Getting in the Holiday Spirit

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The Holidays are meant to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but all of the events, shopping, and bustling around can also make the Holidays quite stressful. Add to that all of the sinful food temptations and consequential weight gain, fewer daylight hours, and cold, bitter weather, and people can find themselves absolutely miserable by the New Year. But this year can be different by going into the season with a game plan. Plan to take care of your body and spirit this year and avoid the winter blues.
1. Don’t graze at the food table; fill a plate and walk away.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is grazing at the food table. You may think you are eating less because you are only eating a bite at a time, but those bites can add up to be more than if you would have just filled a plate. This year, make a vow to fill a plate, walk away, and be done with the food. Limit yourself to two plates maximum: one with appetizers and main/side items, and one for a sampling of dessert. Wanna really push the envelope? Challenge yourself to fill half of your plate with a sampling from the fresh fruit and veggie trays.
2. Walk.
Don’t stress about making time for the gym. Instead, make those small choices everyday to walk. Park at the back of the mall parking lot instead of trying to find the close parking spot. Take the stairs or walk up the escalator instead of taking the elevator. Walk daily with your dogs, spouse, and/or children. Not only will you feel better for making the active choice, a daily walk with friends and/or family will make your soul feel good, as walks are a great time for meaningful conversation.
holiday-eating-caution-sign3. Leave the goodies at work…and SHARE.
I know you want to keep all those cookies for yourself, but don’t be a Grinch this season. Instead of taking all those baked goods and gifted flavored popcorn canisters home, leave them at work and share with your co-workers. In the long run, you will eat less and you won’t be beating yourself up later for a growing waistline. In fact, your soul may even feel better for having shared your goodies with others and for spreading the Holiday cheer.
4. Take time for you.
Yes, the Holidays are crazy, and I know you feel like you barely have time to breathe, let alone do anything pampering for yourself. But find time at least once or twice a week to do something just for you: a luxurious bubble bath, a relaxing massage, 30 minutes with a good book, or just five minutes a day alone to meditate. You will be amazed at the difference a little “you” time can make in the grand scheme of things. By taking the time to focus on your needs, you will allow your body time to de-stress – if only for a few minutes – and prepare for the next round of Holiday Hullabaloo.
5. Do something with your family (or whatever “family” means to you).
Have a board game night. Drive through a neighborhood or historic district of town to look at Holiday lights. Go see THE NUTCRACKER. Whatever you do, choose something that is fun or special to this time of year (or that you don’t normally make time to do), and do it with those you love most. Perhaps you will start a new tradition. Maybe you’ll discover you love something that you’ve never tried before. But the laughing and bonding with loved ones will soothe your spirit (and theirs) – a little breath of fresh air amongst the hectic atmosphere of the Season, a rare snapshot in time where everyone is happy and stress is forgotten.
Holidays should be a joyful, happy time, but we are often caught off-guard as the Holidays seem to come earlier and earlier each year. This year, approach the Holidays with a different outlook and a game plan to use those smaller moments to make the overall experience more enjoyable. Staying healthy during the Holidays is more than watching what you eat or hitting the gym even harder; don’t forget to feed your soul this Holiday Season. This Season, remember that the essence of the Season is to share the experience with others and create memories worth repeating. Get in the Holiday Spirit and have a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season!



Portion Control: Size It Up

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Portions have become greatly distorted in American culture.  In fact, many would argue that oversized portions are the root cause of our obesity epidemic.  Not only are we as a society more overweight than ever, we are now facing alarmingly increasing prevalence in diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases.  If portion sizes are truly a causing factor, then we must attack the weight management issue with portion control.  But what is a “portion” anyway?

A “portion” is the amount of food you put on your plate.  Unfortunately, most Americans fill large plates with extra large portions.  Instead, we should be following standard dietary guidelines for serving sizes.  Recommended serving sizes are as follows:

  • MEAT – 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards or palm of your hand
  • GRAINS – 1 cup, or about the size of your fist
  • FRUITS AND VEGETABLES – ½ cup (size of a lightbulb) to 1 cup (size of a baseball)
  • FATS AND SWEETS – sparingly, or about the size of a poker chip or small pack of dental floss

(for additional info on standard serving sizes, visit or

 Knowing about serving sizes is a start, but that knowledge is not always practical and is often forgotten in everyday life.  So here are some additional tips to help you in your efforts to reign in your portion sizes:

1. Read labels.

You may be surprised to find out that a serving size of your favorite chips or crackers is only about 16 pieces (which, let’s face it, is about a handful).  When preparing your meals and snacks, only put on your plate or in your bowl the recommended serving size on the package…and then put it away.  Once your bowl or plate is empty, stop eating.  Learn your serving sizes and stick to them.

2. Use smaller plates, especially when eating pasta.
Keeping in mind that a serving size of pasta is about the size of your fist, think about how many portions you are piling onto a typical American dinner plate.  Yikes!  So next time you have pasta for dinner, downsize to those smaller plates that are probably just taking up space in your cabinet.  Though you are eating a smaller portion, the plate will still look full, and therefore will deceive your eyes (and your stomach) into thinking you are eating more than you actually are.

3. Rearrange your plate.
Try this approach to filling your plate: ½ vegetables, ¼ meat, ¼ grains.  Unfortunately, we as Americans probably do 1/3 of each of the above – or, even worse, skip the vegetables altogether.  By rearranging your plate, you will be more apt to get those 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, while also getting closer to the lower recommended serving sizes for meats and grains.

4. Prepare more meals at home.
People tend to eat less when they prepare meals at home versus eating out.  You will also likely prepare the meals in a healthier fashion.  Either way, you will be consuming less calories than fast food or even restaurant food.

5. Separate your leftovers into mini meals.
One of the main excuses for grabbing lunch or dinner on-the-go is convenience.  So once you finish dinner at home, go ahead and separate the leftovers into smaller containers – little mini meals ready to grab and take to work (or throw in the microwave for dinner the next night).

6. When eating out, cut it in half.
If you must eat out, remember that the portions are going to be very large and full of extra calories.  When your food arrives at the table, go ahead and request a to-go box.  Divide your meal at least in half – eat half now, take the rest home.  Not only will you not feel so stuffed that you later regret it, but you automatically have your next lunch or dinner ready to grab and go the next day.

Weight management can be as simple as starting with better portion control.  As with anything new, this process will take some practice before mastering, but it is easy enough for anyone to try – anytime, anywhere.   Portion control is really just being mindful of the amount you put on your plate, and has nothing to do with starving yourself or restricting calories; simply reprogram yourself to the recommended servings for each food group.  Also know that, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, you can really never go wrong, so eat up!  The key to your size is in your portion sizes.