December can be a tricky health month. With so many social and family obligations, too many of us take an all or nothing approach: we let one less than ideal health choice snowball into a month of unhealthy choices. One glass of wine turns into three per day. One missed workout turns into a month of slovenly behavior.
I have good news!! You don't have to fall completely off of your health horse. Instead "manage" December with these four simple tricks - live by my "love it" rule, always take a "mindfulness moment" before you eat anything, make simple substitutions whenever possible and make movement a "non-negotiable."
How To "Manage" December
1. Use my "Love It" rule
Go ahead, treat yourself, life is worth living, but before you do ask yourself two questions.
"Do I love it"? Your treat should be something you really want, not just whatever is around.
"Is this an appropriate portion"? Have an appropriate portion of something you love. Don't gorge -- you can always have another moderate portion tomorrow.
2. Take a beat -- a mindfulness moment -- before you eat anything.
It is too easy to overeat or chose unhealthy options when you are not conscious of what you are doing.
No eating while standing!
Don't mindlessly eat while you are cooking, during meetings or while socializing at a party. Make snacking while cooking off limits.
Take the "party five"
At parties, when you want seconds or an extravagant dessert, make yourself take a mindfulness moment by waiting five minutes. Have some water and consider how you will feel if you consume the treat. If after five minutes you decide you "have to have it," go for it. Enjoy! Life is worth living, just don't eat things you don't truly love.
Use my 30-minute rule
At home, when you want an after dinner snack make yourself take a "mindfulness moment" by waiting thirty minutes before eating the snack. Try and get involved in another activity. Read a book, do some crafting or even do some chores. Usually once you are involved in something else you will forget about wanting chocolate cookies. If after thirty minutes you still want something, try and have something healthy like a few vegetables and a tablespoon of hummus.
Stop eating in front of the TV
No explanation needed. Instead of nibbling while you watch TV, drink water or do an activity that keeps your hands busy, like knitting. When I want to snack in front of the TV I try to distract myself by using the foam roller or stretching.
3. Simple Substitutions
When out and about and "hangry," instead of grabbing the nearest sugary treat, grab a hard-boiled egg.
Instead of mindlessly consuming, consciously chose something low in sugar and high in protein -- something like a hard-boiled egg. Most convenience stores sell them, grocery stores almost always have them, and, worst-case scenario, Starbucks has an egg in their protein box.
Better yet, carry healthy snacks with you; try hard-boiled eggs and cut-up vegetables or an apple and a few almonds.
Instead of nutritiously vapid white pasta, have bean pasta, spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash.
Bean pasta has 21 grams of protein in one serving. Combine it with a ton of vegetables for an easy-to-assemble, healthy meal.
Or invest in a spiralizer; make "pasta" out of zucchini (I also love spiralized beets or carrots on salads). Or make "pasta" out of spaghetti squash. Cut the squash lengthwise and bake. Scoop out the stringy inside. Then put nutritious sauce made with lots of vegetables and protein on top.
Instead of sweetening your coffee with sugar, try cinnamon
Instead of rice, try cauliflower "rice"
Chop cauliflower in the food processor until it resembles rice. Steam it. Then load it with yummy spices and toppings like you would rice. I have to thank my awesome client Trudy for bringing this to my attention!
Instead of sugary granola, try Hi-Lo cereal
I don't love most cereals; they tend to be high in sugar and fairly processed. So I encourage my clients to have hard-boiled eggs and vegetables or chia seed "pudding" with berries for breakfast. That said, sometimes convenience is paramount and cereals are convenient. When needed, try Hi-Lo cereal -- it only has three grams of sugar and it has 12 grams of protein. It is crunchy and works nicely in Greek yogurt with berries. Thank my knowledgeable colleague Dr. Kendall-Reed for this tip.
Instead of muffins, have egg "muffins"
Muffins are convenient -- they are just often full of sugar and fat. Egg muffins are equally convenient, but also nutritious. Make six or 10 mini "egg muffins" every Sunday and eat them through the week. Sauté a bunch of vegetables then place them into separate muffin tins. Mix a bunch of eggs and pour roughly half an egg into each cup. Cook muffins in the oven, then voilà -- a healthy breakfast you can grab as you walk out the door. When you have an extra minute enjoy the "muffin" with some avocado or a piece of whole grain bread.
Instead of pizza, have egg "pizza"
The egg is basically just a nutritious platform for yummy pizza toppings. First, put egg whites and/or a few full eggs in a pan. Bake until firm -- that is your "pizza" crust! Then add pizza toppings and bake until the topping are cooked.
4. Make movement a non-negotiable -- a "when" not an "if."
Instead of thinking "Will I exercise?" think "WHEN will I exercise". Can't get to the gym? No problem; work movement into your day. Walk home from work, pace on conference calls, do exercises in front of the TV, or take your kids to the park and run around or play a sport. Consciously flip your mindset -- intentionally find opportunities to be active instead of excuses to be sedentary.