The holidays are approaching and you know it's that time of year to embrace comforting food with family and friends. It can also be a time when stress levels can be heightened and myths can be created around food and the repercussions of the holiday season of indulgence and festive. As individuals, we are always our worst critics and can be extra tough on ourselves. I always like to ask if you ever are criticizing yourself, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to a friend or family member. Usually, the answer is "no." so why would you say it to yourself?
I always need to remind myself that our inner thoughts can be cruel at times. The holidays can bring those extra harsh critics out as there is a lot of stigma about food and indulging in holiday recipes. It's pushed on us to feel guilty and show as one day of binding and restricting so we can begin a new year with our new fitness or other related goals on personal health.
I have noticed that the mindset of guilt and bashing ourselves for the holiday festivities around food and indulgence is not a good relationship with food and ourselves. I invite you to reframe your mind around the holiday season.
Today I'll be touching on why we need to not worry about any extra gained weight. I will be diving into being kind to your body and mind, but also some healthy ways to hack the negative myths around the holidays to lead you into a great holiday season.
Weight is a very common term these days. It's always about weight loss and being a lean machine. as it's great to be at a body composition that your body is thriving at, the stress around the number on the scare is irrelevant to long-term success as it has mental strains that make the process difficult. I invite you to focus on the positives of what you can control, but also the focus on metabolic health rather than the calories. What food is good for YOUR metabolism, what ways you can become metabolically healthy for YOU. This goes to the comparison that we tend to do too much at times. Try not to compare to others. There will be more topics and conversations on ways to boost your metabolic health rather than focusing on those calories to lead to a healthier you.
Of course, the holiday festive is enhanced with the most divine meals and time with others. These dishes are so tasty and packed with flavor and delight. Now there is that stressor about gaining weight over the next few months from the Holiday season...
Here's why you shouldn't stress too much about holiday weight gain
Fear of holiday weight gain is common, But available research suggests that most of us don't gain very much weight during the holidays. Plus, stressing out about calories and weight gain could backfire, spurring overeating. It's that mindset of trying to reduce the stress you put on yourself to help you become a healthier happier human.
The media attention around this holiday weight gain is most definitely a reason to the fear of weight gain looms over so many holiday dinner tables.
"It's definitely a very common worry and [that] concern is really understandable," registered dietitian Emily Fonnesbecktold INSIDER. "We live in a culture that has led us to believe that our weight is the most important thing. Going into the holiday season, you could easily feel ... worried about the abundance of food."
But holiday weight gain doesn't necessarily deserve the worry it's often allotted, First, it's good to keep big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners in perspective. Even an indulgent meal is still just one meal. We actually have more flexibility than thought to believe. One meal in a day isn't going to make a huge difference in the picture of the long-term effect or even year. A lot of it comes to being consistent after and before the moments of indulgence and practicing long-term healthy habits that stick to you outside of the holidays.
but it does come down to some true facts that you can gain weight over holiday meals. a big meal can have temporary effects on your weight.
If you eat a pound of food, you will be a pound heavier
*then you go to the bathroom and that can change*
That doesn't mean your body has gained weight. If you weigh yourself — I don't recommend it — you'll likely see a gain the next day. One meal does not cause you to gain weight. Most of what you see is fluid retention from eating what's likely a higher-sodium meal
Remember that your weight can fluctuate more than five pounds in a single day because of sweating, breathing, using the bathroom, eating, drinking, and more — and those fluctuations are normal.
a study published in 2000 in the New England Journal of Medicine that followed 195 adults and found they gained an average of one pound once the holiday season was over. And in 2017, a review of existing studies concluded that adults gain 0.88 to 2 pounds over the holidays.
holiday weight gain isn't as dramatic as you might expect
Stressing about holiday weight gain could backfire. It's also possible that extreme concern about holiday weight gain could lead you to overeat. It's really the obsession with weight and preoccupation with food that causes extreme behaviors that could easily affect weight
Take, for example, practices like "saving up" for a big Christmas dinner by skipping meals, or trying to "eat clean" in anticipation of the decadent day. People might think these strategies will minimize the effect of the meal on their waistlines. But they could have a far different outcome. Then you go into that holiday meal just like a planned binge. It's really about trying to maintain the same eating habits and not restricting and bingeing. Listen to your hunger levels and respect your hunger and satiety cues.
When you stress, there is a hormone in your body known as one of the fight-or-flight hormones. This is called cortisol. If cortisol keeps getting released consistently it can lead to major health issues and hinder your body's ability to adapt.
Another popular thinking pattern — the idea you need to squeeze all your indulgence into holidays because you should cut out all treats starting on January 1st — could also prompt out-of-control eating toward the end of the year. giving yourself permission to enjoy an indulgent meal any time of year — not just in November or December. This can reduce the pressure of getting in those meals within this time frame and reduce the stress to eat a lot.
The one main thing to keep in mind is to ENJOY the holiday food and season as it's spent with others or a moment to reflect on the year and the new one coming up. There are amazing recipes you can get your hands on and experiment with cooking. This season will come again, and you can cook and eat these foods again. It's good to just focus on a balanced lifestyle. Focus on the enjoyment of other activities and try not to fixate on the food too much. The holiday season is more than just food.
Lets get into some hacks you can implement to help keep that balance during the season if you find yourself in stress mode or fixation mode over the food.
First... Take a few big deep breaths and know that it will be ok.
The holidays are a time for celebration. The holidays should be enjoyed to the fullest, and that includes the foods and traditions you love. You don’t need to earn or make up for it; instead, just enjoy.
1. Set intentions based on what makes you feel good
New routines or a crazy season might mean we forego our regular healthy habits. It’s absolutely OK to pause some of your rituals, workouts, or routines as your daily schedule changes and you’re trying to enjoy the holidays. However, to feel as good as possible, plan ahead by identifying a couple of things that make you feel you're very best. Whether it’s getting in a meditation every morning or going for a jog three times a week, identify your non-negotiables and then prioritize them, no matter what. Keeping up with only a couple of crucial rituals and routines will be much more manageable than hoping to keep every habit. More importantly, it will help you feel better throughout the season.
Also, set limits based on how you feel, not what you think you’re supposed to do. For example, limiting yourself to “no dessert” can lead to a deprivation mentality, binge eating, and a negative relationship with food. But if you know that you start feeling nauseous around the second or third Christmas cookie, or eating the entire wheel of brie on the cheese board makes you feel uncomfortably sluggish (I’ve been there), set intentions by enjoying one or two cookies and only as much brie as you’re actually enjoying until you start mindlessly devouring (again, I’ve been there). Know your limits based on how they make your body feel, and set intentions to keep up healthy habits that are important to you.
2. Load up on veggies first
There’s a good reason restaurants offer the salad course first: sure, it’s a lighter course, but it’s also typically the most nutritious (whether or not that is the restaurant’s reasoning, IDK). Even though we’re not eating out, stick to the salad-first mentality to make sure you get the nutrients that make you feel good. If your meal is more buffet-style (or you’re cooking for one and a salad feels excessive), eat the Brussels sprouts side or the sautéed carrots first before diving into the rest of the meal.
It’s actually not better for you to show up to a holiday meal super hungry with your turkey pants on. When we’re starving, we eat quicker, enjoy less mindfully, and over-stuff ourselves, so eat some veggies as a pre-dinner snack. Eating veggies first ensures you can enjoy any foods you want, but you’re still getting in the nutrients your body needs. Plus, you’ll eat less of the stuff that doesn’t make you feel good (because you’ll be filled up by the good-for-you veggies, not from a place of deprivation).
3. Get up and move in the morning
It’s all too easy to lay around in pajamas, sip on hot chocolate, and binge Christmas movies until nightfall every day from now until January 1. While that does sound like an ideal day, getting in a little bit of movement can boost energy, motivation, and mental health. Fitting it in first thing in the morning means you won’t have to interrupt your Christmas movie binge to go on a jog or do a yoga flow (and let’s be honest: after a few movies in, the chance of stopping goes way down).
FYI, I do not mean attempting a two-hour HIIT class as a means to make up for what you ate the night before or plan to indulge in that day. That’s not how the body works, and it’s also unnecessary. Go on a run or a do full workout if it makes you feel better and your body is craving movement, but if you’re feeling sluggish and lethargic like the rest of us during the holiday break (especially following big meals), a walk or some stretches does the trick. The goal is to prioritize movement to make you feel like your best, happiest self, not as a means for calorie burn.
4. Try healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods
PSA: you don’t have to stick to the exact mashed potatoes recipe you make every year or buy frozen pie crusts instead of DIYing your own. When planning holiday meals, opt for homemade over processed foods (yes, buying from a local bakery or takeout from a healthier restaurant counts for you non-chefs), but also identify where you can add more nutrients into the foods you love. Start by trying these plant-based recipes for every comfort food craving or healthier versions of holiday go-to’s like pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. If you’re not ready to try a new recipe, small swaps will make a difference. For example, replacing conventional butter with organic butter reduces some of the added chemicals and toxins, and adding chopped spinach to a pasta sauce can boost nutrients. Healthy cooking doesn’t have to sacrifice taste, and eating healthier does not have to mean you forego your favorite foods.
5. Drink more water
Drinking water seems to be the cure-all for everything, and with good reason. Staying hydrated can improve energy levels, relieve digestive discomfort like constipation, and overall help you feel your best. Just because it’s not hot outside doesn’t mean we need less water, but we often forget to stay hydrated when it’s cold out. I get it–you’d rather drink hot chocolate than a glass of good old-fashioned water, but your body needs proper hydration to operate at its best. Especially if you’re feeling hungover (whether it’s a food hangover or a real hangover, because they both happen often during this time of year), drink lots of water to ensure your body is hydrated at all times. Try drinking a big glass before your first cup of coffee in the morning and sipping on tea or warm lemon water throughout the day for a hydrating refreshment that will also keep you warm.
6. Stick to your regular sleep schedule
I don’t know about you, but sleep is a given for my holiday breaks. I’m back in my childhood room, I’m wearing cozy AF pajamas, and I don’t have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. for work–the odds of good sleep are very much in my favor. Luckily for my health goals, that extra sleep is not just a perk of a national holiday; it can also help me stay healthy. Getting enough quality sleep is beneficial for many reasons, like improving mood and energy. Plus, sleep can help you make better food decisions. Cravings (especially sugar cravings) can be worsened by lack of sleep, so if you’re not getting a good 7-9 hours, that gingerbread cookie or pumpkin pie could sound a lot more appetizing.
However, during past holiday breaks, those nine hours edge more towards the 1-10 a.m. range as opposed to my typical 10:30 p.m. bedtime. Getting enough quality sleep and sticking to a normal sleep schedule are both important for keeping you healthy. Going to bed and waking up around the same time will improve sleep quality, both now and after the holidays. Some studies have shown that irregular sleep schedules can lead to poor sleep quality, fatigue, poor eating habits, and lack of energy which can take time to reverse. Go to bed and wake up as close to the same time as you usually do and get 7-9 hours every night for peak health. Bottom line: the holidays are a time of laughter and family, but also use them as a time to rest and restore.
7. Find a balance between alone time and socializing
If you’re spending the holidays with family, make sure you’re fitting in alone time to prioritize yourself. Go on a jog in the morning, take a bath at night, or find any time you can to recharge. If you’re spending the holidays alone, try to schedule a movie marathon with your friends or a virtual Zoom holiday party with your family. Having social events on the calendar will give you something to look forward to, but scheduling it will also ensure you’re spending time with people you love (even if it is virtual). Alone time to prioritize ourselves and time with loved ones to laugh and connect are equally important, so focus this year on finding the balance of both, depending on what you need more of.
8. Make new (healthier) traditions
While we were foregoing traditions like holiday parties or in-person shopping last year, it also allowed us to start new traditions that are not only good for the soul but good for the body too. As the temperatures drop, you may be less inclined to spend your time in the great outdoors, but there’s a reason that so many holiday classics mention “snow,” right? (Let it, Snow, Baby It’s Cold Outside, White Christmas… need I say more?). Taking advantage of the winter weather can not only bring fun new traditions but can be good for your health. For example, bundle up and take a walk with friends or family, go ice skating at your local rink, or grab snow boots and play in the snow with your younger cousins or siblings. You’ll get your body moving without even thinking about it (and isn’t that the best kind of hack!?).
9. Listen to your body during meals
Frequently check in with yourself during meals to identify what your body wants and needs. Maybe you’re not hungry, but you would enjoy every bite of a slice of pumpkin pie because it’s your favorite holiday dessert, or maybe you realize your digestion is feeling off and you haven’t had enough veggies that day. Notice when you start feeling satisfied and are no longer enjoying each bite to know when to stop, rather than mindlessly eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Aim for a balance of favorite holiday foods and nutrients that will make your body feel its best–yes, it is that simple. When we’re in tune with the body’s needs, we eat until we’re satisfied (not stuffed) and crave a mixture of energizing nutrients and less nutritious foods we’ll enjoy every bite of (rather than mindlessly gobble down).
10. Know that health is more than diet and exercise
If you’re still under the impression that one meal (or a few holidays) can drastically affect your body long-term, you should also know that health is not a two-part formula of diet plus exercise. The podcasts we listen to, the people we spend our time with, the shows we binge on Netflix, the accounts we follow on Instagram, and the way we speak to ourselves (and others) are all things that feed us too. If you’re not as focused on the ways you’re being fed and nourished besides the food on your plate or the ways you’re burning energy besides exercise, you’re missing key pieces of the puzzle. Bottom line: you could eat whatever you wanted and not work out once, and still have lots of opportunities to nourish yourself. Focus on how your relationships nourish you, the compassion you’re giving yourself, and how you’re spending your free time to truly become your healthiest self.
And to that, those steps are great opportunities to learn and grow as an individual. Of course, not all of them can happen overnight as it will take work to implement them to find that ultimate health balance, but initial awareness is the first step. The holidays this year are going to be fantastic and I hope you take a few breaths to keep the anxiety and stress away to enjoy yourself through these tips and the awareness.
another way to make this holiday season exciting is to be creative with food. Finding healthier alternatives is a great way to keep that healthy balance as well. alternatives. Now of course we have to end on a good tasty note with some healthy eggnog.. two versions... Plant-based and a healthier alternative.
Easy Vegan Eggnog
This 6-ingredient, 1-blender, naturally-sweetened vegan eggnog, is perfect for the holidays and beyond!
What Alcohol Goes in Eggnog?
The most traditional alcohol used in eggnog is rum, brandy, or bourbon (our favorite being bourbon). However, we think our version would also work well with coffee liqueur, vodka, or (dairy-free) Kahlúa.
3 cups dairy-free milk (preferably homemade // we love a cashew-almond blend — see instructions)
1 14-oz can of full-fat coconut milk (use light for lighter eggnog)
4-6 Tbsp maple syrup, plus more to taste (substitute up to half with coconut sugar or monk fruit or stevia)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, plus more to taste
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
FOR SERVING optional
1 ounce bourbon (per 8-ounce serving)
Cinnamon or nutmeg
Optional: If making your own dairy-free milk, soak nuts of choice overnight in cool water or cover with hot water and soak for 1 hour. Then drain, rinse well, and add to a high speed blender along with desired amount of filtered water (for a creamier milk, we went with 3/4 cup (90 g) raw soaked cashews, 3/4 cup (95 g) raw soaked almonds, and 4 cups (946 ml) water as the recipe is written; adjust amounts as needed if adjusting serving size). Strain through a nut milk bag and set aside.
To a high-speed blender, add 3 cups (710 ml) dairy-free milk (as recipe is written, adjust amounts as needed if adjusting serving size), coconut milk, maple syrup (starting with the lesser amount), cinnamon, ground nutmeg, vanilla extract, and cardamom (optional).
Blend on high until creamy and smooth — 1-2 minutes. Then taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more spices for warmth or maple syrup for sweetness.
For serving, enjoy cold, over ice, or hot by heating over medium heat until warm (we prefer chilled, no ice). Optionally, you can add 1/2 – 1 ounce bourbon per 1 cup (8-ounce) serving. This is optional, but a festive addition! Serve as is or with coconut whipped cream and a pinch more cinnamon or nutmeg.
Transfer the remaining eggnog to a jar for storing. Leftovers should keep in the refrigerator up to 4-5 days. Or freeze into ice cubes and store up to 1 month. Shake well before serving — a little separation is natural.
DAIRY FREE EGGNOG
This Coconut Milk Eggnog is a dairy-free, naturally-sweetened recipe for Classic Eggnog
This recipe for Homemade Eggnog recipe uses canned coconut milk, but you can prepare traditional eggnog by replacing the coconut milk with whole milk if desired. This Eggnog is the perfect complement to Sugar Cookies or Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies.
▢4 cups canned coconut milk no light
▢4 egg yolks
▢¼ cup maple syrup
▢1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
▢½ teaspoon cinnamon
▢1 teaspoon vanilla extract
▢2-4 tablespoons bourbon optional
In a blender, blend the egg yolks and maple syrup (Monk fruit or stevia) until light and fluffy. Alternatively, use a handheld mixer.
Heat over medium-high heat, the coconut milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon until simmering, but not boiling.
Once heated, turn the blender on low and very slowly stream in the hot coconut milk in the hole in the top of the blender (while the blender is running), into the egg mixture. Alternatively, slowly stream in the heated coconut milk while mixing with a handheld mixture.
Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over a fine-mesh strainer to catch any lumps that may have potentially formed, and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick and coats a wooden spoon, stirring/whisking constantly.
Turn off the heat and add in the vanilla and bourbon if using.
Chill completely. And then serve with an additional grating of nutmeg if desired.
In place of maple syrup, feel free to use coconut sugar or granulated sugar and increase up to ⅓ cup if you like a really sweet beverage.
Dairy-free eggnog will store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You may need to blend to incorporate coconut milk solids before serving, as coconut milk can solidify quickly in the refrigerator.
If you are not dairy-free and don't want to try out using coconut milk, this recipe works perfectly using whole milk as well.
Feel free to increase the sweetener up to ⅓ cup if you like really sweet beverages.