Tips for Happy Holiday Eating

I know that everyone is already in a Mcflurry celebrating the holidays, so this will be short and semi-sweet 😉

  1. Please be realistic with yourself. Whether you are struggling with binge-eating or feeling overwhelmed and restricting, take a minute to decide how this year will be different than last year’s holiday season. Identify a few things that you want to accomplish this season and stick with those. No one is perfect…especially during a celebration. Maybe you will decide to suspend a few of your food worries and challenge yourself to eat a bit more variety.  Or maybe the goal is to plan and eat a healthy breakfast or to eat instead of restrict your food during the day prior to a party. Choose wisely so that you will feel great mentally and physically all day and every day.
  2. Eat mindfully. Select the foods to eat that look good to you in the moment and appreciate them with all of your senses. If you need to slow down to enjoy your food, try eating with your non-dominant hand. Tune in to your hunger and fullness cues. They will tell you when to stop eating. If you are at a buffet, select 3-4 items that are appealing to you, sit down, and relax while you eat. If you don’t like your choices, stop eating them. Put your plate down and go find something to eat that you do like. Check in with your stomach to see how it’s feeling. Give yourself permission to go for more if you are hungry with the promise that you will stop eating when you are satisfied.
  3. Just say, “No”, when you are feeling pushed to eat or not to eat by others. You’ve got this!
  4. If you are eating something that you crave and if you are truly hungry, the craving will be satisfied with the food and you will stop when you eat enough of it. If you are emotionally eating, the food will never satisfy you. Go deeper! Ask yourself, “What is going on with me right now?” Try to notice where your desire to eat is coming from and find a solution for soothing that feeling without using the food as a substitute for coping skills.
  5. Feeling overwhelmed by all of the food? Take a few deep breaths and unwind before eating. Fix your plate and sit far away from Officer Food Police. Find a pleasant conversation and participate in it while you eat. If someone starts to talk about food and weight issues, change the conversation by introducing new subject matter… holiday gifts, an ice breaker game, favorite movies of 2015, the weather… whatever works!
  6. Have a happy and safe holiday season!!

Thoughts on Carbohydrates as a Fuel Source

Why Eat Carbohydrates Anyway?

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel used by the body to think, to perform activities of daily life, and to exercise. They are stored in the liver and muscle as chains of glucose in large polymers called glycogen. The amount of energy stored as glycogen is about 2 % of the body’s total energy stores. Because the body does not store large amounts of carbohydrates, we have to have a handy source of them from foods and beverages to fuel our bodies. Maybe we should just strap a backpack of carbohydrates on every morning!

In a healthy person, fat stores make up 70% of the body’s energy stores, and protein stores in muscle make up approximately 25% of energy stores. The remaining energy is primarily found in blood glucose and triglycerides stored in the muscle.

Fat stores are less efficient at producing energy during exercise than carbohydrate stores. In order for fat stores to be oxidized for energy, carbohydrates must be available in the metabolic pathway that produces ATP (adenosine triphosphate) or energy. Fat stores are primarily used for fuel during light exercise like walking. During moderate exercise like jogging, stored fat provides 50-60% of the fuel for the activity. The remainder of the fuel comes from the body’s stored carbohydrates or glycogen stores.

A well-nourished person stores the equivalent of 1500-2000 calories in the form of glycogen (stored carbohydrates). Glycogen is the preferred fuel during intense exercise such as running, biking, and swimming. Since the amount of glycogen is limited in the body’s ability to store carbohydrates, this affects how long you will be able to exercise at an intense level. Even athletes in training or competition lasting more than 90 minutes load up on carbohydrates ahead of time because if they don’t, they will “bonk” or run out of energy to complete the event. These athletes also consume more than half of their calories as carbohydrates on a daily basis to maintain glycogen stores.

In the absence of glycogen, the body will burn protein from muscle stores to produce glucose in order to provide fuel to the brain and to the red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Muscle stores include the heart muscle and the skeletal muscles.

In a person who trains heavily for their sport or exercises compulsively due to an eating disorder, the inadequate intake of energy or the depletion of fuel sources long term may cause the loss of heart muscle and may result in heart abnormalities and a possible heart attack. This will also result in feeling fatigue and weak.

The loss of skeletal muscle will also result in the body having a lower resting metabolic rate. This is because muscle burns calories even when at rest, thus contributing to an increased metabolic rate. Fat stores do not burn calories at rest. Ultimately the more muscle mass that one has, the more calories that he/she will require to maintain his/her weight.

The right meal plan is designed to provide the optimal amount of carbohydrates needed to spare the stores of muscle in your body. Additional carbohydrates may be needed for fuel during exercise. If you do not consume enough carbohydrates before and during long periods of exercise, you may feel like bingeing on high carbohydrate foods later to restore glycogen losses to acceptable levels. Choose high carbohydrate foods wisely during the day, and you may prevent bingeing later.