Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Holiday Waist

Have you looked at a grocery store flyer lately?

Noticed anything different?

An observant and health conscious shopper would have noticed that the usual fare is all but missing.

Oh sure, some of the basic produce, meat, dairy and grains are still there – just not as many of them. The versions that are there also tend to be more of the fancy variety or better cuts though.

Staple items have been replaced by the “must have” seasonal treats and delicacies. The fancy cheeses, gourmet meats and specialty baked items. Countless variations on appetizers, side dishes, desserts, flavoured beverages, snack foods and treats have filled the flyers and the aisles of our favourite stores.

The advertisers and manufacturers want us to buy their premade products rather than waste time making them ourselves. Who cares what it is made of or how many calories it has! This is already made! Why not pay us your hard earned money because we are saving you all that prep time!

Yes, I’m sure they have our best interests at heart – NOT!

We want to entertain and be entertained at this time of year. We try and crowd it all into a few weeks. To do that, it often means shortcuts of convenience and pre-packaged foods from the bakeries, delis and other specialty food shops to serve to the guests.

Just what we need – more artificial foods laden with hidden calories, sodium, saturated fats and other unwanted additives.

Waistlines get thicker and wallets get thinner in the name of socializing and being a good friend/family member or host.

‘Tis the season to indulge! We can diet in January!

Yeah, right. January rolls around and many people roll over on the couch, too tired from the holidays to get up and exercise or shop for healthy food. Oh, they may have good intentions and may even show up at the gym for a week or two, but far too many don’t have the will power to stick to it.

For that reason, we need to be very aware of what we do now. Think about what is being served at all those holiday functions.

Now, I’m not trying to be a party pooper, nor am I suggesting that you can’t have an occasional treat. Almost anything in moderation. There is nothing wrong with having a wee taste of almost anything. The problem is that most of us have trouble stopping at just one of those holiday favourites!

Before you put any of those seasonal fave's and treats on your plate or in your glass, ask yourself if the extra calories, sodium and lack of nutrition are really worth the temporary taste sensation.

Make a deal with yourself that you can’t have the less healthy options until after you’ve had two or more healthy options. Odds are, that you won’t be as hungry after the healthy foods and may even say no to those lesser options!

Here are a few more suggestions:
- Try and pick a healthier choice.
- Fill up on the raw veggies, whole grains and fresh fruit.
- Avoid the processed foods and creamy sauces.
- Limit your alcoholic beverages.
- Position yourself as far from the buffet table or other food trays as possible. It really does help to avoid grazing.
- Some people also find that if they drink extra water and have a small healthy snack before going to a holiday gathering then they are far less apt to overeat while they are out.

Oh, one more thing – PLEASE don’t drink and drive! If any of your guests have too much to drink, please make sure that they have a safe ride home or allow them to sleep it off at your home. If you want to drink while you are out, have a designated driver or pre-order a cab to drive you home. Many communities have programs that you can call to get a ride home. Here in Manitoba, we have Operation Red Nose. Teams of volunteer drivers, will drive you and your vehicle home. The service is free but donations are greatly accepted and money raised goes to local charities.

I know there is more stuff on your calendar than you probably want, but whatever you do - DON’T stop your workouts! With all the extra calories you are most likely taking in this month, your body needs that physical activity on a regular basis. Yes, I know that fitting a workout into a crowded schedule isn’t easy, but trust me – your body and your mind will appreciate the effort! Quitting or even cutting back on those regular workouts, will make it a whole lot harder to get back into the routine once the holidays are over.

Speaking of your mind. It is pretty easy to get overwhelmed this time of year. Either with schedules, responsibilities or family dynamics. You can’t escape all of it but try and set aside at least 10 minutes a day just for yourself – more if you can. Clear your mind of the past few hours and set aside the coming hours. Do something that relaxes and clears your mind. It could be meditation, yoga, a walk, playing your favourite music – whatever works for you. It will rejuvenate you. Taking that time will help you to de-stress and face whatever is coming up.

My mom always joked that had she known that Christmas was coming she’d have been ready. Well we do know it is coming. It is the same day every year. If you really wanted to take off some of the stress of the season there are things you can do.

Why not try spreading the socializing out more? There is no law or rule that says you HAVE to see everyone within a couple of weeks of Christmas or even in the month of December. There tends to be at least one friend that I end up getting together with in late November. Almost every year there are at least a couple of people that I don’t get to see until sometime in January as schedules are just too busy. Those visits are always more relaxed as the pressure of the season either hasn’t really started yet or is already over.

Whatever your holiday season brings, I hope you find the will power to resist the majority of those over processed, calorie laden, nutritionally challenged treats. I hope that the stress of the season is greatly overshadowed by the love, peace and goodwill that this season is supposed to bring.

Merry Humbug,

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