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A Holiday Cheat Sheet

This is my favorite time of year. The holiday season represents a time to celebrate with friends and family, to give gifts of thanks and to go to as many holiday parties as you possibly can. I'm a social gal and the holidays are prime time to trade in my sneakers for stilettos and catch up with friends over good food and drinks. However, without a proper healthy plan to navigate the season of over indulgence, it can be easy to over-do it and fall into a downward spiral of stressing out, missing workouts, and gaining weight. So, I've created a holiday cheat sheet of a few good rules which can save you guilt and pounds and may even trim your trunk this holiday season.

1. Start your day with protein.

A breakfast packed with protein will set you up with steady blood sugar levels throughout your morning. Healthy protein choices at breakfast like organic eggs, Greek yogurt, and natural nut butters on whole grain toast will satiate your appetite. Eating sugary boxed cereals or breakfast pastries can lead to sugar cravings throughout the day and leave you vulnerable to the office candy jar and holiday treats.

2. Heat up the furnace.

By furnace, I mean your metabolism. A great way to increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR) or the rate at which your body burns calories is by building lean muscle mass. If you are a die-hard cardio queen, step off the elliptical 2 to 3 times a week and hit the weights. Don't wait until the gyms are packed with flakey resolutions in January. Start now and start heavy so your body will be burning off those holiday cocktails in your sleep. Not a gym rat? Simply keep one set of heavy weights at home and do some basic weight training before you leave for the office.

3. Drink wisely!

Holiday themed drinks are the worst calorie trap we can find ourselves in from gingerbread lattes to spiked eggnog. A 16 oz. gingerbread latte with 2% milk can pack in 320 calories and a whopping 37g of sugar. Instead, you can get a plain coffee and add your own milk and spices and regulate your sweetener. When the host of the party offers you an eggnog drink, politely ask for a shot of rum on its own. This will save you about 340 calories. Or you can stick to wine which is about 100 calories per 5oz. glass. Sip slowly throughout the night and double fist with a glass of water in the other hand.

4. BYOS: Bring your own sweets.

Dessert can be the downfall of a perfectly healthy day if you don't come to the party prepared. Sadly, I know from years of experience. Skip store bought baked goods, unless you know the source and you can approve the ingredients. Store bought cakes, cookies, and pies are usually loaded with trans fats from shortening and hydrogenated oils and the sugar overload is off the Richter scale. These ingredients pack on the pounds and increase inflammation in the body which increases your risk of heart disease. Instead, bake your own low calorie, low sugar versions of seasonal treats. If you don't have the time, simply pick up some high quality dark chocolate and fresh berries packed with antioxidants to calm any sweet tooth.

5. Keep calm and shop online.

Stress is a silent killer. It's also one of the causes of weight gain and that oh-so-dreaded belly fat. Stress triggers the release of cortisol from our adrenal glands and if it is not balanced by a relaxation response, higher and prolonged levels of cortisol can lead to an increase of abdominal fat. First, find the cause of your unwanted stress. Then find solutions to reduce your reaction to them. If crowds stress you out, shop online. If money is stressing you out, be creative and organize a Secret Santa gift giving plan. Planning a weekly yoga class or a daily 5 minute breathing meditation can be essential to balancing your stress hormone levels and therefore reducing your chances of sporting a muffin top in the New Year.

-Jenn

Jennifer Cassetta is a third degree black belt, clinical nutritionist and personal trainer. She loves kale, chocolate and wine. She loves to punch, kick, lift weights, meditate, and dress up in stilettos. She empowers people to be strong, safe and sexy through nutrition, fitness and self-defense, and you can read more at www.jennifercassetta.com.

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