Recently, an article on eating well during the holidays appeared in The Boston Magazine. The writer shared her spin on eating tips that "you can actually use" during the holidays. No surprise. It's that time of the year and everyone is dishing up advice on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays. I'll be honest, I didn't hate the article. But.... I didn't love it either. So I'll give my take on the age old tradition. Here it goes.
Old Rule #1: Bring a bag of baby carrots with you to munch on during the party.
Marci's "Rule": Don't eat food you don't like. It's a party for crying out loud! If you LOVE baby carrots dipped in Ranch dressing, go for it. But let's be honest, you can have that 365 days of the year. Eat what you love. Eat what's special. Skip the rest. Do you really like those holiday colored M&Ms?
Old Rule #2: Wear tight fitting clothes to the holiday party, preferably something with a belt.
Marci's "Rule": I don't believe in self-harm. Wear an outfit you can rock! Seriously, wear something you feel dang sexy in. Confidence and self-love often leads to better self-care!
Old Rule #3: Take only three bites of everything on your plate.
Marci's "Rule": I really don't know what to say about this rule, but it's just plain silly. Don't do this. But do stay present and actually TASTE your food. Yes, truly taste it. When you start to notice that you are getting full, take a little break. Socialize. Play with the kiddos or play a game. You can always go back to eating later but give your body and brain time to catch up with one another.
Old Rule #4: Dab a napkin on top of the food, if it leaves an oil mark, leave it behind.
Marci's "Rule": This is also totally crazy. Again, don't do this. Fat isn't bad. Fat is what allows us to feel satisfied. Fat adds flavor and texture. We need to stop demonizing fat. But, too much of anything doesn't leave us feeling good physically. Again, take what you love. Leave the rest behind. Eat what tastes good. Take a pause when you are getting full.
Old Rule #5: Eat less during the day prior to the party to “save” calories for later.
Marci's "Rule": This is a disaster waiting to happen. Eat during the day! Fuel is what our brains and bodies need! You may want to think about balancing your food choices if you know what the evening menu has in store. But please don't starve yourself prior to arriving at the party.
Old Rule #6: Drink multiple glasses of water prior to the party to fill you up and prevent overeating.
Marci's "Rule": Here's a little known fact. Our bodies do NOT process water the same way they process food. You cannot trick your tummy into thinking you have fed it when you guzzled a gallon of water. Anyone who has tried that old dieting gimmick knows it doesn't work. Make sure you've had a little something an hour or two before the party. Stay hydrated. Stay tuned in to how you're food tastes and your body feels. You'll do great.
Remember, our culture thrives on a restrict/binge mentality. So learning to eat in a mindful, balanced, nourishing way takes practice! It's a skill that probably needs developing. But I am fully confident that with practice, you can get there.
Happy Holidays. Your nutritionist in Cambridge.
What are your tips for healthy eating during the holidays? Do share!
The holiday season brings to mind two words: gifts and traditions. And it is with those two words that I write this holiday message to each of you.
Gifts: For those of you celebrating Christmas, you may be frantically shopping and wrapping for the coming weekend. But have you thought about what gift you'd like to give yourself this year? I'm not talking about JCrew here! If you read my blog, you what I'm getting at. Do you want a more peaceful relationship with food and your body? Do you want more time for self-care and reflection? Do you want less self-criticism. Do you want more energy?
Now that you've identified what gift you want, what do you need to make it happen? Can you get a small dose of this gift during the holiday season? Get creative, I bet you can.
Traditions: 'tis the season for all kinds of traditions. Many are exciting and happy traditions. And many are accompanied by large doses of stress, anxiety, and guilt. Are there any traditions you want to keep alive this holiday season? Any that you'd love to DROP?!
You do not have to bake cookies for the entire neighborhood just because you did it last year! You do not have eat Aunt Sarah's fruit cake if you really don't like it! Sometimes we create unrealistic standards for ourselves, simply out of tradition. But guess what, you really can keep what you like and truly ditch at least some of what you don't. :)
I'd love to hear about the gifts or traditions you'll be treating yourself to this holiday season. Do share!
The holiday season gets me all excited for special things that are only available this time of year. Cozy sweaters, holiday decorations, Christmas music, the scent of cinnamon swirling in my apartment, and Burdick's hot chocolate (to name a few). But this year, I discovered a new favorite holiday obsession: decaffeinated Candy Cane Green Tea from Trader Joe's (which I just discovered is available on Amazon for those of you far from a TJ's!).
The topic of the health benefits of green tea is quite a controversial one. If you are interested in delving in to some of the research, this article summarizes a lot of the recent studies on the topic. Despite the enthusiasm over the tea's ability to fight cancer, lower cholesterol, and improve diabetes "real-world evidence is lacking; most of the consistent findings about green tea's health benefits have come out of the lab."
But don't let this dissuade you from warming up with a cup of Trader's Joe's holiday version. We do know that green tea is loaded with antioxidants. And THAT should come in handy as the holiday stress begins to mount. Call it fact or fiction, I can't deny that sipping on a cup of delicious tea does wonders for my mental health...not to mention the boost I may be getting from the antioxidant qualities of green tea.
Do you have any holiday favorites? I'd love to know about them!
In the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to share with you two little "treats" I've recently discovered.
XO Jane: Check out this article "Suck It, Food Guilt Season." I had trouble choosing a favorite quote to share with you, but here's one to give you the flavor:
"You don't need to titter and say 'Well, maybe just a little bit more' when someone offers you something you want to eat. Nor do you need to apologize when you don't really want to eat any of Aunt Susan's sweet potato casserole because you can't stand marshmallows: it's totally fine to say 'I'm good, thanks.' "
Your food choices are yours to own. It's ok to eat foods you LOVE, it's ok to honor your hunger. But it's not ok to add a heaping plate full of guilt and shame to go along with it. Quite frankly, it just tastes bad.
Body Image Advent Calendar- 25 days to address 25 different body image topics via video. Nick and Sarah are tackling tough topics like: media, airbrushing, fat talk, plastic surgery, how to define beauty, etc. Enjoy!
Do you have any holiday treats to share?
What do you think about when you hear the word "mindfulness?" To be honest, I used to think "nope, not for me!". Breath in, breath out, follow my breath. Ugh! I honestly couldn't see the point and every time I tried it seemed like a miserable failure.
And then I attended a workshop by the brilliant Dan Siegel, MD and also began reading one of his many books on mindfulness entitled "The Mindful Therapist." My mind has been forever changed now that I'm beginning to understand why mindfulness is so critical to our health.
I'm going to give you a 3 part synopsis of how Dr. Siegel's work on mindfulness has changed my life:
1. Mindfulness can be defined as: awareness of the present experience with acceptance, no judgement
2. Our brain naturally goes a thousand miles a minute. That's what it is designed to do. When we practice bringing it to the present moment physiological and structural changes occur in our brains! Yes, the act of bringing our mind to the moment changes the very structure of our brain.
3. As this happens, there are PROFOUND consequences. I will name a few: we become more open, less rigid in our thinking, more creative and resilient, less anxious, able to act rather than to react.
Practicing mindfulness is tough stuff. But it's with the act of practicing, the act of drawing your mind to the quite present moment WITHOUT JUDGMENT that the magic happens.
Below is a story of one person's journey with a 30 min meditation. Enjoy.
Recently I went to a 30-minute guided mindfulness meditation session. The teacher spoke for about 5 minutes at the beginning of the session, suggesting ways we could approach quieting our minds for that half hour. She suggested relinquishing following the breath, which is a typical approach to mindfulness meditation.
Instead she referred to a passage she had recently stumbled upon in the Bhagavad Gita that suggested that the labor, or effort, was the goal of this meditation practice; that we should not expect results or a mindfulness “product.” She went on to give us other ideas to use as a focus: the deep red of fall leaves that correlates with the chakra of groundedness, or the fiery red that corresponds to passion for life and self-confidence. We could also focus on an image from nature, or the words “softer, softer, softer.”
Then she was quiet. The room was quiet. My mind was not quiet: “ ‘Effort,’ I like that idea, just keep putting in the work at all my endeavors, yes, effort, interesting.” Then I observed that I was “thinking.” “Thinking,” I told myself.
I tried to see the two colors of red and feel grounded and self-confident. My mind wandered to an image of a leaf I had seen earlier that day; it had startled me by being so loud just by turning onto another leaf after a puff of wind.
The room stayed quiet. My neck felt tired. I felt tired. I wondered if anyone would mind if I quietly lay down. I decided they would.
I remembered an image I like that I recently cut out from a magazine—a young woman, smiling, her arm draped around her painted self-portrait (with the help of Photoshop). My words for that image have been “Here I am; I am good.” I want to be her: solid; self-confident; with an inner self that she herself has created that goes with her throughout her day, unchanging, no matter the circumstances. I stayed with this image for a few minutes.
I continued to move from image to image, occasionally saying the words “softer, softer, softer.” These words were soothing.
Then the session was over. I walked home and Ms. Anxiety swept into me like a Nor’easter. At home I stared out my window at the crescent moon’s light.
No results? Perhaps what the meditation leader meant by the words “effort” and “labor” was “engagement”—that engaging with any activity, including mindfulness meditation, is accepting, not resisting the activity. I stared at the moon and thought, “I will continue this labor as best I can.”
Ha! I’ve just spent 2 hours playing Freecell on my computer. The images from last week’s meditation session have grown pale. Today was an anxious day and “engagement” seemed impossible. I know the labor takes practice (as in, it must take place). I am resisting.
But: Begin again. Loud leaf. Quiet night. Re-engage to groundedness and self-confidence. “Here I am; I am good.” Softer, softer, softer.
Another reader passed along this tasty and super easy recipe and I had to share. Talk about a great week night speed meal. Plus the eggs are a stellar source of very affordable protein and the fat-soluble vitamins are a plus. Please don't fret about the cholesterol in eggs. Even the American Heart Association gives a thumbs up for 5 eggs a week, even if you have high cholesterol! So dish up and enjoy and warm, comforting, tasty, nutritious meal you can whip up in minutes.
Picture and Recipe Source: New York Times
Eggs Poached in Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup marinara sauce, made with fresh or canned tomatoes
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
A couple of leaves of basil, slivered
1 to 2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 or 2 slices country bread, preferably whole-grain, toasted and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic
1. Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan or an 8-inch omelet pan and turn the heat to low. Add the cayenne, if desired, and the slivered basil.
2. Break the egg or eggs into a teacup, and carefully tip them into the tomato sauce. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tops of the whites are set but the yellow yolk shows through. It’s important that the yolk be runny. Turn off the heat. Season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle on the Parmesan.
3. Serve in a wide soup bowl, on top of the garlic toast or with the toast on the side.
Yield: 1 serving.