The Take Care of Yourself Series Part 2: Being Mindful of What You're Putting in Your Body
and holiday dinners,
and boozy festive cocktails…
how can you resist?!
December is the month where your willpower is tested at full force. Sure you can promise yourself you’ll eat way better in January or that you’re only having “one” more cookie, but how often do we really stick to our word when it comes to indulging in food and especially alcohol? Now don’t get too worried, we’re not asking you to go cold turkey, but being a little more mindful about what you’re putting into your body can help you find the balance between enjoying seasonal treats without the accompanying guilt. We’ve compiled a few strategies that’ll help you be more alert and aware of your consumption not just during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.
There is no shortage of research, personal testimonials, diets, and articles about what “healthy eating” means. However, with the abundance of information available, there can often be publications that have opposing recommendations. As blissful as it is to be willfully ignorant about what we’re putting into our bodies, doing a little bit of reading can help inspire small changes in our lifestyles that can lead to long-term benefits. By checking the credibility of the source you’ve read, monitoring for personal bias that may be present, and not taking everything you read online as absolute fact, there are a lot of great forms of media that can help you change the way you think about food and adjust your diet without compromising on your food happiness.
We’ve included 3 interesting sources we’ve recently consumed that have helped kickstart some food changes in our daily diets:
Movie: The Game Changers (available on Netflix)
James Wilks, an elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner, explores various forms of research, industry experts, and studies when trying to uncover how food affects the body. The documentary focuses on the benefits of plant-based diets using athletes as examples. You may not be ready to adopt a full vegan diet by tomorrow, but this movie is undoubtedly fascinating and will have you thinking about your personal consumption in a different way. Awareness is the first step to making positive changes so we highly recommend giving this movie a watch. Otherwise, you check out their online website (click here) for more information about plant-based diets and useful sources you can use toward your meal prep.
Podcast: Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: Why and How We Eat on Hidden Brain (available on Apple Podcasts)
For a portion of this podcast, Shankar Vedantam chats with Paul Rozin, who has been studying the psychology and culture of food for 40+ years at the University of Pennsylvania. Their conversation dives into funny anecdotes that help us understand the reasoning behind why we eat food; whether it’s the brain shaping the way we taste, how the mere presence of food can overpower our actual hunger level, how memory affects our eating experience, and how food can be a fundamental part of performing our culture. This is a great listen to help you be more aware of what your brain is doing when making eating decisions without forcing you to commit to any particular diet.
This is possibly one of our favourite pages. Former professional rugby player, Phil Mackenzie, is the founder of LEANSQUAD and uses his experience when providing easily digestible (haha) recipes and information on living a healthy lifestyle. He’s developed a cult following of Squadies because he posts fun content and proves his claims time and time again. Although there are different challenges that he offers on his site, his Instagram page is a great follow to have for food inspiration, quick and delicious recipes, various HIIT workouts, and admirable transformations that’ll motivate you to make some changes in your daily routine so you can feel great every day.
For all the globe-trotters and schedule-driven professionals, we often tend to make our meal decisions based on convenience and not on nutrition. By taking a little time prior to your trip, you can prepare and make good choices when you’ve reached your destination. Here’s a quick checklist you can use next time you’re hitting the road:
- Did I pack healthy snacks to help my cravings in between meals (i.e. nuts, seeds, dried fruit, protein powder)?
- What options are there in the area I’m staying?
- Do I have all my supplements that’ll help me stay alert when I’m on the go?
- Do I have quick and easy meals saved for when I’m tight on time (Pinterest is your friend here with countless recipes like this: //coconutsandkettlebells.com/how-to-eat-healthy-while-traveling/) ?
- Which meals do I know in advance will be highly caloric that I can offset throughout the day?
Are you actually hungry, or are you only eating because you see food in front of you?
ZeroCater reported that 88% of employees consider it important for their employers to provide snacks in the office. However, the snack options you face at work may not be the healthiest. It can often be incredibly difficult to avoid all the delicious festive treats your coworkers share this time of year. Just the mere sight of that gingerbread cookie can have you munching on it before you even realized you’ve picked it up. Instead of grazing throughout the day, be proactive about your snacking decisions since the office may be where you are unintentionally consuming the most sugar and calories. Start your day by eating a full healthy breakfast so you’re less likely to binge later on. Also, bring a healthy snack alternative with you so when your cravings start to kick in, you are able to satisfy them without feeling guilty. If it’s just too difficult to resist that iced cake in the kitchen, try starting an office-wide initiative of having colleagues bring healthy versions of their holiday treats so everyone can snack happy (i.e. 100 calories or less per serving, plant based desserts, or limited quantities so there’s one treat per person).
In the podcast mentioned earlier, Rozin explains the power of portion control and how the eating habits between American and French people differ. French people tend to live longer and have less heart disease than Americans even though their diets are often richer in animal fat. Generally, they tend to enjoy their food more and not place such a heavy emphasis on the nutrition of what they’re eating. In doing so, they eat more slowly so they experience more of every bite. By savouring the food, you tend to get full faster and eat less. “Americans often – not always – treat food as fuel, whereas the French think about it not as a fueling, but as an event and experience.” The French also traditionally serve smaller portions. By eating slower, treating a meal as an event not be rushed, and serving smaller portions, the French are eating less and enjoying it more. The same psychology can be developed in the workplace when faced with snack temptations.
Just because you’re not chewing, doesn’t mean that alcohol is any better for you. According to drinkaware, one glass of wine can have the same calories as four cookies, and a pint of lager can often be the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza. Since alcohol is primarily made from sugar or starch, it averages about 7 calories per gram which is almost as many as pure fat. That sounds like a frightening statistic and maybe you’ll have the will power to cut it out completely starting today, but for the vast majority who won’t be able to resist, here are a few helpful pointers you can use to help minimize your intake during jolliest (aka booziest) time of year:
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines advise that both men and women shouldn’t drink more than 6 pints of beer per week. Those can be quickly consumed if you’re out with your friends watching a football game or doing an office happy hour after a long week. Nowadays, there are plenty of non-alcoholic beer options on the market that honestly aren’t bad at all. Click here for the 8 best tasting ones according to Men’s Health so you have the option to throw a few into the mix when you’re out with your friends.
There has often been stipulation that red wine could contribute to heart health (when consumed in moderation) since international comparisons show a lower rate of coronary heart disease in “wine-drinking” countries. Healthline claims that small amounts of red wine is linked to more health benefits than any other alcoholic beverage. Consider sticking to merlot at your Christmas party if you know it’s going to be a long night!
With all the creative concoctions available this time of year, you may find yourself drawn to different beverages you wouldn’t typically drink. When doing so, try to limit the amount of cocktails (and therefore sugar) you’re having throughout the night. For every beverage, follow up with a glass of water, not just to keep you hydrated, but also because time is the best indication to tell you how your body is reacting to the booze. Straight liquor would be considered the healthiest on the spirit spectrum so the more ingredients in the cocktail, the less likely it’s doing you any favours (this doesn’t mean we’re encouraging you to be pounding back tequila shots). Lastly, as our moms always told us growing up, make sure you eat beforehand!
There’s a lot of small changes we can do to our daily lives that will lead to a healthier lifestyle in the long run. It’s not always feasible to change your habits overnight, but by making incremental changes over time, you’ll be on the right track to reaching your desired results. A little awareness mixed with a little mindfulness can lead to much more positive consumption habits which in turn, becomes a much more happier you!
The recommendations and opinions listed in this article are written with the intention to support healthy living and are not medical claims. We do not endorse any of the sources listed in the article, we are only presenting them as considerations and not actual fact. There is a possibility of injury with each suggestion listed. Please consult a medical professional for any questions or concerns regarding the medical implications that exist with each recommendation in this article.