Expert Tips for Holiday Wellness (Q&A with Julie Hefner)

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and along with it comes the time when we get to unapologetically stuff our faces until we land in a food coma. 

We’re convinced that the traditions associated with the holidays (especially the never-ending feasts) originated conveniently after the concept of “summer bodies.” That way, we would have a perfectly valid excuse to forget about our beach-readiness in favor of spending guilt-free time with our family and friends. 

But with the often-practiced, highly-uncelebrated tradition of forgetting about our New Year’s resolutions, we thought it’d be nice to enjoy our holiday meals of turkey, pie, and eggnog, while maintaining balanced nutrition, instead of completely falling off the wagon. It’s hard enough as it is to be strong-willed without the smell of Thanksgiving dinner calling our names. 

We start out with the best of intentions: just a little turkey, the smallest piece of pie, and maybe a little eggnog, but by the end of the evening, we find ourselves nodding off after our third plate. Not this year though. This holiday season, relax and savor the thought of a fruitful new year.

Julie Hefner, author of Nourishing Your Body and Soul, health strategist, and nutrition expert, offers insight on how to successfully manage the festive feasts during the holiday season.

Question: How can we resist overeating when there is what appears to be an endless spread of food?
My recommendation to navigating all the extra treats, drinks, and food around the holidays is to stick to your routine by nourishing your body with good nutrients during the day. This means don’t skip meals. Oftentimes, when we miss meals the body sends signals to the brain to release a hormone called ghrelin, which in turn signals your body to overeat because it thinks you are starving.

Always eat a little something before you go to a party or dinner party to avoid overeating or getting caught off guard with foods that may throw you off track. Stick to the vegetables and proteins if you can. If not, then eat smaller portions.

If you’re like most of my clients and love the holidays and all the delicious foods that come with it, allow yourself two treats a week. Pick your favorite and plan ahead for this so you don’t feel guilty about it. You may love your mom’s apple pie, so plan for it and enjoy.

Question: How do you think holiday-linked stress affects our eating at this time of year, and how might we prevent it?
Let’s face it: There is a lot going on around this time of year. From shopping to client gifts to events, it’s a lot to manage. Because we have more on our minds and may not get as much sleep due to staying out later than normal, we tend to get stressed, which can cause us to overeat.

It’s okay to say “no” to a few things to protect your time and energy. Get shopping done ahead of time and don’t wait until the last minute to get everything done. Consider hiring extra help to alleviate your stress.

In one sleep study, participants that slept more lost 55% more body fat than those that did not sleep as well. So protect your sleep and time.

Question: Would scheduling a gym session help us stay motivated to eat well? How/When should we incorporate it?
Although it’s usually our workouts that suffer when we get busy, my recommendations are if it works for you and you feel good and not stressed fitting it in, then go for it.

Oftentimes we can’t always stick to our routine, especially at this time of year. If you have friends to see, suggest a walk near the beach instead of going out for coffee. This way, you are staying social and getting those steps in. It’s more important to get sleep, limit stress, and limit the consumption of sugar and alcohol. These things can weaken our immune system and cause us to get sick.

Question: Any other tips?
Don’t forget to drink water. Grab your favorite bottle and take it with you everywhere you go. This will keep you full, hydrated and cause you to not crave foods. Start your day with warm lemon water. This will help keep you healthy by building your immune system and protecting your skin from the colder weather.

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