7 Ways To Avoid Packing On Extra Pounds This Holiday Season

Do you have big plans for January? Many of our patients say they’d like to take control of their health in 2020. That often includes losing some extra pounds.

However, it’s always important not to get caught up in the numbers on the scale. Instead, a good alternative goal is to focus on lowering your body fat (but only if that would help your general health) and raising your energy levels. In other words, your goal should always be to improve your overall quality of life, not to chase after an often-elusive number on a scale.

No matter why you want to lose weight, it’s important to approach your New Year’s resolution with a strategy. That will raise your odds of success. (Here’s a sobering fact: About 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.)

The Run-Up to the New Year

Think about it. We often coast through December, eating, drinking, and neglecting our usual fitness routine. Then January arrives and we expect our body to adjust to an austere new regime. It’s no wonder that many people give up.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to prime your body to get ready for January’s resolutions while still enjoying the holidays. That includes revving up your metabolism so it’s ready to deal with dietary changes. And it’s even possible to do this during the busy month of December. Here are some steps that can help.

7 Ways to Avoid Packing On Extra Pounds This Holiday Season

1. Watch What You Eat
This is not just about how much you eat. The macro and micronutrient choices you make when selecting your food can change how efficiently your body metabolizes fat. In particular, include a source of protein with every meal. One reason for this is that it helps your body maintain muscle tone. (You can lose muscle when you lose weight, which slows your metabolism.)

2. Don’t Cut Back On Sleep
Since we’re not technically moving during our sleeping hours, it doesn’t seem like that time should impact your base metabolism. However, researchers have found that getting adequate sleep, which for most people is around eight hours, is essential to good metabolism.

3. Develop a Herbal Tea Habit
While you’re celebrating the holidays, consider switching some of that eggnog and champagne for herbal tea. Not only is it lower in calories, you will be consuming more water, one of the main catalysts for weight loss, and warm water is soothing to your digestive system which improves metabolism. Peppermint tea is particularly good for a stomach that’s complaining about the extra food, whereas Chamomile sets you up for a good night’s sleep, and Rooibos tea is full of antioxidants as well as being a natural energy booster.

4. Get Enough Vitamin D
During the winter, and especially before you make any dietary changes, it’s a good idea to check your Vitamin D levels. In addition to its many other health benefits, new studies have found that vitamin D can help with weight loss. In one study, women with adequate levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream lost more weight than women who were deficient in vitamin D.

Note that it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. And at this time of the year, we often don’t get enough sun exposure to generate our own vitamin D. Supplementation is key this time of year.

5. Top Up Your Magnesium
Magnesium helps with many processes in your body, so many that a deficiency of magnesium is quite common. Although it may not directly impact weight loss, having adequate levels of magnesium can help you sleep more deeply, regulate your moods, and control your blood sugar. Those are all important elements to maintaining a healthy metabolism. Good sources of magnesium include leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and dark chocolate as well as magnesium glycinate supplements.

6. Eat Probiotic Foods
Before you even start ramping up your healthy eating routine, get your gut in shape (from the inside!). Healthy gut flora can help with weight control. In fact, the makeup of the gut bacteria of overweight or obese people is typically different than that of people of healthy weight. In addition to fermented foods like kimchi or yoghurt, taking a high quality probiotic supplement in December can boost your gut bacteria levels. Not only can probiotics pave the way for better digestion in January, they also boost the immune system which makes for a healthier social season.

7. Stay Active
Yes, it’s hard when you’re busy. However, continuing to stay active will make it easier to hit the gym when you’re ready to ramp up your routine. Not only will your muscles stay limber, but you’ll also be taking steps to prevent your mind from slipping into a winter funk, which can impact your motivation.

The good news is that it doesn’t take too much to maintain your base fitness levels. Remember: It’s better to do a bit, every day, then to be a weekend warrior. So fit in some 20-minute workouts, try a short YouTube cardio video, or meet some friends at yoga (or even walk around the mall!). Your metabolism will be grateful that you did come January.

If you’re focusing on sustaining your metabolism so that you can crush those New Year’s resolutions in 2020, make sure you include strength training. Simply put, the more muscle you have, the more efficient your metabolism will be. Even when you’re just sitting still, you’ll burn more calories. If you’re not sure how to begin with all these tips, the best plan is to speak with an expert! We’d be happy to help you create a unique plan that suits you.

Yes, improving your metabolism can feel like a daunting task this time of the year. However, taking a few simple steps now can help get ready to meet your New Year’s resolutions head on!

Resources
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25926512
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25926512
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16840650
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23343670
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19043404/

Don’t Let Holiday Stress Affect Your Health

December brings festive parties, fun times with family, favourite traditions… and stress. How much stress? According to a Healthline survey, the combination of joy and pressure that makes up the month of December means that more than 60% of us find the holiday season somewhat to very stressful.

Considering the many factors that make up holiday stress: the tricky family politics, the joys of winter weather, busy schedules getting in the way of regular exercise, the endless appetizers, and of course the extra cash outflow that’s synonymous with the season, the real question is how do we NOT end up feeling this way.

One study found that Canadians spend about $1,500 extra in the month of December, Americans about $1000. That can definitely impact your budget! And for many people, that financial hit just adds insult to injury. It’s not surprising many of us end December feeling as though we need a holiday from our holiday.

How Stress affects Your Digestion

Have you ever noticed that the gut-brain connection kicks into overdrive in December? It makes sense. There’s extra stress, and of course there’s also extra food. And to further complicate matters, it’s often the kind of food that can wreak havoc with your gut.

Fight or Flight

Every part of your digestive system can be affected. When cortisone kicks in, your esophagus can go into spasm, reduced digestive activity can mean that food sits in your stomach like a brick, and blood flow can slow down in the gut as your body prioritizes the blood supply to the muscles – also known as “fight or flight” mode. This shift can lead to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut that results in cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and a variety of other digestive issues. The whole process isn’t exactly festive.

Calming the Digestive System

How can you combat the Great December Bellyache? Taking a few minutes to meditate or breathe deeply before a meal can trigger your body’s “relaxation response”, switching on your parasympathetic nervous system which controls digestion. This brings the blood flow back to the stomach and intestines, allowing digestion to take place as it should. As an added bonus, this practice may also lead to more mindful eating at a time of year when eating more consciously can be very beneficial. One study even found a correlation between meditation and increased vegetable and lower meat consumption (without any prompting of participants to choose certain foods).

It’s a good idea to increase your consumption of fermented foods like kefir, yoghurt, and kimchi, or even take a probiotic supplement during times of stress to help maintain healthy gut bacteria.

Stress Can Give You Back Pain

Anxiety, stress, and back pain often come together in a distressing trifecta. To make matters worse, they often intensify each other. How does that work? When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up. That creates more stress, and more tension. In fact, chronic stress – and chronic pain – can eventually rewire the way your brain works.

Tense Muscles Affect Your Breathing

To further complicate this dynamic, many people find that tense, rigid torso muscles restrict breathing. Again this creates a vicious cycle, since shallow breathing can exacerbate pain. So when you’re in pain, you can’t breathe as well, and when you can’t breathe as well, you feel more pain.

It’s no wonder many complain of back pain at this time of the year – especially when you factor in physical stressors like shovelling snow or decorating the house.

The Role of Posture

Paying more attention to your posture is a good first step to getting a handle on back pain. It may sound simple, but working with a healthcare practitioner on your everyday movement patterns at work and at home can bring your body back into alignment, reducing tension, relaxing your muscles and improving your breathing – all of which have a positive effect on breaking the cycle of pain.

Treat Yourself

Also, consider indulging yourself with some pain-relief treats! (After all, self-care does not need to take a break during the busy season.) Invest in a restorative yoga class or a therapeutic massage. Not only will you relieve some of the emotional pressure that comes with the season, manual therapies can help break the cycle of stress and back pain.

How Stress Affects Sleep

Do visions of sugarplums dance in your head in December? Or would nightmares about bill payments be a more accurate description?

In addition to financial stress, many other factors can impact your sleep in December. We’re often eating and drinking more, as well as staying out later.

Sleep Hygiene

However, it’s still important to maintain a solid sleep hygiene routine during these busy times. Try to stick to your regular schedule as much as possible (yes, even on weekends). Create a sleep-inducing bedtime routine. That means putting your phone and other devices away a couple of hours before bedtime, and keeping them out of your bedroom while you sleep. (Many people say that they need their phone alarm to wake them up, but an old-fashioned alarm clock can also do the job.)

Making sure your room is cool, dark, and quiet is another essential element of a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, many products are available that can optimize your environment, including blackout shades, white noise machines, humidifiers, and fans.

Supplements for When Sleep Eludes You

Effective supplements are available to help you through a rough patch and get you back on track with your sleep.

Melatonin

Many people have good experiences with melatonin. An important point about melatonin is that it is made naturally in your body to bring on sleep, so it has few side effects. It can, however, interact with some medications so always talk to your doctor before taking melatonin, especially if you already take a prescription antidepressant or sleep aid.

Valerian

Valerian contains a number of compounds that may help promote calmness, improve stress response and maintaining adequate levels of mood-stabilizing brain chemicals. It’s been coined nature’s valium and has been known to work well to aid in sleep issues (mainly insomnia).

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps the muscles to physically relax and let go, making a magnesium supplement or Epsom Salt bath a safe and effective part of a relaxing bedtime routine.

‘Tis the Season for Self-Care and Connections

Of course, the best way to treat stress is to tackle it at the source. And at this time of the year, we’re all too often the source of our own stress. Maybe we got so caught up in finding the “perfect” presents and hosting the “perfect” party that we forgot the real purpose of the holidays – connection. The plain truth is that a memorable holiday does not have to cost a lot of money or stress if we stay mindful of what the holiday is really about.

The Best Present of All

In fact, at least one study has found that the best gifts are experiences, not things. And often, the key component of a memorable experience is the company you’re with. So instead of pushing yourself to buy more or do more, consider putting some time aside to just hang out with your friends and family, or attend community events. In the end, human connection is what we all want for the holidays.

Looking for a little extra help to stay healthy in December and tackle 2020 on the right foot? Come into the office and we can review your self-care routine together.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556586/
https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983029
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983029
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-stresses-us-most-at-the-holidays-113015#1