Your Holiday Nutrition Survival Guide ( Video Series + Notes)

Hey folks,

The holidays are upon us! And while this is a fun time of year many people struggle to balance staying on track with their nutrition and enjoying the holidays.

Truth be told the real struggle is staying on track with nutrition goals, I doubt too many people really have a hard time enjoying all the holiday treats, booze and social events.

Months and months of hard work can be easily reversed with an eggnog and pumpkin pie filled holiday season.

To goal of this holiday survival guide is to allow you to stay committed to your nutrition goals while enjoying the holiday season as well.

Part 1: Food Cravings

What Causes Food Cravings ?

  • It’s a natural part of being a human to have food cravings and there is nothing bad about it.

     

  • You can gain a lot of insight from looking at what foods you’re craving, and see how it connects to other lifestyle factors.   
     

  • We make over 200 food related decisions on a daily basis, and there are a number of conscious and subconscious factors that impact your cravings. 
     

    These can include:

  • Environment: Candy bowls at work, how visible the healthy/unhealthy foods are in the house, food at holiday parties.
     

  • Type of exercise: Long bouts of cardio can increase cravings for sugar & carbs
     

  • Sleep habits: Inadequate sleep is linked to stronger cravings for high reward foods that are dense in sugar and fat.
     

  • Emotional state: Stress hormones caused by physical or emotional stress are blunted by the consumption of sugar and denser carbs which alleviate stress for a short period of time.

    When someone is sad or depressed the consumption of sugar and fat rich foods release the feel good neurotransmitter dopamine.

3 Types Of Food Cravings

  1. Supportive: The body is trying to fulfill a deficiency. As an example someone who is deficient in magnesium craving dark chocolate.
     

  2. Emotional: Trying to find a food to fulfill a feeling ,even if it’s short lived. Like discussed above someone who feels sad or stressed out eating sugar to elevate their mood.
     

  3. Associative: Associating a food with a memory or experience. Someone who has tight bonds with their family and moves away, and finds themselves craving dishes their family used to cook, comfort foods.

We Have Primal Cravings, But Modern Foods

  • We evolved to crave certain flavors (salty, fatty and sweet). The foods attached to those flavors all served a purpose for our survival when consumed in their whole form.
     

  • Many of the foods we crave in our modern food environment are a poor substitute for what the body is really asking for.

  • Certain situations such as the holidays tend to make these food cravings and availability of these high reward foods much worse.

Part 2: The Holiday Challenges

How The Holidays Provide Unique Challenges To Your Nutrition Goals

  • Social events/  Pressure: Social events are usually based around food and alcohol and have tendency to encourage overeating. Not to mention there is always going to be that person who is a food pusher in the group or your family.
     

  • Cultural foods: There may be certain foods or dishes that your family cooks, and you really enjoy. Many times these are foods that you only eat in this kind of setting or your family only makes for the holidays which makes it easy to overindulge.  
     

  • Fear of being different in the group: From a psychological standpoint people don’t want to be singled out of a group of their peers, especially in social situations like a holiday party. 

    Having different dietary habits than those around you in a social situation can get you quickly noticed as being different from other folks.  
     

  • Holiday Foods: There are certain foods that are seasonal and you may really enjoy. If you think these foods are only around for a limited time of the year you may give yourself more leeway to have a few extra helpings… every day.
     

  • Alcohol: Just about every social event is centered around food and booze, and while alcohol can be a good social lubricant it also loosens inhibitions and makes people a lot more impulsive with their food decisions.
     

  •  Stress: While many people see the holidays as fun and enjoyable there are also lonely people who miss their families or loved ones. Many people also experience financial stress around this time of year. 

    There is a tendency to use alcohol and food as a coping mechanism for these negative emotions which can quickly become a slippery slope.
     

  • Distracted eating: Humans are notoriously bad at estimating the amount of food they’ve eaten, even when paying attention.

    When you add in socializing and alcohol at social events the propensity for mindless eating skyrockets. Believe it or not those handfuls of peanut m&m’s while chatting do add up.
     

  • Overeating due to social/environmental factors: There are a ton of social and environmental factors that all influence someone’s eating habits, even if they aren’t aware of it. 

    Things such as bigger plates or bowls, mindless eating, alcohol consumption and even how much those around you are eating.

    People have a strong tendency to eat as much as those around them regardless of their normal eating habits. That being part of the group mentality has strong subconscious components.  

Part 3: Before The Event

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep: There are well established correlations between inadequate sleep and much stronger food cravings for calorically dense foods. Reduced sleep is also linked to less willpower and greater impulsivity around food.
     

  • Focus on protein and vegetables: These are both high satiety, low calorie foods that will make sure your nutritional bases are covered throughout the day before the event even starts. By eating a little lighter during the day it allows you to have more wiggle room with calories at a social event.
     

  • Workout that day: Workouts will burn a few extra calories, but it also burns up the sugar stored in your muscles (muscle glycogen). 

    By depleting muscle glycogen your body will be more likely to use extra dense carbs and calories to help with muscle replenishment and repair. This means there is less of a chance that extra slice of pumpkin pie ends up in fat storage.
     

  • Drink plenty of water: A lot of people are walking around dehydrated, mistaking that thirst for hunger. This dehydration can cause you to eat more than you need. This becomes especially important if you’re drinking alcohol as well.
     

  • Don’t show up hungry: This one seems like a no brainer, but eating something before hand allows you to make better decisions around food at the event.

    I’m not saying eat a full meal at home and don’t enjoy any food at the social event, but eating a small snack so that you don’t make impulsive food decisions is a good idea.  
     

  • Bring food to share at the event: If you bring food you know there will be some high quality options that will help you stay on course. It also allows you to share healthier options with others. 

    People may even ask why you food does or does contain certain ingredients, and if you’re open to it this can be a cool conversation starter about some of the changes you’re trying to make to get healthier.
     

  • Set limits before the event: It’s much easier to engage in moral licensing to drink or eat more than you need to once you’re at the event and in the social mood. 

    When you set pre determined limits before the event, and have a cutoff number in mind it makes it much easier to stick to the plan and turn down the fourth round of drinks or extra cookies.
     

  • Make a plan: Pick some of these tips from before and at the event and turn them into a plan to follow.

Part 4: At The Event

  • Start With the healthier options: By filling your plate ¾ of the way up with healthier things like protein, vegetables, healthy fats and starches it leaves less room on your plate and in your stomach for unhealthier foods.

    This also ensures the majority of your food at the event is good quality, and your nutritional bases are covered before kicking your heels up and enjoying some treats.
     

  • Eat slower: The two easiest ways to slow down your eating and be more mindful of how much you’re eating is to chew each bite of food 20-30 times, or put your fork down on the table between each bite of food. I personally prefer the fork down method myself. 

    It’s very common for people to eat far beyond their needs if they don’t chew adequately. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the gut to communicate with the brain that you’re full. If you don’t allow that time you’ll end up feeling bloated and stuffed because you’ve eaten too much too quickly.
     

  • Drink plenty of water: Making sure you’re hydrated helps to ensure you’re not eating out of thirst, and helps prevent overeating. Drinking lots of water is a good strategy for combating a hangover too.
     

  • Ask yourself “Am I still hungry?” (80% rule): When you find yourself noticeably less hungry for the next bite of food when you’re chewing or chatting with someones it’s good to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry ? or just eating to clean your plate out of habit ?

    If you’re no longer hungry push the plate away, and you can always pick the fork back up later if you decide to.
     

  • Don’t linger near the food table: It’s easy to over consume a lot of the calorically dense snack foods when you hover by the food table and eat mindlessly without paying attention.
     

  • Engage socially with people: When you using your mouth to chat and socialize with people it’s tough to overeat. Realistically people focus too much on food at these events, try to focus on the time you’re getting to spend with loved ones. Go up and talk to the attractive guy or girl at the party and make some new connections with people.
     

  • Don’t be afraid to say “No thanks”: There’s always going to be a food pusher or someone encouraging you to eat more of their dish. You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to, nor should you feel the pressure to eat anything you’re trying to avoid. 

    It won’t wreck that person’s day or week if you don’t eat the cake they brought, and if it does that’s their issue to deal with not yours.
     

  • Stick to your agreements with yourself!: Stick to the plan you made before attending the event.
     

  • Remove the idea of having to finish your plate: If you end up with more food on your plate than you’re actually hungry for reject the idea that you have to eat every last bite. 

    It’s ok to leave food on your plate.You’re not hurting anyone and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

    I hear a lot of people say they think of the starving people in third world countries when they leave food on their plate. I think it’s amazing to have empathy, but using that as a justification for overeating is a little ridiculous.
     

  • Be selective with indulgences, it should be worth it!: Make your indulgences worth it. These should be the kind of treats that you don’t regret indulging in and enjoying. Keep in mind though that treats aren’t really “treats” when you have them everyday so indulge, enjoy and get back on track.
     

  • Return to normal eating habits the next day: The problem that some people face is after a night of indulgence they let it cascade into a week, or weeks of indulgence. 

    Get back on track the very next day focusing on protein and veggies. This will ensure that you pick up where you left off and continue to make progress. Your nutrition progress is more about the trends, and not the singular snapshots.

Part 5: Getting Back On Track

  • Be selective with indulgences, it should be worth it!: Make your indulgences worth it. These should be the kind of treats that you don’t regret indulging in and enjoying. Keep in mind though that treats aren’t really “treats” when you have them everyday so indulge, enjoy and get back on track.
     

  • Get rid of the food guilt:There should be no guilt around your dietary choices and in many regards the stress that people cause from guilt around food choices is worse for their body composition and fat loss than the actual food. 

    There should be no guilt around a food you chose to ate, but if you feel like crap that is a consequence. No guilt just consequences, but make the consequences worth it.
     

Return to normal eating habits the next day: The problem that some people face is after a night of indulgence they let it cascade into a week, or weeks of indulgence. 

Get back on track the very next day focusing on protein and veggies. This will ensure that you pick up where you left off and continue to make progress. Your nutrition progress is more about the trends, and not the singular snapshots.
 

  • rink enough water: When you're getting back on track after an indulgence, there are likely to be stronger than normal food cravings. You can help to alleviate some of these cravings by making sure that your adequately hydrated and not mistaking hunger for dehydration. 

Part 6: BONUS Preventing The Hangover

  • Eat a good dinner (Starches, protein, veg): The makes sure that you don’t get drink too quickly have a short night. Also having some food in the stomach will help to absorb some of the alcohol and make sure it doesn’t hit your bloodstream as quickly.
     

  • Stick to your limits: In the same way that you set limits before a social event set a predetermined amount of drinks for the night and cut yourself off when you reach that limit.
     

  • Reduce sugary mixers: Lot of excess sugar with alcohol has tendency to make you more dehydrated and deplete your body of vitamins and minerals which will  amplify the hangover.
     

  • Drinks with ice: This super simple tip allows you milk your drink for longer in social situations and prevents you from always having the social pressure to grab another drink everyone else who’s getting hammered.
     

  • Alternating alcohol with water or club soda: When you alternate your drinks between water and booze it allows you to stay better hydrated and prevents part of the hangover. 

    Another trick is to get club soda with lime wedges and no one will know that you’re not drinking booze.

Anti Hangover Recipe:

  • Drink this before going to bed, and then when you wake up in the morning and it will help to prevent the hangover.

  • 16- 24 ounces of water + 3-5 pinches of sea salt in the water + 2 grams of fish oil. Have this before bed and when you wake up and you’ll be happy you did!