It’s the holidays, and there is food everywhere you turn. From office parties to family events, it’s one long chow fest from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Put that all together with the emotions of the season and your weight loss efforts can come to a halt. The holiday stress, the lack of sleep, and the flood of emotions that come with it will have all that comfort food calling your name.
The good news is that it is possible to keep all the holiday feasting from ruining your diet. Experts say that the best way to start is by finding what your holiday overeating triggers are.
Emotional Triggers of Overeating
Emotional eating is a way to either soothe or suppress your emotions. These feelings include stress, anger, fear, sadness and loneliness. Major events in your life, like the holidays, can set off negative feelings that lead to emotional eating, which in turn disrupts your weight loss plan.
Stress is an emotional trigger that stimulates over production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol triggers cravings for high-fat, sweet, and salty foods. The more uncontrolled stress that you have in your life, the greater the chance you will turn to food for emotional relief.
Emptiness and boredom are emotional triggers. People eat to give themselves something to do or to fill a feeling of emptiness. Next time you find yourself opening the refrigerator, ask yourself, are you really hungry or just really bored?
Nostalgia is an emotional trigger. Those memories of baking Christmas cookies with your mom or grandma, or sitting down around the table with your family for a huge meal can trigger you to eat even when you aren’t hungry. Perhaps you were given a sweet treat when you were younger to make you feel better and you yourself automatically going back to that habit when you feel sad now.
Social influences can be an emotional trigger. Getting together with friends or coworkers to have a meal is a way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to you overeating. It’s easy to eat when the food is right in front of you and everyone around you is eating. Perhaps you eat because you feel nervous in social situations or because you don’t want to be the downer at the table.
Stress-Taming Foods You Can Eat Before the Party to Feel Full
Stress management is a powerful wellness tool. Foods can help ease your stress in many ways. Comfort food, like a bowl of hot oatmeal, can boost your serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can decrease the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, thereby decreasing your appetite. These foods can also help you feel more full before attending that holiday party.
Complex carbs trigger the brain to make more serotonin which help stabilize the mood swings that lead to over-indulging. Complex carbs take longer to digest and help regulate insulin functions. By stabilizing insulin release, the blood sugars remain constant, therefore keeping you full longer. Excellent choices include whole-grains, pasta, oatmeal, and high fiber vegetables.
Oranges are a great comfort food because of their high Vitamin C content. Vitamin C can tame stress levels while boosting your immune system. A recent study showed that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and high levels of cortisol returned to normal levels faster when they took Vitamin C before a stressful event or task. An adequate dose of 500mg of Vitamin C appears to be effective.
Spinach is an excellent source of magnesium. Low magnesium levels can trigger headaches and fatigue, making your stress levels rise. Spinach not only helps raise magnesium levels, but also restores iron. Both magnesium and iron play a vital role in controlling cortisol release. If spinach in not your thing, try other green, leafy vegetables as alternative options. Soybeans and salmon are also great sources of magnesium.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges of cortisol and may also help to prevent heart disease, depression, and PMS. To keep your Omega-3’s flowing, plan to eat 3 ounces of fatty fish at least two times per week.
Green Tea– In a recent study, volunteers who drank a bottle of tea (fortified with green tea extract) every day for three months lost more body fat than another group who drank a bottle of regular oolong tea. The catechins (helpful phytochemicals) in green tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and mildly reduce body fat.
Water– Water is a keeping-it-off superfood. Research suggests that people who drink liquid carbohydrates (in the form of soda) are more likely to consume more calories than their body needs.
Avoid Foods That Increase Your Hunger
While trying to maintain your weight during the holidays, there are some things you should avoid that might stimulate your appetite and actually not be good for you.
Anything white– white flour that is used to make white bread has been stripped of bran, which takes away the grain’s full-feeling fiber content. Eating white bread spikes your insulin levels. Avoid it.
Juice– Juicing is all the rage these days, but juice contains all the sugar in your favorite fruit, but none of the fiber that comes in the pulp and skin. Drinking a glass of juice can send your blood sugar levels up quickly, and back down again, bringing on hunger. Opt for a smoothie instead.
Salty snacks-Snacks like chips and pretzels, are quick digesting simple carbs that will spike our insulin levels. Salty snacks will also cause you to crave more sweets. Stay away from them.
Fast food – The more you eat the more you want! Trans fats inflame your stomach, which impairs the body’s ability to produce dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that control your appetite. Trans fats also block absorption of important minerals and vitamins that help with early satiety. High fructose corn syrup found in fast foods will lead to insulin resistance causing glucose stores to convert to fat, which leads to those dreaded holiday pounds. No matter how good it may taste, it is not worth it!
Don’t let your hard work and efforts during the first 10 months of the year be sabotaged by poor choices made in these last few weeks. Let the joy of the holidays uplift your spirit!
I wish you and your family a very happy, safe, and joyful holiday season and a prosperous and blissful New Year!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
For women, the transition through perimenopause to menopause is a time of major hormonal fluctuation. The phases are often confused with each other, but true menopause is when a woman has not menstruated for a full year. Perimenopause is the phase leading to menopause and lasts an average of four years, although it can range from a few months to 10 years. A woman’s body typically begins to start the perimenopause process at age 35.
Perimenopause usually begins between the age of 35 and 50 when the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. The imbalance of estrogen and progesterone often results in missed periods as well as side effects like hot flashes (the most common side effect of perimenopause), fatigue or low energy, difficulty sleeping, decreased libido and what some women call “PMS plus” —instances when pre-menstrual side effects worsen.
Like many transitions, perimenopause can be physically and emotionally challenging. There is no quick fix for troublesome side effects but many women find relief in lifestyle changes that improve overall health, including:
- Adding moderate exercise to your daily schedule
- Improving nutrition
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
- Reducing stress
- Increasing water intake
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) provide side effect relief for some women. These therapies help balance hormone levels that vary throughout perimenopause. However, using hormones to control symptoms are NOT mandatory. The first question to ask is, “how much do my symptoms affect my daily life?” And if the answer is not at all, then no hormones are needed at that time. The fluctuations of the hormones are like the waves of the oceans. Symptoms are variable depending on lifestyle habits, stress during that particular period in your life, weight loss or weight gain, climate and weather changes and Mother Nature.
Even though menopause is the official ending of your menstrual periods, the hormone fluctuations that created side effects during perimenopause are still occurring, meaning that some perimenopause symptoms may remain (or return) and new side effects could appear during menopause.
Once women reach menopause they are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones. The post-menopausal drop in estrogen is directly related to loss of bone mass. Because there are no symptoms of bone loss, it’s often only after a bone-related injury that the presence of osteoporosis is discovered. Bone mineral density tests (BMD) are x-rays that measure bone density. Screening should begin if you have any of the following risk factors or at the cessation of the menstrual cycle. The following puts you at a higher risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis:
- Advanced age
- Your race – Caucasians and Asians have a higher prevalence of osteoporosis
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Body frame – people with petite frames can have a higher risk because they often have less bone mass to begin with.
Likewise, your doctor can offer osteoporosis treatment and prevention suggestions which may include:
- Eating foods high in calcium
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Bone density medications
- Estrogen therapy
- Exercise, especially weight bearing exercise
- Medically Supervised Weight Management
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol
Health Care Options for Perimenopause and Menopause
Perhaps one of the most important things to know about perimenopause and menopause is that you aren’t alone. Approximately three million women transition to menopause every year and there are abundant health care options for both phases. Each woman will enter this phase in her life. During these transition years, remember that these symptoms are not forever. Your doctor can help get you through the storm, by teaching you to dance in the rain.
Certainly the scope of this topic is much more in depth and much more individualized than can be covered here. Knowing that the greatest years of your life don’t have to be the darkest days, lends hope for every woman to reclaim her body.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.