As the weather cools and the holiday season nears, you may be tempted to eat rich food and sweet treats—despite your best intentions to stick to a healthy, balanced diet and avoid gaining weight.
According to a 2013 article in the Forbes Magazine, many Americans will gain between 1 and 3 pounds and overweight American adults will gain more than 5 pounds during the holidays—and most will not lose this extra weight. But do not fear: You can prevent weight gain—and without depriving yourself—with these seven Ayurvedic recommendations.
1. Develop or Maintain an Exercise Regimen
Try walking for 5 to 10 minutes after each meal, which can aid digestion. Increase that walk to 15 minutes after every meal to help lower blood sugar levels, especially after eating holiday sweets. If it’s too cold to walk outside, run the stairs in your home, briskly vacuum, or follow another activity that elevates your heart rate for the recommended amount of time.
2. Drink Warm Water
To maintain an active digestive system, drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. You can boost your metabolism by drinking warm water so your body has to work to bring it to your core body temperature. Never consume iced drinks, which douse out the agni (digestive fire) and make it difficult to digest food.
3. Limit Beverages Between Meals
You can literally drink your way to an extra 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. And not just with alcoholic beverages—a peppermint hot chocolate can contain 360 calories, a large crème brûlée latte 440 calories, and an eggnog latte 460 calories. Limit these beverages as much as possible, and don’t eat or drink anything (besides water) during the three hours before bedtime.
4. Replace Alcoholic Beverages with an Alternative
From a caloric standpoint, most of us underestimate the number of calories in alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can alter your blood sugar levels because it prevents the liver from producing glucose. As a result, you can experience hypoglycemia, leaving you hungrier. When drinking several alcoholic beverages while eating, some people tend to underestimate how much they’re eating. In Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide, Dr. Deepak Chopra explains that Ayurveda considers alcohol to be a toxin and that it has no place in a healthy lifestyle.
Many drink alcohol at parties and gatherings to fit into the social scene. You can adhere to your ayurvedic lifestyle by replacing drinks with some non-alcoholic alternatives. In a wine glass, fill it two-thirds with a sparkling water, one-third with cranberry juice and add a lime wheel. You can do the same thing in a mixed drink glass and people will think it’s a vodka and cranberry.
5. Eat Mindfully
Mindfulness can help decrease the amount of food that you eat. You can practice mindful eating by sitting down to eat, eating slowly with awareness, and following a meal schedule whenever possible. Vata types should eat meals every 3 to 4 hours, Pitta types every 4 to 5 hours and Kapha types should eat only 2 to 3 times per day. If you don’t know your dosha type, take the Dosha Quiz.
Eating mindfully can be challenging during holiday gatherings, when people often stand around and chat while snacking from appetizer and dessert tables. It’s easy to consume hundreds of calories without realizing it. Instead of continually snacking, limit what you eat to the snacks that you put on a plate, and sit to eat when possible to minimize distractions—this will help you better control what goes into your mouth.
6. Replace Emotional Eating with an Activity
The holidays can be an emotionally-charged time. You might experience loneliness, family conflict, or stress. It can be easy to try to calm your emotions with food.
Next time you’re stressed and notice the urge to reach for a treat, try a different approach: calm your emotions with an activity. Make a list of ideas before you feel these emotions so that you’re ready when the time comes. Try these:
- Practicing sun salutations and yoga
- Dancing to Christmas music
- Calling a good friend
- Visiting the mall to see the beautiful decorations
- Ice skating
- Volunteering at a homeless shelter
- Reading spiritual literature or your favorite book
- Shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk
- Buying yourself some flowers.
7. Practice an Abundance Mindset
During the holidays, you may think, “I must eat a lot of Grandma’s pumpkin pie because I won’t have it again until next year.”This poverty mindset can cause excessive eating, like a bear preparing for hibernation. If you really love holiday food, why not commit to cooking your favorites again in February?