With the holiday season upon us, I am reminded of the lyric, “Tis the season to be jolly” which symbolizes being happy or “eat drink and be merry”.
The start of the holiday season begins in November which is a reminder every year that we have a choice to make. Will we eat, drink, and be merry by overindulging with sugar, fat, and salt? Or will we choose to be mindful about our food and drink choices when getting together with friends and family? The choice to make healthier food choices that will contribute to our health and well-being is up to each of us.
We start out the holiday season with good intentions meaning we really want this holiday season to be different, make better food choices, continue to exercise, and practice some mindfulness. However how many times over the years have we thought we could make better choices just to be pulled into the Christmas party or the friends holiday cocktail party and overindulged?
The spread of COVID has allowed many of us to pause and focus more awareness on our health and well-being. Over the past nine months, my life has become a time of learning how to adapt to a different world which has included being disciplined about what I eat as well as movement.
We can either choose to live mindlessly or we can make a conscious choice to have balance in our life. If we choose to go down the path of unhealthy eating, with very little movement or exercise, then the consequences in January may put our physical and mental well-being at risk.
We’ve all heard it before that from October through New Year’s most people gain between 5-7 pounds. Not only does the weight increase begin to affect our physical body, but the overall impact it has on our immune system and emotional health can stay with us for years to come.
If we are consuming more sugar, unhealthy fats, or sodium (which includes processed foods) we can count on all these foods decreasing our immune system and triggering inflammation. After consuming sugar, fat, and sodium for about 3 months it can be tough to decrease it in our diet. This is because our body now craves it. Ultimately this could lead to spikes in blood sugar as well as insulin and triglycerides may also increase with the consequences of having more belly fat.
Did you know that the average calorie consumption on Thanksgiving is 4500 calories! Of course, you can go out and burn it all up (probably not) but if you look at many fitness apps, often it will show you that you have because the numbers can be manipulated to make it look like you broke even.
However, what can be overlooked is the inflammatory cascade your body undertakes when you start to load up on too many calories and too much-processed foods that are laden with sugar, salt, and fat that has a long-term effect on your health.
Did you know that if you eat fast food or a meal with a lot of sugar, fat, and sodium then your body is inflamed for up to 4 hours after you digested it? Imagine if you consumed another similar meal another 4 hours later. Your body is inflamed most of the day and unfortunately, this will contribute to “disease” which in turn affects the immune system and in the long run, just makes you crave more and feel pretty crappy.
For some, it may be about removing the trigger food. I managed a weight loss program that included a tool that allowed participants to become aware of unhealthy foods. The tool was called “Managing Your Trigger Foods”. It worked by assigning red, yellow, and green attributes to a list of specific foods. This helped individuals identify the foods most likely to cause them to overindulge (red and yellow).
The tool worked well because people could start to look at their eating patterns and how frequently they chose trigger foods. It was not necessarily about never having a “red” food, it was about how unbalanced their food choices were throughout the day. The end game was about awareness and balance. Every individual is going to have a different food and exercise plan when it comes to their individual needs. I hear so many people say, “but it’s a lot of work”, which is true it takes effort, however as your body adapts to a new plan it actually does become easier and less work.
What are some food tips to start with this holiday season?
1. At Thanksgiving make sure there are plenty of vegetables to choose from which includes plenty of colors.
2. Start thinking about what your food choices are before you go to a gathering. If you’re staying home, plan a meal that is balanced and healthy.
3. Balance your alcohol intake.
4. Make a choice about how many desserts or holiday treats you are going to include in your overall plan at Thanksgiving.
Remember to follow me on Instagram @ tinashiverrecipies. Each week I will post three recipes that are healthy, and full of color and nutrients.
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Stay safe and healthy and I will see you next week.
In Good Health,
Tina Shiver RD, IFMCP