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7 Essentials to Stay Lean and Healthy During the Holidays

By JJ VIRGIN

The holidays tend to bring over-indulgence. Whether it's your favorite seasonal dessert, one cocktail too many at the office party or having seconds - for the third time - at your friend’s dinner party. Lavishness fills the season.

During the festivities, the right strategies can make the difference between smartly navigating parties and going face down in the cinnamon spice eggnog. So don't neglect these tried-and-true basics that will help you stay lean and healthy this holiday season - and all year:

1. Drink Water
More than 50 percent of the human body is made of water, yet dehydration can make that number drop, and fast. Dehydration means your metabolism coming to a grinding halt and increasing your body's inflammation levels, often resulting in weight loss resistance. By the time you realize you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Start with a large glass of filtered water upon waking and keep a water bottle nearby to sip throughout the day. Water can even nix those late-night cravings for gingerbread cookies: a University of Washington found drinking 8 ounces of water at bedtime could shut down your evening hunger pangs. Find more about dehydration here.

2. Get Enough Sleep
'Tis the season to party late, but morning-after repercussions can show up around your waistline. I'm not just talking about devouring that piece of apple spice cake. Just one night's sleep can also knock fat-burning hormones out of whack, leaving you cranky and craving those peppermint brownies your coworker brought in. Turn off electronics and use the hour before bed to power down. The best gift you can give yourself is seven-to-nine hours of high quality sleep every night. Here are 10 steps to help you fall and stay asleep.

3. Don't Neglect Exercise
Driving past the gym to the mall for holiday shopping becomes too easy unless you've committed to yourself and your trainer that you'll fit burst training and weight resistance into your hectic schedule. Muscle is your metabolic Spanx that holds everything together, something you'll appreciate all too well when you put on that little black dress come New Year's Eve. If the gym's not for you, grab my free 4 x 4 Workout and get a fab workout in about the time it takes to find a parking space at the mall.

4. Control Your Stress
Long lines, family gatherings, and forced joy can exacerbate anxiety, worry, and stress during the holiday season. Along with too much caffeine, wine, and of course sugar, you’ve got a surefire formula to keep your stress hormone cortisol ramped up all day, breaking down muscle and storing fat. Find your center of calm: meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or just walking your dog around the block can provide momentary bliss during the frantic season.

5. Consume Fiber
Fiber is your holiday friend for fast fat loss. It slows stomach emptying, dials down your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar, and reduces cravings so you're less likely to dive into the red velvet cupcakes. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention recommend a daily intake of fiber of between 25 to 35 grams for adults, but I personally aim for 50. To make it easy to meet your daily quota, try to eat high-fiber foods like berries (especially raspberries), lentils, leafy greens and nuts and seeds. I throw flax or chia seeds into my protein shake for an easy fiber boost. Oh, and a simple trick to curb appetite and eat less: stir a scoop of ground flaxseed or a fiber supplement into 16 ounces of water about 30 minutes before you eat. Here are another 19 high-fiber foods you can enjoy.

6. Make it Easy
You're spending a long weekend at your in-laws and your breakfast options include cinnamon-raisin French toast or blueberry pancakes. Do you indulge or skip breakfast? Neither. A protein shake can rescue you in even the trickiest situation for a fast, filling, cravings-busting meal. Whether I'm at the airport or on the road, I always keep vegan (but not soy) protein powder nearby. I blend it with flax or chia seeds, frozen raspberries, raw kale, and unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Here are two good recipes to try: "The Virgin Diet Shake" and Chocolate Raspberry Vegan Smoothie.

7. Indulge Smartly
Thought you'd like this one! Essential because you're going to indulge over the holidays, so do it smartly. Aim for a low-sugar dark chocolate with at least 80 percent cacao, preferably organic, and enjoy sparingly. For extra indulgence, smear some almond butter on top of it.

– JJ Virgin

Readers - What are your tricks to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the holidays? Will you try any of the tips above?  Let us know by leaving a comment below

Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet and the bestselling Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She was also co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.

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>> Read more of JJ Virgin's articles here! <<

References

University of Washington Study. 2002. Reported in Integrated and Alternative Medicine Clinical Highlights. 4:1(16).

 

 

 

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