metabolism switches back to carb-burning mode and fat-burning is all but over. Start with
- Forgive Yourself. Most of the clients I’ve worked with, including myself, have all-or-nothing attitudes. Once I mess up my eating, it’s very common to feel guilty or weak and fall into a downward spiral. Keeping a nutrition regiment is like playing piano. At first it’s difficult to make anything sound good, but with practice anyone can learn how to play Chopsticks pretty well. Mastering an instrument takes many years so it’s fortunate that all you really have to do is learn to play Chopsticks everyday. Does this get boring? Yup. Is it effective? You bet!
- Enjoy The Food You Eat. It’s the holidays! It’s time to relax and have some fun. When you decide to eat something, allow yourself to pause and savor the experience. Take extra time to eat, focusing on the sensations of every bite. This additional attention to your taste buds will release extra pleasure chemicals in your brain and help stave off the cravings. Plus, lower calories and higher satisfaction = lower guilt. Lower guilt = happier holidays!
Yes, you’ve probably heard most of these before, but that’s because they work. I’m a big proponent of keeping things simple and going back to the root fundamentals. So choose the three that you’re lagging in the most and get to work!
In good health,
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