Good morning, everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with family, food and best of all-MOVEMENT! I had a fantastic trip to California and was sure to stay active by running hill sprints, drawing an agility ladder in the dirt, and playing with kettlebells on the beach. Although I was sure to “indulge” in some of my favorite things like wine, pumpkin pie and In N Out Burger, I was pretty diligent with my nutrition so that I wouldn’t pay for it at the end of the trip. This week’s Q&A is about just that-how to control food intake over the holidays.

Q: With so many food distractions during the holiday celebrations, what are some tips to stay focused and mindful of what you are eating and not over indulge?

A: I think you hit the nail on the head by using the word “mindful.” No matter what nutrition or exercise regimen you choose, the key to being successful is following that regimen with mindfulness. During the holidays we have a tendency to get stressed out, rushing from one commitment to the next and busying ourselves with the very things that steal from the magic of the season. The first thing you can do to help your health over the next month is to stop, take a deep breath, and prioritize. What does the season mean to you? Is it the hustle and bustle of gift shopping? Or is it a time to reflect on peace, love and joy?

Once you have cleared your mind of some excess baggage and your life of the unnecessary holiday stress, there are some strategies you can put into place to help you control your food intake during the season.

1. STAY ACTIVE. Often the first thing to go during the rush of the season is exercise. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to eat right when you’re also exercising regularly? Many people fall into the dreaded “all or nothing” cycle, in which exercise is neglected so why not just throw in the towel on nutrition too! Staying active will keep your body craving healthy food and will also help to stave off some of the gain from the inevitable extra holiday calories.

2. MAKE BETTER CHOICES. When at a holiday party, choose the appetizers that are rich in protein first. Protein and healthy fats will help you feel satiated and will keep you from craving sugar and starch as strongly. Once you have filled up on protein, veggies, nuts etc, you will be less likely to reach for the carb-heavy offerings. When not at holiday functions, make even better choices. Stick to lean proteins (grass fed beef, cage free chicken and eggs, lean turkey, fish) healthy fats (avocado, nuts, nut butter, coconut oil) and tons of vegetables. Stay away from grains or any foods you might have a sensitivity to, and eat at home as often as possible. Things like bread, pasta and other processed foods have very little place, if any, in a fat loss diet. If you keep your food intake really clean 90% of the time, you can afford to indulge a bit at parties with a slice of pie or glass of wine.

3. PLAN AHEAD. If I am headed to lunch with a friend, I take a look at the menu online before I get there. That way, I’ve already made a healthy choice of what to order before I even sit down and can’t be enticed by all of the other offerings. I also ask the waiter NOT to bring bread because I will eat it all, and then some. When I have an evening event to attend, I will either control my intake throughout the day in preparation for a night of “fun eating” or fast altogether. (Read more about Intermittent Fasting in this FREE E-BOOK).

4. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK. If you make a mistake, move on. Often people will get so caught up in the idea of “dieting” that they become consumed with guilt after eating a bag of chips or a few (in my case 6-8!) cookies. It happened. Get over it. Try not to get caught in the mindset that you already polluted your diet so why not just let the whole day/week/month go. The further into the rabbit hole you go, the harder it is to get back. You can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and not make a huge dent in your body composition. You didn’t get lean by eating one healthy meal and you won’t gain a ton of fat by eating one less than optimal meal either. Guilt over food is a difficult thing to overcome and a completely useless, unhealthy emotion.

5. CHANGE YOUR FOOD PARADIGM. I posted on my blog last month about my food obsession (read it here!) and this is an important hurdle to mount. If you eat mindlessly, without a proper realization and acceptance of how food affects your body, you could likely derail your fat loss goals. Once food is put in it’s place-a source of fuel and a servant to your body-you will be more apt to make better choices. Food does not control you. Food does not dictate whether or not you have fun at a party or decide if you enjoy the holiday season.

I wish you all the very best for the remainder of 2011, and I hope to see you in class OFTEN! Be sure to stay consistent on training during this busy time in order reap the positive physiological effects of exercise and start 2012 with a bang.

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