If the mere thought of the holidays immediately gets you salivating over the enormous bounty of cookies decorated in sweet icing, festive cakes and savory pastries, rich buttery hors d’oeuvres, (not to mention the alcohol aperitifs and eggnog lattes), then I have got to grab your attention quickly before you cave in to your cravings! Follow along with me – I want to explore how to beat the urge this holiday season using my tried and true solutions. Because I know what you really crave is a deep connection to yourself, not food!
While you may feel powerless at the work parties, family gatherings and even your local coffee spot this time of year let me assure you that you are indeed full of power! Just because sugar is everywhere in all of its many forms (think dairy and flour as sources of sugar, not just classic “sugar” cookies type of sugar) doesn’t mean you have to be part of a culture of eaters that normalize indulging in copious amounts of sugar and rich food this time of year.
After all, the holidays are a time to feel grateful, positive and fulfilled. It’s perfectly normal to spend time with people who make you feel happy, but yet so many of us get tripped up mistaking happiness derived from food true joy. These are two very different things. Countless people, women especially, feel burdened by their cravings during the holidays.
For some, this time of year that’s supposed to be so joyous is actually feared. And to make it worse, it’s not enough to feel stressed about knowing the cravings are inevitably coming this time of year, but to then experience the debilitating aftermath of emotions and the psychological state of succumbing to the cravings either by overindulging or for some, binging. This isn’t what the holidays are about!
Trust me, I have a sweet tooth and have my own history with sugar, so I totally get that it’s much easier said than done to put up boundaries around holiday treats and all the decadent food. Over the years I have played around with different tools to help me enjoy this time of year and focus on what really matters. The holidays can be a source of fulfillment and pride – they shouldn’t be a time of dietary dread or a dip in your sense of self-worth and power.
This season try a couple of these out for yourself and see which best suits your personality (and needs) in the moment. Today I want to invite you to lay a strong foundation for a healthy holiday by considering these two. And next week, we’ll add in a few more tools you can use as well, so you are fully equipped.
Perfect Pairings: Protein, Carbs & Fat.
The Issue: As women, our bodies are very sensitive to nutrient deficiencies – both the macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) as well as the micronutrients (minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients). When we don’t properly nourish ourselves chemical messengers are released that signal hormones and neurotransmitters to increase our sense of hunger. While some metabolic types thrive skipping meals (it actually normalizes their blood sugar and helps serve as a “reset,”) for women who are sensitive to the effects of stress hormones on the body, skipping meals, or avoiding one of the macronutrients in meals, for some it can wreak major havoc on your system and set you up for intense cravings, overeating or even binge-eating.
The fix: If you know your body doesn’t respond well to avoiding a macronutrient like carbs, protein or fat in a meal than I suggest you start by eating fat first as part of a well-balanced meal that contains nutrient-dense real, whole foods. Especially important is including a moderate to large amount of good fat at each meal (3 – 4-servings ), a moderate servings of protein (3-6 oz) and at least 2 cups of phytonutrient and Powerphenol – rich non-starchy vegetables. This is key to your success since many important minerals like chromium and minerals like magnesium are key to keeping cravings at bay. Often times, the issue is just a small imbalance or deficiency that the body interprets as a “stage 5 alarm.” Once the “alarm” is triggered, there’s no way of knowing how you’ll respond. So if your goal is to not scarf down the entire box of office Christmas cookies at the party this year, make sure you eat a well-balanced meal beforehand so you arrive comfortably and you are able to stay in control of your willpower. Because let’s face it, willpower is nothing more than your ability to provide yourself authentic self-care through sound nutrition. Most women give willpower too much power – but it’s simply not a mythical character you can’t control. So if you want more of it this year, nourish yourself with good nutrition and lifestyle modifications.
Savvy Supplementation: B vitamins (B6 and inositol), EGCG, resveratrol, L- tyrosine, omega 3 fish oil.
The Issue: Stress is a major downer for proper nutrient status. During the holidays we may trigger too many stressors on the system (poor sleep, too much or not enough exercise, too much sugar, booze and caffeine and not enough plant foods and healthy fats, etc.). Under stress, the body uses up nutrients faster and is more vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies. Studies show that people undergoing a stressful time in life excrete more vitamins and minerals in their urine than those who report normal stress levels.
The fix: Instead of pumping yourself up or bringing yourself down with artificial stimulants and depressants that have noticeable side effects (hello, hangover!), opt for supplemental nutrients and herbs that research shows are effective and safe.
B6: If you’re gluten-free or don’t include grains in your diet, you may be low in B6. Vitamin B6 is an important part of keeping cravings at bay and managing the impact of stress on the body. If you don’t take a B-vitamin complex, there’s no time like the holidays to start! Look for bioavailable forms of B vitamins in their methylated forms. Bioavailable means your body recognizes and understands how to utilize the vitamin so it uses it more efficiently because of that. Look for a supplement with at least 5 mg of the active form of B6, pyridoxal 5′ phosphate.
EGCG: EGCG is a powerful phytonutrient that is not only a strong anti-oxidant but has positive effects on our cravings and our waistlines. Try swapping out your morning latte with a cup of tea or if that’s not in the cards, consider adding a supplement of 500 mg. EGCG is rich in polyphenols (or what I call Powerphenols) and can help you feel satiated up to 4 hours according to evidenced-based studies. This is especially true if you enjoyed a meal with 1 – 2 servings of healthy fats and fiber.
Resveratrol: While most people think of resveratrol as the magical compound found in red wine that helps prevent aging, little is told of the other medicinal hat it wears: blood sugar stabilizer. Cravings are often a product of imbalanced blood sugar levels. After eating a meal that spikes your blood sugar (think: a quick muffin on your way to the kids holiday play) your insulin skyrockets in order to bring your blood sugar down. It’s an exaggerated spike in insulin, which ends up leaving your blood sugar really low. To avoid feeling headachy, shaky or moody, you need to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Taking 100 mg of trans-resveratrol is an effective way to overachieve with your health this holiday season!
L-tyrosine: Catecholamines like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine are compounds that help our bodies respond to stress. When they are imbalanced our response to food, alcohol, and drugs becomes exaggerated. These catecholamines are synthesized from tyrosine and often become depleted during stress. Some practitioners suggest supplementing with about 1 – 3 grams of L-tyrosine in order to increase its availability in the brain and mitigate the effects of decreased neurotransmitters that happens during stress.
Essential Fatty Acids: Try eating at least 2 servings of Wild Alaskan salmon or cod per week to optimize your omega 3 fatty acid intake. Since we can’t always control our meals during the holidays, try adding a high-quality supplement. Omega-3 essential fatty acids promote healthy levels of a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) that is released after we eat and controls our appetite
Let’s begin here and get a head start on feeling your sexiest, proudest and most joyful self this holiday. And tune back in next week where I share THREE more of my favorite craving busters including the #1 tool I absolutely swear by. HINT: It’s also something Beyoncé swears by too! You won’t want to miss this!
In health and adventure,