5 Tips for holiday survival
Goals, Toolkit

Holiday survival guide: 5 tips for staying on track

With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, you’ve probably had a taste of holiday food and fun with friends and family. For me, anything that takes me out of my routine practices can be a little stressful, but like I said, that’s me.  The habits and consistency that you put in place all year round can apply to the holidays just the same as they do the rest of the year. And it all starts with a plan.

From Halloween until Valentine’s Day, there’s sugar everywhere. Halloween candy lingers around the office until the Pumpkin Pie spice season ushers in new sugar, followed by Christmas cookies and then New Year’s Resolution kick in while fending off all that Valentine’s Day candies. What if I told you that the inevitable weight gain over the holidays isn’t really inevitable?

Let’s get one thing straight – you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. So getting on a hamster wheel to undo your food choices just doesn’t work.

This doesn’t have to mean that you can’t enjoy yourself through the season’s festivities. It just takes a lot more planning and good decision making.

Here’s a few tips for getting through it successfully.

  1. Be clear about your goals. If you know that the holiday season is going to be busy and full of social engagements, set your goals for maintenance. Know what that means for you in terms of your food choices and your activity levels.  Keeping a consistent workout schedule is key, so find time to maintain your normal routine. 
  2. Drink a lot of water. Water is the elixir of life and is a helpful aid for digestion. We lose water through exercise, respiration, and digestion, so staying hydrated, especially in these winter months, is important.  Also, drinking water or other non-caloric drinks helps to curb appetite. Instead of choosing caloric or alcoholic beverages, keep a glass of water in your hand this holiday season, adding infusions like citrus, cucumber, and/or mint to keep it feeling fancy.
  3. If you’re not sure of the menu, bring something you can eat to share with your party peeps. Protein and vegetables work great in a variety of appetizers. One of my tricks is to drink a protein shake in advance so I know I am hitting my macro goals and helping to keep myself satiated before I’m staring at a buffet table. If you show up hungry, you’re just asking for trouble!
  4. Make the holidays about connecting with friends and family instead of food. Our culture is so food-centric, but it doesn’t have to be.  Make socializing or physical activities the highlight of our holiday season. There’s so many fun runs this time of year. Sign up for one and get your family and friends to join you as a way to support your health goals.
  5. If you decided to indulge, do it mindfully. Plan it. Log it. Enjoy it. In the big picture, this is just a month of your life. If you are focused on your goals, making mindful choices with your food, and consistent with your routine otherwise, you’ll get through it just fine.  Just be prepared to accept your decision and not beat yourself up over it.

Do you have any tips to share for holiday survival?  Share a comment!

Food Prep, Recipes

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

For Christmas eve, we were asked to come up with some kind of a vegetable side dish to go with dinner, and since I had all the ingredients on hand for this super easy and healthy salad, I proposed this.

My husband isn’t exactly a kale guy, but he knew that there was plenty of other food for him to eat if he didn’t want the salad.

This salad is simple to make and can be done without a whole lot of concentration, and everyone can joke about how you are giving the kale a good massage.

The verdict: thumbs up from everyone. In fact I even got a thumbs up the next day because apparently it made great leftovers too.

That’s my favorite thing about kale. Aside from being nutrient dense and just plain good for you, it’s also pretty hearty in terms of consistence and holds up well when prepped in advance. This is actually a good one to make for meal prep as you can enjoy it for a few days.

The rest of the story: my sister-in-law has what I would consider a dream kitchen. Modern, open, lots of surface space. Multiple people can be making different things without getting in the way of each other. The only think I really needed the stove for was the quick toasting of the almonds. The joy of a gas cooktop is something I can’t describe (since our kitchen is the original harvest gold electric cooktop and is now on it’s last burner). We have been on the hunt for a gas cooktop that would fit in the same space as our current electric one — it’s an odd size.  So — we’ll planning a big kitchen remodel! Stay tuned for more as plans take shape.

With all the food prep I’ve been doing, I’ve really started to enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to inviting clients in for some experimentation with healthy recipes in the new year! Goodbye harvest gold!

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Recipes

Bariatric-style baking: Hermit cookies

As a bariatric surgery patient, the holidays can be a challenge. Staying on track with eating low carb can be a struggle, especially at potlucks and holiday parties. I’m about 17 months out from my surgery, but am celebrating a full year at my goal range and maintaining my weight. It’s easy to see how old habits can come back, so finding safe alternatives to bring to parties is one of my keys to success.

I am so not a baker.  Growing up in a house with a diabetic and a Weight Watchers instructor (mom and dad respectively), I didn’t learn about baking at home. I’m learning from Pinterest! You can find pretty much anything there, and there are so many resources for bariatric-friendly recipes and ideas, you are more than likely to find something within your skill and patience level and that works with your dietary goals.

IMG_8434 Bariatric Eating is one of my go-to sites for recipes and for information about maintaining post-surgery. Their Inspire protein line is definitely one of the best-tasting supplements out there in the bariatric formulated arena. I subscribe to their email updates and recently received one that was full of holiday cookie recipes. I saw the one for Hermit Cookies and I knew I had to give them a try. My baby brother and my grandmother used to bake hermit cookies together, so there’s a touch of nostalgia there. I’m pretty sure the recipe called for brown sugar and molasses, which is strictly off limits for me, post-bariatric surgery.  This bari-friendly recipe uses almond flour, so it cuts down on the carb content and is also gluten free, which is important for people with gluten and wheat sensitivities.

I know a sugar-free recipe is successful if my husband tries one and tells me they are okay to bring for our Christmas Eve dinner. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, so might be a good one to try if you’re wanting something lower in carbs and sugar but definitely a seasonal taste.

So consider hermit cookies to bring to your next gathering.  You can bring hermits, so you don’t have to be one.

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups almond flour
  • ⅓ cup Truvia
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large brown eggs
  • ¼ cup raisins, chopped – optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blend the almond flour, Truvia, Pumpkin Pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the raisins if you choose to add them.
  3. Next add the eggs and blend into a soft dough. Gather into a smooth ball. Divide in half.
  4. Roll each piece into an even 1½ inch log, place on lightly sprayed baking sheet, press to flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until logs begin to turn golden and are firm to the touch.
  5. Cool and cut into one inch bars with a chef’s knife.

Recipe credit goes to Susan Maria Leach, founder of Bariatric Eating.

Balance, Self-Care

Self-preservation during the holiday season

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How well do you know yourself? If you’re anything like me, the holiday season just saps the life force out of me. As an introvert (who seems to get more introverted by the day), I have learned to be very protective of my time. The social calendar keeps stacking up with work holiday parties, multiple family holiday parties, and other social gatherings. This year I’m putting into practice all of my strategies for managing the stress of a busy calendar.

I found myself a little overwhelmed a few weeks ago, and my live-in health coach (a.k.a. my husband) asked me a really great question. “What would coach Marilyn tell you to do?”

That’s it, right there.  I could tell you the same thing you can read on HuffPo — rest, gratitude, self-care, time management, etc.  In fact, those things seem to be a theme on this blog.

But really, ask yourself, “If I was my own health coach, what advice would I give myself?”

Only you know and understand your threshold for family drama, exposure to excessive sugary baked goods and alcohol, and small talk with acquaintances at parties. Really take some time this holiday season and come up with your own plan to manage life’s chaos. We really do have our own answers, but sometimes we just need to ask ourselves the right question.

Having trouble finding the answers? Or the questions? Let me know if I can help. You never know how a single conversation can change your outlook on everything.

Peace to all.

Breathe.