Over the holiday season, millions of Americans gain anywhere from 2 to 7 lbs. In fact, the one or two pounds people gain during the holidays tends to stay with them for life. So, how do you avoid holiday weight gain? Lean muscle is the secret to keeping your metabolism firing to burn fat all day long. People who are active are more likely to maintain their weight during the holidays.

Here are some tips for keeping weight off during the holidays:

  • Physical activity. It’s a fact, people who are more active are more likely to maintain their weight during the holidays. This year, park farther away from the entrance to the mall and get a nice walk in and take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator. This year, instead of being the wallflower at all those holiday parties, get on the dance floor and dance your a$$ off! Dancing burns off those extra calories you’re consuming. Just 30 minutes of dancing burns about 150 calories. So crank up the tunes and get your body moving!
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol can be a major source of hidden calories. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, almost as much as fat (9 calories per gram) and nearly twice as many calories as a gram of carbohydrate or protein (4 calories per gram). Just one apple martini has 235 calories and almost 12 grams of sugar! Stick to a flavored vodka & soda or a light beer. Drink plenty of water! In fact, for every drink you have, drink at least 1 extra glass of water. Water will help your body metabolize the alcohol and may counteract some of the dehydrating effects of alcohol on the body such as that almost inevitable next-day hangover. No matter what, ALWAYS have a designated driver!
  • Limit soda and other sweetened beverages. These drinks add extra calories, too. Simply put, they are drinks high in fat and/or sugar. A can of soda, for example, has 150 calories and 42 grams of sugar! An 8 oz. glass of egg nog has about 220 calories! It would take about an hour of ice-skating to burn off that nog (220 calories burned per hour). Personally, I love light egg nog but have made the switch to Rice-Nog, it’s delicious and only 80 calories per serving. However, H2O is always the best choice!
  • Schedule holiday celebrations at normal meal times. Celebrations outside of normal meal times encourage people to pile on snacks which always mean extra calories. This one isn’t always easy to follow with all the events and holiday parties, it’s the holiday season and we’ll all splurge on tasty treats. Try to use good judgement, do your best, and don’t stress over it.
  • Choose foods with fewer calories. Foods with fewer calories for their size make you feel fuller sooner. Reach for those celery sticks and stick to lean protein snacks like shrimp or turkey slices. I absolutely love traditional stuffing unfortunately, just ½ cup of this delectable treat requires half an hour of shoveling snow (195 calories burned per 30 minutes). Since I live at the beach I’d have to shovel sand and I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. Now, I opt for brown rice stuffing which saves 100 calories per serving. Just a little discipline goes a long way.
  • Use smaller plates. The bigger your plate, the more food you can pile on it, which means you’ll be more likely to overeat. Using smaller dishes may actually help you eat less. Using a smaller plate “tricks” your mind to think that you are eating the same amount of food as you normally do when you will probably be eating less than you normally do. Try using a salad plate for your entrée. Eating less at each meal can save hundreds of calories saved each week. Remember, it’s the little changes that make the biggest differences!
  • Eat a healthy snack beforehand. You’ll be less likely to eat a lot of fattening food at parties. Try an apple with almond butter or a protein shake with a small piece of fruit like a pear or an apple. One medium-sized apple contains 5 grams of fiber and only 80 calories, they’re great to stave off that sweet tooth. Or, grab my new favorite protein treat the PowerCrunch Bar, a healthy snack that tastes like dessert! My picks for protein powders are ProtoWhey, MyoFusion, and Elite XT.
  • Weigh yourself weekly. Weekly NOT daily! It’s the holidays and we’ll all splurge on tasty treats just don’t stress over it. Just try not to overdo it and if you do, get right back on the track the next day. If you notice the needle on the scale creeping up a bit, create a plan of how you’ll get back on track when the holidays are over.
  • Get plenty of REST! Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, stress, moodiness, and the inability to be your best. With all the holiday parties and late nights it’s easy to skimp on sleep but give yourself the gift of sleep this holiday season. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and you deserve it!
Don’t be a statistic! Get FIT, boost your energy, and shed pounds this holiday season by participating in a fitness class (i.e. yoga, SPX Pilates, TRX, Kickboxing), go to the gym, or just head out for a walk in the crisp winter air! NOW is the perfect time to get a jump on that New Year’s Resolution.

Written by Jennifer Billings, BS, CPT
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The MOST Important Meal of the Day

BREAKFAST! It’s not just the most important meal of the day it’s actually my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast is the fuel that keeps our minds and bodies running throughout the day. We’ve heard how important breakfast was since we were kids and if you have kids, I’m sure you do everything in your power to get them to eat breakfast every day. Well, how often do you heed that advice?

With our hectic schedules, it’s easy to stop by the nearest Starbucks®  grab a cup of coffee and a bagel, a muffin that’s loaded with fat and calories or, skip breakfast altogether. Well, I can tell you that a cup of coffee and a muffin (or bagel) does not count as a nutritious breakfast. A Caramel Macchiato has a whopping 270 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 34 grams of carbs and we haven’t even added the calories from the bagel or muffin. A reduced fat blueberry muffin had 450 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 86 grams of carbs. So, if this was what you had for breakfast this morning, you’ve just ingested 720 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 120 grams of carbs!

Many people skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, this is not a good strategy since you are more likely to gain weight than lose it. Breakfast skippers tend to eat more than usual or make unhealthy choices at their next meal. These people often reach for unhealthy, high calorie, sugary snacks before their next meal to silence their growling bellies. People who eat a well-balanced and nutritious breakfast are more likely to be successful in losing body fat and maintaining a healthy weight than those who skip it.

So, you ask, “How is eating breakfast good for weight loss?” Think of it this way, you have been asleep for 6 to 8 hours so, your body is in starvation mode and your metabolism is very slow when you first wake up. Not eating for an extended period of time, as we do when we are sleeping, causes your metabolism to go into slow motion. Eating breakfast within the first 30 minutes of waking revs your metabolism back up, gives your body the boost of energy it needs to start your day, and increases your bodies’ fat burning ability. Skipping breakfast or any other meal for that matter will only slow your metabolism down. So, if you are trying to lose weight, you want to keep your metabolism running fast.

Let’s face it, when we think about breakfast visions of warm, fluffy pancakes with sausage links, a giant banana-nut muffin, a big bowl of Cap’N Crunch®, or an omelet stuffed with cheese and bacon usually come to mind. Well, as tasty as those things are they do not make up a healthy or nutritious breakfast. Stay away from white breads, pastries, muffins, and sugary cereals because they digest quickly and spike your blood sugar level setting you up for a crash. Bacon, sausage, and cheese are loaded with fat and calories so you should avoid these as well. A combination of lean protein and fibrous carbs will satisfy your hunger and keep you full and focused.

What exactly is a healthy and nutritious breakfast? A healthy breakfast should have a combination of lean protein, complex carbs preferably from whole grains, and a healthy fat. Some sources of lean proteins include eggs or low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt. I love Voskos® and Fage® plain non-fat Greek yogurt. Protein powders (i.e. whey or soy) from your local nutrition shop can also be used as your protein source. I use MyoFusion® and Elite 12 Hour protein powders because they each have a great blend of protein and taste delicious! Complex carbs include oats or oatmeal and whole grain breads or cereals. Oatmeal is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin E, zinc, iron, and magnesium it is also a good source of protein and fiber. Healthy fats include nuts and nut butters, flax seeds, and avocados.

A good example of a healthy breakfast would be 3 to 4 egg whites, ½ cup of oatmeal, with a tablespoon of ground flax seeds and ½ cup of fresh blueberries. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and provide an excellent source of vitamins C and E. My breakfast consists of ½ cup of oatmeal, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 scoop soy protein powder, and ½ cup of almond milk with cinnamon and stevia for sweetening. I cook the oatmeal and chia together then add in the protein powder, almond milk, cinnamon, and stevia. I look forward to my breakfast every morning! If I’m running short on time, I blend my protein powder, ½ cup of oatmeal, splash of almond milk, water, and ice together and have my breakfast to go!

If you prefer cold cereal for breakfast, make sure to read the label and choose one that lists whole grains as the first ingredient with no added sugar. Uncle Sam® and Kashi® Go Lean cereals are great options as they are both high fiber and low sugar cereals. If you’re thinking of grabbing one of those breakfast or energy bars, keep in mind that they are not as healthy as they seem. Make sure to read the labels as many are high in sugar and fat.

If a traditional breakfast isn’t your thing consider having a whole grain tortilla filled with chicken breast and veggies, a baked yam sprinkled with cinnamon and a lean ground turkey patty, or non-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries and a handful of natural (low sugar) granola, these are all good choices for a nutritious breakfast.

A healthy and nutritious breakfast is the best way to start the day. Eating breakfast improves your thinking ability, keeps you focused, and helps prevent obesity. The morning meal is the fuel that keeps us running throughout the day. Try it for a week and see how much better you feel. Let me know, I love feedback!

Jennifer Billings, BS, CPT
Fit Chica Fitness
SPX Fitness Trainer
TRX Suspension Instructor