CAT | Mental Health
One holiday party too many and before you know it, things start to feel a little snug around your waistline. Sound familiar? This year, promise yourself you will beat the holiday bulge with three smart, simple habits that will help you stay satisfied, boost your metabolism and keep those unwanted pounds from sneaking up on you.
- Load Up on Protein to Curb Cravings
Eating plenty of protein will help you stay satisfied throughout the day and reduce those sneaky holiday cravings. Aim for 12 portions of protein daily from sources such as poultry, meat and seafood as well as dairy, eggs, tofu, tempeh and nuts. And don’t forget breakfast! Researchers from the University of Missouri recently found that eating a high-protein breakfast helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and control cravings (especially for sweets) later in the day. Higher amounts of protein were directly linked to fewer post-meal spikes in blood sugar and associated with healthy weight management and a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
- Get Plenty of Sleep to Boost Metabolism
No matter how hectic your holiday schedule, sleep is something you simply can’t go without—especially if you want to avoid packing on the pounds! The connection between sleep and weight loss has to do with two important hormones: leptin (which tells the body you are full and it is time to stop eating) and ghrelin (which signals hunger). When you are sleep deprived, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase, causing you to eat more. Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night can help maintain a healthy metabolism and promote successful weight management.
- Eat More Probiotic Foods to Support Weight Loss
In addition to their role in supporting digestive and immune health, several recent studies have found a link between probiotic gut bacteria and weight loss. Basically, each of us has a unique balance of bacteria in the gut that either protects us and keeps us healthy or leaves us susceptible to disease. That same balance can either contribute to weight gain or to weight loss. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, you gain weight. Conversely, when you balance your gut by eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong foods) you lose weight. Probiotics can be obtained through the diet by eating yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods.
Is your December all booked up with parties and travel plans? So often the holiday season can leave us feeling drained—both physically and mentally—which is why it helps to remember that the most important gift we can give ourselves is the gift of good health. Take a moment today to remember these simple tips for a healthier, happier holiday.
- Eat Well, Feel Well. Your body and your well-being benefit from certain foods, while others can contribute to a cycle of poor health, digestive imbalance and weight gain. Remember to fill your plate with plenty of protein (at least 12 portions a day will help keep you satisfied and reduce cravings); non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits; healthy fats like those founds in fish (Omega-3), olive oil (Omega-9) and walnuts (Omega-3); and living and fermented foods. Do your best to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains, and reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
- Get Plenty of Sleep. It may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but cutting into your sleep time is not the answer. Not only has sleep deprivation been linked to depression, irritability and poor concentration, but too little sleep can actually pack on the pounds. According to Harvard professor Dr. Lawrence Epstein, people who sleep less tend to be heavier over time—and even a short-term reduction in sleep can make a big difference, causing the body to release hormones that prompt eating and weight gain.
- Wash Your Hands Often. You have enough to worry about this season without adding the sniffles and sneezes. According to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. As often as possible, wash your hands (rubbing them together) with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time. If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you’re out of tissues, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
- Stay Active Even in Winter. This time of year the darker nights and colder temperatures make it difficult to get motivated, but regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) plays a key role in disease prevention and vibrant health. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise may be as effective, or even more effective, as drug treatment for common health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, exercise is critical for a balanced gut—which not only promotes optimal digestion but can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Lift Your Mood with a Little Sunlight
Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects roughly 500,000 Americans every year, and according to the Mayo Clinic three out of every four SAD sufferers are women. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, which has been shown to help ease depressive symptoms and improve mood, so try to spend time outdoors or near a window each day. Better yet, take a walk! A recent study found depressive symptoms were greatly reduced just by walking outdoors.