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Detox 101

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7 Ways to Fast-Track Your Summer Weight Loss

Warm-weather weight-loss tips

 

Is summer the easiest time to lose weight? Common sense suggests that the abundance of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, plus the warm weather and smaller clothes, would motivate us to pay closer attention to what we put in our mouths. However, each summer I watch my clients struggle with their weight-loss programs, and I also find these months to be distinctly challenging. Are you wondering why? The problem is not with the foods that we’re eating, but rather with the lifestyles that we’re leading. 

The summer months are just more social — more dinners with friends, more reasons to celebrate with a margarita, and most often, a vacation and/or a few extra days off from work. All this socializing, while fun and festive, can make it extremely hard to lose weight or even maintain.  

If you, like many of us, are determined to stay on your weight-loss track this summer, don't fear. It is possible to enjoy yourself while watching your waistline. These seven tips will help you avoid the battle of the summer bulge and will have you looking and feeling great for all your festivities between July 4th and Labor Day!

1. Cut the sugar. Sugar is most often the biggest weight loss saboteur. Regardless of calories, sugar will stop weight loss in its tracks. When pondering a food decision, be sure to ask yourself if this food is too high in sugar. Many foods that are marketed as “healthy and fat free” can be super high in sugar and can destroy your weight-loss efforts. It is best to keep added sugar to no more than 10% of your daily calories. This does not include naturally occurring sugar, such as that found in whole fruit, veggies and dairy products. (Beware of high-sugar flavored yogurts, though.)

Bottom line: The lower your sugar intake, the faster you will lose weight.

2. Go without alcohol five nights per week. I am a big fan of cocktail hour, especially during the summer months. What could be better than sitting outside with an icy margarita or a frothy beer? The sad news is that alcohol and weight loss do not mix well. Not only are the calories from alcohol empty but they also interfere with fat metabolism and stimulate your appetite. If you know that you have a social weekend coming up, try to keep your weekday nights alcohol free. It is all about planning ahead for your cocktails.

Bottom line: The best way to lose weight at a rapid clip is to skip the cocktail at least five nights per week. When you do choose to imbibe, do it in moderation and with lower-calorie beverages such as wine, light beer or vodka with club soda.  

3. Say “no” when it’s dark. Make it a goal to try to stop eating once it is dark outside. Studies have shown that there is something about the dark evening hours that can cause individuals to overeat. This night-eating syndrome can be particularly problematic for many people, including me! And while there is no science to support the theory that calories at night are more readily converted to fat on your body, there is a good chance that if you are eating too much at night, you are probably eating too many calories overall. By cutting off your nighttime noshing, you’ll also get a better night’s sleep, and wake up feeling rested and energized.

Bottom line: Limit yourself to one piece of fruit from 8 PM on.

4. Graze your way through the day. You may have been taught that eating three square meals is the best way to achieve weight loss success, but more recent thinking supports grazing as a better way to keep your weight in check. Eating five to six small meals, or even more, throughout the day will not only boost your metabolism, but will also prevent extreme hunger pangs, which can result in over-eating or poor food choices. Many people even find that dividing their typical lunch into two servings, half at noon and half at 2-3 PM, can help regulate calories while avoiding excessive hunger.

Bottom line: Spread out your food and snacks into mini-meals throughout the day. It may take a little more effort, but you'll be sure to notice the weight loss as well as an increase in energy.

5. Veg out. It is so clichéd, but remember to eat more raw veggies! Munch out on raw carrots, peppers, cucumbers and pea pods. You can crunch A LOT for not a lot of calories. And don't be scared off by the sugar content in carrots; you can still eat at least a cup of them without worrying about the natural sugars that make them so delicious. Plan ahead by preparing big baggies full of cleaned vegetables to much on when you walk in the door, or are (hungrily) doing your food shopping.

Bottom line: Eat more vegetables; they will help fill you up without sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Have them prepared and ready to go during your witching hour to keep you away from higher calorie crunches.

6. Nix the artificial sweeteners. Studies suggest that the sweetness you taste from these non-caloric sweeteners will cause your body to crave more sweet stuff. And while I am not sure that the science is all that strong, I do think that the theory makes sense. When you taste sweet, you want more sweet. I have found with myself, as well as with my private clients, that when we cut out the diet soda and other artificially sweetened beverages and food, it becomes SO much easier to stay on a healthy eating path. Everything just tastes better when your taste buds haven't been conditioned to receive that strong sweet taste.

Bottom line: Reduce artificial sweeteners as much as possible and dose up on plain water or seltzer. You'll find it much easier to resist other sweets if you do.

7. Plan ahead. When looking at your summer calendar, be sure to plan ahead for your healthy eating program. As I mentioned, it is most often our summer lifestyles that cause us to get derailed. Planning ahead includes:

  • Finding time to shop for healthy foods (i.e., raw fruits and veggies)
  • Planning your cocktails for the week and trying to limit cocktails to two nights per week
  •  Finding time to exercise!

Bottom line: By planning ahead each week, you will be much more likely to succeed at your weight management program.

Please be sure to comment below and let us know how your healthy-eating program is going. If you have any summer tips to keep us all going strong, please share them with us as well. We would love to hear from you!

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The Top 5 Fat-Burning Yoga Poses

5 yoga poses for weight loss, plus 4 yoga styles for keeping fit

Can you use yoga for weight loss? Yes! Losing weight isn’t easy for anyone, but with the right attitude, you can make a real difference in how you look and feel.

These fat-burning yoga poses will help kick-start your metabolism and build up lean muscle tone. For some extra guidance, check out Gaiam’s Quick Start Yoga for Weight Loss. This informative DVD is a useful part of any positive-thinking weight-loss program. Other favorites include Trudie Styler's Weight Loss Yoga and Colleen Saidman's new Yoga for Weight Loss.

1. Cobra Pose

Even beginners can get good results from this simple yoga pose, which works to firm the buttocks and tone the abs.

  • Lie face-down on the floor, with the tops of your feet flat against the ground.

  • Press your legs and hips down. Place your hands under your shoulders, plams down and fingers spread apart.

  • Press into your hands, lifting your head, chest and upper back off the mat. Keep your gaze forward and up and your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Push back your shoulders and feel the stretch spread evenly along the length of your spine.

  • After a few deep breaths, relax to a prone position on an exhale. 

2. Wind-Releasing Pose

This fat-burning yoga pose is great for targeting your abdominal area.

  • Lie down on the floor and bring your knees up to your chest with your ankles together.

  • Clasp your arms together over your knees as you bring your head up off the floor.

  • Breathe deep as you feel the stretch work your abs, then relax slowly.

3. Bow Pose

This advanced yoga pose can really burn fat while toning your arms, legs and abdominal area.

  • Lie down on your stomach, bend your knees and reach around to grab your feet.

  • Pull in your stomach and extend your feet upward, raising your upper body at the same time. Keep your shoulder blades down and back.

  • Hold for several breaths, then relax.

4. Side-Stretch Pose

This yoga pose can help raise your heart-rate and burn calories.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart.

  • Rotate your torso and turn both your feet to the right. Keeping legs straight, exhale and hinge over your right leg until your torso is parallel to the floor, reaching your hands to the ground (if you can’t touch the floor, you can rest them on a block).

  • Hinge further with each exhale, moving your torso closer to your right thigh.

Remember to keep breathing, then relax and repeat in the opposite direction.

5. Warrior I Pose

This yoga pose can work your abs, thighs and arms, and is most effective if used as part of a sequence like Sun Salutation.

  • Standing straight, step your left leg 4-5 feet to the left, then rotate both feet and your torso toward the left.

  • Bend your left knee over your toes while keeping your right leg straight.

  • Raise both arms high above your head with your fingertips pointing upward, looking up at your hands. 

How can you use yoga for weight loss?

With all the chanting and seemingly stationary poses, one might wonder how you can lose weight through yoga. But the truth is it can be an effective weight loss tool, if you practice it regularly and correctly.

The first factor you should consider is that not every type of yoga is conducive to consistent weight loss. Some types are better for reducing stress and helping relaxation but don’t provide the cardiovascular workout needed for weight loss. The second factor is consistency. As with any fitness plan, yoga needs to be done regularly and with intensity. Finally, it is important to remember to maintain a healthy diet in combination with any workout regimen.

Vinyasa: Flow yoga

One type of yoga that’s good for weight loss is Vinyasa, or flow yoga. This style of yoga is made up of a series of Sun Salutations that you move through quickly, allowing for the increased heart rate required for caloric burn and weight loss.

The best part about Vinyasa is that its popularity has led to the production of many yoga weight loss DVDs. With so many options, it’s easy to find a Vinyasa DVD that matches your skill level that allows you to begin losing weight in the privacy of your own home.

Bikram: Hot yoga

If you want more of a challenge, try your hand at Bikram yoga. Similar to Vinyasa, it takes you through a series of poses, but, instead of a cool yoga studio, you are in a heated studio that is heated up to 105°F.

As you move through the Bikram poses, you not only burn calories and fat but temporarily lose water weight while eliminating toxins. But note that Bikram yoga for weight loss is extremely vigorous, and should not be undertaken if you are pregnant or have certain medical conditions.

Power yoga

Nowadays, many gyms are offering power yoga, which combines yoga poses with a cardiovascular workout by pushing you through the poses faster and with less rest time in between. If your gym doesn’t offers such a class, the good news is that power yoga is also offered on DVD.

These yoga poses also strengthen your muscles and, subsequently, increased muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate, resulting in greater weight loss throughout the day.

Meditation

The final benefit of yoga is mental clarity. Yoga reduces stress and allows you to take a break from your busy lifestyle. This brief rest from the hustle and bustle of life can permit you to take a moment and reevaluate your lifestyle choices.

For instance, you may reflect on the health of your diet, as well as whether or not your activity level is sufficient to keep your body in good shape. Yoga’s meditative atmosphere can provide an opportunity for self-awareness, which is always the first step to a healthier and happier you.

 

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10 Ways to Detoxify Your Body

Body cleanse and detox diet tips for beginners

Feeling sluggish or out of sync? Struggling with skin problems, aches and pains, or digestive problems? Can't seem to lose weight? It might be time for a body detox.

Practiced for centuries by cultures around the world — including ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems — detoxification is about resting, cleaning and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health.

How does detoxification work?

Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood. This is done by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph and skin. However, when this system is compromised, impurities aren't properly filtered and every cell in the body is adversely affected. 

 

A detox program can help the body's natural cleansing process by:

1. Resting the organs through fasting;
2. Stimulating the liver to drive toxins from the body;
3. Promoting elimination through the intestines, kidneys and skin;
4. Improving circulation of the blood; and
5. Refueling the body with healthy nutrients.

"Detoxification works because it addresses the needs of individual cells, the smallest units of human life," says Peter Bennett, N.D., co-author of 7-Day Detox Miracle with Stephen Barrie, N.D., and Sara Faye.

How do you know if you need to detoxify?

Bennett suggests that everyone should detox at least once a year. However, Bennett cautions against detoxing for nursing mothers, children, and patients with chronic degenerative diseases, cancer or tuberculosis. Consult your health care practitioner if you have questions about whether detoxing is right for you.

Today, with more toxins in the environment than ever, "it's critical to detox," says Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D., the author of Detoxification. Page recommends detoxing for symptoms such as:
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Sluggish elimination
  • Irritated skin
  • Allergies
  • Low-grade infections
  • Puffy eye or bags under the eyes
  • Bloating
  • Menstrual problems
  • Mental confusion

How do you start a detox?

First, lighten up your toxin load. Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars and saturated fats, all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to your healing process. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.

Another deterrent to good health is stress, which triggers your body to release stress hormones into your system. While these hormones can provide the "adrenaline rush" to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Yoga, Qigong and meditation are simple and effective ways to relieve stress by resetting your physical and mental reactions to the inevitable stress life will bring.

Which detox program is right for you?

There are many detoxification programs and detox recipes, depending on your individual needs. Many programs follow a 7-day schedule because, as Bennett explains, "it takes the body time to clean the blood." His program involves fasting on liquids for two days, followed by a carefully-planned five-day detox diet to allow the digestive system to rest. Page recommends a 3-7 day juice fast (drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water) as an effective way to release toxins.

Here are our five favorite detox diets

1. Simple Fruit and Veggie Detox
2. Smoothie cleanse
3. Juice Cleanse
4. Sugar Detox
5. Hypoallergenic Detox

Top 10 ways to help your body detoxify

After a detoxification program, you can cleanse your body daily with these diet, supplements and lifestyle practices:

1. Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.

2. Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.

3. Take vitamin C, which helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.

4. Drink at least two quarts of water a day.

5. Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.

6. Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.

7. Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.

8. Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration.

9. Dry-brush your skin or try detox foot spas/foot baths to remove toxins through your pores. Special brushes are available at natural products stores.

10. What is the most important way to detoxify? "Exercise," says Bennett. "Yoga or jump-roping are good. One hour every day." Also try Qigong, a martial-arts based exercise system that includes exercises specifically for detoxifying or cleansing, as well as many other exercises with specific health benefits. 

 


Consult your doctor before using any health treatment — including herbal supplements and natural remedies — and tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intented as substitute for medical counseling.

 

 

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56 Pounds and Counting: How Julia Gray Shed Her Weight and Her Struggles

After five years of weight gain, anxiety and sleep deprivation, Gray found support and decided to make a change.
(Feature photo credit Levi Nillson)

Julia Gray never had problems with weight. Throughout high school and college, she was always active, successful and hard working. Her “life of excess,” didn’t begin until she was 22 years old — a recent college graduate beginning a new job with her degree in international affairs.

Four months after her graduation from Georgetown University in 2001, her life began to spiral out of control. 

Just seven days after starting a new job on a Senate committee in Washington D.C., Gray found herself immersed in the chaos and trauma of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Her city and her office were at high-risk for potential terrorists threats, and the anthrax scare that followed 9/11 left her sick from the temporary radiation poisoning that was used to kill anthrax spores on mail.

Gray’s daily struggles at work, coupled with the media infiltration that she would come home to every night, left her with constant reminders of the attacks. Gray was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Before Weight Loss

 

From Post-Traumatic Stress to excess

Gray says she turned to excess. She started staying up really late watching movies, overexposing herself to the media and binge eating in the middle of the night. Her habits quickly led to insomnia, and her poor eating habits carried into the day, when she says she would go to fast-food restaurants to eat.

“I was basically not eating breakfast or lunch, but rather eating dinner and just bingeing at 3:00 a.m,” Gray says. Gray moved out of Washington, D.C. and back to her home state of Alaska, but she couldn’t move away from her personal struggles. 

“My excesses followed me wherever I went,” she says. 

Taking control

After five years and 76 added pounds, Gray was the most that she had ever weighed: 236 pounds. It took until this 5th Anniversary of 9/11 that Gray finally decided to make a change.

She had met another woman from Connecticut that had experienced the same PTSD symptoms following 9/11 — someone who could understand her pain. The woman recommended that Gray use Gaiam’s Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Insomnia DVD to resolve her sleeping problems.

“That was the first thing I had used to that actually knocked me out enough to fall asleep,” Gray says.

But fighting the insomnia was only half the battle.

“I knew that if I was going to get my life back in order, I needed to start exercising again,” Gray says.

Debbie Rocker’s walking workout DVDs and Rodney Yee’s yoga programs helped her do that.

“After a year, I had lost 48 pounds,” Gray says. “It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be.”

A new lease on life

Gray recalled going back home to Fairbanks to see family and friends after she had lost some weight.

“They were all shocked at how I looked,” Gray says. “That was the best part.”

The progress she had made showed her how much she could actually accomplish. Now, at age 30, Gray weighs 180 pounds — 56 less that she did just two years ago.

Gray says she’d tried to lose weight numerous times before finding what worked.

“You can’t stair-climb away binge eating,” she says.“I tried other brands, but nothing stuck. I was always too exhausted by the end of the workouts to feel motivated enough to want to do it again."

Gray also began practicing meditation for two hours a day, once in the morning and once at night, and says that she has become a lot more mindful. She says that Gaiam’s Meditate CD introduced her to what mindfulness is even about. Gray says that a major lifestyle and behavioral change gave her peace for the first time in 5 years.

“I was lucky because I took action, and I got the right support from Gaiam, and here I am today to prove it,” she says. “It's changed my life. By telling my story, I hope that people can find resources at Gaiam that can bring them lasting peace too.”

 

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10 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

Make this the year you achieve your fitness or weight loss goal!

 

Chances are at some time in your life you’ve made a New Year’s resolution — and then broken it. This year, stop the cycle of resolving to make change and then not following through. If your resolution is to take better care of yourself and get healthy, you will have a much better year if your resolution sticks. Here are 10 tips to help you get started. 
 

1.  Be Realistic

The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make your goal unattainable. For instance, resolving to NEVER eat your favorite food again is setting you up to fail. Instead, strive for a goal that is attainable, such as avoiding it more often than you do now.

2.  Plan Ahead

Don’t make your resolution on New Year’s Eve. If you wait until the last minute, it will be based on your mindset that particular day. Instead, it should be planned well before December 31 arrives.

3.  Outline Your Plan

Decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling on a friend for help, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.

4.  Make a “Pros” and “Cons” List

It may help to see a list of items on paper to keep your motivation strong. Develop this list over time, and ask others to contribute to it. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.

5.  Talk About It

Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better or improve your health. The best-case scenario is to find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and motivate each other.

6.  Reward Yourself

This doesn’t mean that you can eat an entire box of chocolates if your resolution is to eat a better diet. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something you enjoy that doesn’t contradict your resolution. If you have been sticking to your promise to eat better, for example, reward yourself with new fitness clothing or by going to a movie with a friend.

7.  Track Your Progress

Keep track of each small success. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and each small accomplishment will help keep you motivated. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.

8.  Dont Beat Yourself Up

Obsessing over the occasional slip won’t help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.

9.  Stick to It

Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. It won’t happen overnight, so be persistent and patient!

10. Keep Trying

If you have totally run out of steam when it comes to keeping your resolution by mid-February, don’t despair. Start over again! Recommit yourself for 24 hours. You can do anything for 24 hours. The 24-hour increments will soon build on each other and, before you know it, you will be back on track.

What are your 2012 goals? Share them in the comments section below, and start getting support now!

Turn your goal action plan into ACTION! Work out at home or on the go with GaiamTV.com streaming fitness videos today.

 

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The 5-2 Plan: Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight

Eat Right During the Holidays from The FIRM’s nutrition expert

You can enjoy the holiday festivities while avoiding holiday weight gain. Sound impossible? Well, it won’t be if you follow my 5-2 nutrition plan — five days of clean eating with two days of (healthy) indulging.  

This is not a weight-loss plan, but rather a weight-maintenance approach. If you’re determined to stay on your weight-loss program through the holidays, keep in mind that moderation might just be the key to your success. Otherwise, you may feel deprived and fall off the wagon completely. And that’s when the scale can become a scary prospect on January 1. 
 
How does it work?
 
The 5-2 nutrition plan is a strategy that I came up with for my clients who wanted to have some holiday fun without gaining back the weight that they fought so hard to lose. Say you’re hosting a holiday party on Friday. You can use that as one of your indulgent days and enjoy the holiday meal: appetizers, main course and dessert. But note that an indulgent day isn’t a 24-hour pass to eat all day long — and you’ll want to watch the sweets. I find sugar to be highly addictive, and eating it will make it hard to stop. Moderation is key. 
 
On Saturday, plan for a healthy day of clean meals and exercise. I find that you will feel better and will be more likely to succeed if the indulgent days are spaced out throughout the week.
 
Where does alcohol fit in?
 
I find that alcohol is a huge reason why people give into all of the temptation surrounding the holiday season, and a major contributor to holiday weight gain. Limit your alcohol to the indulgent days and steer clear of alcohol on your five clean days. Then toast yourself for a job well done on your indulgent days!
 
Examples of indulgent and clean days
 
An indulgent day:
 
Let’s say this is a day that you have a holiday dinner party. Here’s how I would arrange the day:
 
Breakfast
  • Whole-wheat English muffin toasted and topped with 1 tbsp almond butter and 1 navel orange on the side
Snack
  • 1 string cheese with 5 sliced strawberries
Lunch
  • 1 cup of black bean soup topped with 2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese and a tossed salad dressed with 1 tsp olive oil and vinegar
Snack
  • 15 almonds and red pepper slices
Dinner Party
  • Cocktails and appetizers: 2 glasses of wine or champagne; 4 crackers with cheese, 2 shrimp cocktail and 6 chips with dip
  • Dinner: Caesar salad, fresh dinner roll with butter, slice of prime rib, scoop of mashed potatoes, scoop of stuffing, string beans and ¼ cup gravy
  • Dessert: 1 slice of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
Nutrition information:
2950 calories
100 grams protein
237 grams carbohydrate
160 grams fat
35 grams fiber
66 grams sugar
4069 mg sodium
 
 
A clean day:
 
When planning the clean day after the holiday dinner party, keep these tips in mind:
 
  • Start the day with a high-protein meal. It gets your sugar cravings under control, which are apt to be higher after an evening of indulging.
  • Drink lots of water all day long.
  • Keep the sugar out of the picture.
  • Include ample fat (healthy fat, of course) to keep you satiated and less likely to fall victim to temptation.
Breakfast
  • Egg-white omelet with 3 egg whites, 1 ounce reduced-fat cheese and ½ cup steamed broccoli with 1 slice of whole wheat bread
Snack
  • Celery stalk filled with 1 tbsp all-natural almond butter served with a small banana
Lunch
  • Large salad composed of chopped romaine lettuce leaves, 4 ounces boneless grilled chicken, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese and 8 cherry tomatoes served with ½ of a whole wheat pita
Snack
  • 3 ounces of sliced turkey breast wrapped around cucumber and red pepper spears
Dinner
  • 5-ounce salmon fillet baked and topped with lemon and dill served with steamed spinach, ½ cup brown rice, and a tossed cucumber and tomato salad dressed with red wine vinegar and 2 tsp olive oil
Nutrition information:
1459 calories
132 grams protein
128 grams carbohydrate
51 grams fat
24 grams fiber
18 grams sugar
2408 mg sodium
 
Make exercise a priority
 
During the holiday season, when you are most likely going to consume more calories than usual, keeping your exercise routine consistent is more important than ever. Working out will help burn additional calories, preventing any additional inches from creeping onto your mid-section. I know that our hectic lives get even crazier during the holidays, but exercise will boost your energy and help reduce stress, making it easier to stay “on the wagon.”
 
Let’s do it together!
 
Please share your holiday tales with us, including your indulgences and your recovery days. I assure you, this is the way to practice healthy moderation this holiday season and avoid holiday weight gain!
 
Work out with The FIRM on GaiamTV.com!

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9 Tricks to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Pack your plate without packing on pounds

If you’re thinking about starting a diet, now is not a good time. While it would be great to fit into that little black dress on New Year’s Eve, there are just too many tempting treats and feasts this time of year to make weight loss a realistic goal.

Experts have reduced their estimate of the average weight gain during the holidays from around seven pounds to about one pound. But that extra pound every year still adds up and does not come off, according to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine. Since the average adult gains one to two pounds a year, our holiday indulgences are undoubtably contributing to our expanding waistlines.

You can reverse the trend by simply maintaining your weight through the holiday season. But how do you turn down that eggnog, pumpkin pie or extra helping of stuffing? It’s all just too good — and everyone else is indulging. And then there’s the office party, and your neighbor’s holiday party and your family’s annual gathering

We asked a few top health experts to share their best tips and strategies for enjoying holiday fare without gaining a pound.

1. Make a plan

Certified Wellness Coach Norah Lynch, M.S., R.D., suggests making a plan for your exercise and eating strategies during the holidays, complete with a reminder system.

“We tend to disappear for six weeks and then wake up January second and think, what did I do?” she says. Reminders can include post-it notes in strategic places, regular reminders on your computer, or maybe a photo of yourself in a swimsuit tacked to your fridge.

2. Have a little

This time of year you will be bombarded with cookies, cakes pies, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes and a variety of other rich foods. “Everybody can eat something of everything, it’s just a matter of how much,” says Sari Greaves, R.D., C.D.N. and an American Dietician Association spokeswoman. She says portion control is the key to not depriving yourself of your favorite treat.

At meal time, Greaves suggests filling half your plate with veggies, one quarter with a serving of protein such as skinless poultry, fish or lean beef or steak, and saving the remaining quarter for small tastes of the rich, sauce-laden dishes. 

3. Pick your battles

Carla Carter from Ferrum, Va., lost more than 100 lbs. with the help of Weight Watchers and The FIRM workout DVDs — and has kept it off for three years. She doesn’t get anxious around the holidays, and she doesn't deprive herself.

“I’ll forgo the rolls, the mashed potatoes and mac-and-cheese because I can have that anytime of the year,” Carter says. “I’ll save my calories for something that is specific to this time of year like pumpkin pie or — my favorite — sweet potato casserole.” 

Lynch advises decides ahead of time what you’re going to indulge in: an extra drink, savory rich foods or sweet treats. “Let yourself enjoy one, but not all three,” she says. And remember to eat slowly and savor the food.

4. Keep moving, even 10 minutes a day

One of the major causes of weight gain during the holidays is lack of activity, says Greaves. Don’t use the busyness of the season or the colder weather as an excuse. Lynch suggests doing at least three rounds of 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity a day. But, she says, even just 10 or 20 minutes is better than doing nothing. Walk around the block, climb stairs, shovel snow, ice-skate or work out with an exercise video.

“Don’t think of exercise as something you have to do, think of it as a way to relieve stress or help you sleep at night,” Lynch recommends.

Carter says she’s adamant about sticking to her workout routine during the holidays, and even tries to fit in an extra workout to make up for the additional calories she consumes. Her family’s tradition of playing hopscotch after big holiday meals every year is a great example of adding activity into your day without “working out.”

5. Take control of your environment

You might not be able to decide the type or amount of food served at any event, but there are a few things you can control. For example, if you bring a healthier dish such as a fruit salad or veggie tray, you know there will be at least one guilt-free dish available. Here are a few other things you can do stop the parade of food into your mouth:

•    Never engage in conversation while standing next to the buffet table.

•    Wear snug clothing. Feeling that pull at your waist will serve as a reminder that you should slow down or take a walk.

•    Chew on sugarless gum to prevent you from going back to the buffet line for second helpings.

6. Prepare in advance

Don’t go to a party hungry. “This is a major party pitfall because it sets you up for overindulging,” says Greaves. “Snack on nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods such as whole grains, fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt to take the edge off your hunger before the party.”

Lynch also suggests that you don’t go to an event thirsty or tired. “Our bodies don’t always distinguish between thirst and hunger,” she says. “And, we make really bad decisions when we’re tired.” Skip that extra hour of TV, she says, to make sure you’re well rested.

7. Don’t graze

Just so you know, broken cookies DO have calories. Same for anything consumed while standing. And lots of little plates add up to a lot of calories. It’s better to put together a meal and sit down to enjoy it. Noshing is the same as mindless eating.

Try a smaller plate, says Greaves, to control your portions when you do sit down to eat.

8. Stick to your drink limit

Not only does alcohol add extra calories, but it can also stimulate your appetite and reduce your willpower.

“We are all adults,” Lynch says. “You know how many drinks you can have before you lose the ability to make the right choice.” Is it one, two, three? Whatever your limit, stick to it. Enjoy a drink or two, but don’t let getting drunk ruin your commitment to everything mentioned above.

9. Get back on that horse

Let’s say you ignored most or all of the above advice. You ate with abandon and the only exercise you got was walking to the buffet table to refill your plate. Now what do you do? “Stop the bleeding,” Lynch says. “Don’t let it stretch into days or weeks. Decide that the holidays are over and it’s time to get back on track.”

 

Watch weight loss and nutrition videos on GaiamTV.com!

 

5 Ways to Survive & Thrive This Holiday

How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight
How to enjoy the holidays without gaining weight and losing progress on your health and fitness goals.

Ayurvedic expert John Douillard, D.C., Ph.D., author of The 3-Season Diet and Body, Mind, and Sport, shares his top tips for enjoying this holiday season more — and avoiding holiday weight gain in the process.


As the holidays approach, you may already be experiencing a breakdown in your routine. Whether it's the irresistible holiday treats and snack food at the office, or the already-fast pace of life getting even faster, your routine is under attack. "'Tis the season" of snacking — but there are ways to enjoy the holidays while holding on to your routine and your health as well.

1. Be 51 percent good. In The 3-Season Diet I point out that if you stick to a healthier routine 51 percent of the time, it is the majority. This applies to the annual cycle as well. If you stick to the rules 51 percent of the year, you will be fine. So a couple of weeks of chaos during the holidays is really no big deal.

2. Eat dinner early. One of the hallmarks of my weight loss program is eating your last meal of the day by 6 p.m. This will not be possible every day throughout the holiday season — but remember the 51 percent rule, and do the best you can.

3. Make it a meal, not a pit stop. One of my patients reported losing 10 pounds during the month of November. She still had a daily dose of chocolate (her favorite food!) — after her main meal at lunch. She simply tried to enjoy meals rather than snacking, and she was able to eat anything she wanted. That was the key — she began to enjoy eating again. When she was nourished at a meal, she didn't really think about food until the next mealtime.

"Eat, drink and be merry" wasn't meant to be done while driving your car to work or to the mall. Many nutrition plans and experts promote a frequent-small-meals approach, but my training and experience with patients has led me to advise eating three "real" meals a day and avoid snacking in between. Between meals, the body starts burning fat and the blood sugar becomes stable — and it becomes easier and easier to make long trips between meals.

The plan is, you can eat whatever you want — just relax, enjoy it fully, and don't rush.

4. Move for just 15 minutes every day. One of the first things that goes right out the window this time of year is exercise. Many of us think we have to exercise for 30 to 40 to 60 minutes each day or it's not worth doing. This is not true. Ten to 15 minutes of exercise in the morning can save you during this time of year.

Take a quick brisk walk or a slow jog. Get on that exercise bike for 10 minutes. Follow with 5 minutes of stretching. This is a great way to start the day. If you can do more, great — but almost anyone can muster 15 minutes each morning. Consistency is the key.

5. Breathe (through the nose). In my book, Body, Mind and Sport, I recommend nose breathing during exercise. This forces air down into the lower lobes of the lungs making the respiratory system more efficient. It also activates the calming nerve receptors in the lower lobes, training the body to be calm during this morning jaunt.

It's like resetting your body each morning to handle the stress of the day from a neurologically calm place. What's special about this is that the body burns fat when it is calm, and sugar when it is stressed. One way to avoid putting those holiday pounds on is to reset fat metabolism each morning with your 15 minutes of nasal breathing exercise.

How to Stay Healthy, Happy & Fit This Winter

Winterize your skin, avoid cold and flu season, defeat seasonal depression and more!

It’s almost heee-eere: Winter. If you’re anxiously anticipating cold dark days, nasty bugs, dry skin and the packing on of the dreaded holiday pounds, take heart (and a spoonful of cod liver oil). We brought together seven holistic practitioners to pick their brains on everything from fighting colds to battling the winter blues. So this season, when the guy in the adjacent cubical sneezes, instead of cringing, rest assured that you’ll be fine … and hand him this article.

Silky Skin ’Til Spring Rolls In

The lethal combo of cold, wind and rain — not to mention the pumped-in heat and multiple layers of clothes in which I swaddle myself — leaves me with a winter skin situation that’s decidedly more lizard than lady. Help!

John Ruhland, Naturopathic Physician, Seattle

For dry skin, I like the fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamins A (or beta carotene), D and E, although too much Vitamin A can cause dry skin as well. Vitamin E may provide the added benefit of reducing the tendency toward wrinkled skin. If you tolerate fish, add fish (with minimal mercury content) to your diet two or three times a week. Or alternate taking a cod liver oil supplement with another oil supplement. The three I usually recommend are evening primrose seed oil, borage seed oil and black currant seed oil. Taking oral supplements gets the oil into the cells where it is needed.

Light (Jyoti) Miller, Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Physician, LA

The most important thing to do is abyangha (self-massage). Pure organic essential oils smell good, but they are strong, so make a solution with 10 to 15 drops of essential oils for every ounce of vegetable oil. Use a skin brush to exfoliate and then apply the oil. My book, Ayurvedic Remedies for the Whole Family, has a chapter on abyangha. This therapy will protect and nourish the skin and insulate the body during the winter season. It also protects our aura and prevents drying, flakiness, cracking and wrinkling of the skin.

Kim Sullivan, Acupuncturist, Chicago

Our bodies get out of balance with change: seasonal changes, dietary changes and emotional stress. Using acupuncture in combination with herbal therapy can balance the yin and yang of the body. The [storage of] moisture and fluids in the body is yin, so when the yin is impaired there’s an imbalance. Also, in Chinese Medicine the lung is the organ that governs the skin, so when the lung gets taxed during the winter season, your immunity decreases and your skin gets out of whack. Acupuncture strengthens the lung.

James Bailey, Ayurvedic Practitioner, LA

Early winter is a classic vata season — a disrupting season. In Ayurvedic medicine, there are three primary doshas (forces), and vata is air and space, which lacks water. Apply oils internally and externally to the body. Use clean organic cooking oils in your diet. The appropriate oils depend on the individual, but most people respond well to olive and sesame oil. They will reinforce the natural fatty acid content in the body. Try a self-massage on the surface of your body by applying a thin layer of sesame or coconut oil before a shower. 

Give Winter Blahs The Boot


As the too-short days and loooooong cold nights roll by, I find myself forgetting that there was ever a time I sat outside … in the sunshine ... in a t-shirt … feeling happy. How do I battle the winter blues?

Djehuty Ma’at-Ra, Herbalist

For happy hormones, burn essential oils. Pine is an uplifting scent. So is orange and cloves. Read positive material. And listen to music that lifts your spirits. New age music works for me. Enya, Deva Premal, Steven Halpern, and Snatam Kaur.

Kim Sullivan, Acupuncturist

I see a lot of people for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in my practice. Acupuncture is beneficial to improve mood and increase energy. The key is to start treatments early — come once a week beginning in the fall. Acupuncture stimulates endorphins, which give us happy feelings. One reason we suffer from SAD is that the pineal glands respond to light. When light is low, the pineal glands secrete less serotonin, so you get drowsy in the winter. Acupuncture helps regulate that.

Jenefer Huntoon, Naturopathic Physician

If a person can structure his or her life to take a vacation in the winter months and stay home in the summers, that makes sense. If not, a lot of people buy full spectrum light baths. You can even buy full spectrum light bulbs and put them in lamps where you sit and read or where you spend a lot of time. And you can buy full spectrum fluorescent tubes. Some people get permission to put them in their office — they pay for the bulbs themselves. Or they bring in their own lamp. If you can, sit close to a window to be exposed to daylight.

Body In Balance

Holiday spirit? Oh, you mean the demon that possesses me from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, conducting sadistic sugary, boozy, carbohydrate bomb experiments on my waistline before collapsing in a feverish bout of self-loathing and impending bikini anxiety? Nope, never heard of it.

Light (Jyoti) Miller, Ayurvedic & Naturopathic Physician

Because we are indoors so much in the winter we tend to be less active. Root vegetables are winter foods, but some can cause weight gain. Try celeric (a kind of celery grown as a root vegetable). Squashes are good for the prevention of cancer and help with hypertension. Chayote is good — you can get it at Spanish and Indian markets. As far as grains, try not to eat too much rice. Instead, eat low-carb grains. Quinoa is a high protein grain rich in iron, B6 and amino acids. Barley helps flush excess water out of the system. It can be used in cereal. Millet helps balance blood sugar levels. Also, eat seaweeds in soups like miso. Seaweeds are high in trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium. If you’re trying to lose weight, soak them to eliminate salt content.

Amanda Brimhall, Naturopathic Physician

A little weight gain in the winter is natural. Don’t panic too much about a few pounds. It’s important to stay active. That might mean finding someone to hold you accountable — hire a personal trainer or join a class at your gym so you have something on a regular schedule. Also, watch the comfort foods. It’s so easy to come home when you’re cold and hungry and just hunker down with a pizza. Plan meals and go grocery shopping ahead of time. Make a big pot of lentil soup and freeze some for later in the week.

James Bailey, Ayurvedic Practitioner

People get too complicated with weight loss. Keep it simple. Eat modestly. By age 30, our metabolism starts slowing down and we have to be mindful of how we feed our bodies. We eat because of stress and as a form of entertainment. But as adults, food should be minimal. Our culture is not struggling with famine, but with obesity. We have cheap foods full of sugars. Winter is not a time for sweet taste. In ancient times, sugar came in fruits during certain seasons. There were no sweet things to eat in the winter. An Ayurvedic diet can really help with weight maintenance or loss, especially in the winter.

John Ruhland, Naturopathic Physician

Continue exercising. I promote bicycling — even in drizzly weather — because it’s a low impact sport. If you have balance issues, stay on a bike path and try a three-wheel bike. Swimming is another option, but stick to twice a week if you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool to limit exposure to chlorine. Or find a pool using an ozonation and UV light sterilization system instead of chlorine. If you’re overweight and a brisk walk gets your heart rate up, then walking will help. Vitamin D may be of help if the weight gain results from seasonal mood changes.

Right Back Achoo!

Oh geez — everyone is hacking. I am about one stranger’s sneeze away from taking a cue from Bubble Boy.

Jenefer Huntoon, Naturopathic Physician

I don’t know that we can avoid colds 100 percent of the time. We can’t realistically live in a bubble, and being exposed helps our immune system. Colds are one of the ways the body eliminates toxins. People who take good care of themselves and have good immune systems will get colds, but recover quickly. For vitamin A and D, take one tablespoon of cod liver oil (you can now get lemon flavor) for every 50 pounds of body weight per day. Eat half a grapefruit or half an orange a day for vitamin C. If you actually get sick, drink herbal tea. Half peppermint with half catnip will induce perspiration. Then get in bed and use lots of blankets to help you perspire away the cold. It’s the same idea as going to the sauna. It helps you clean out your system and recover more quickly.

Amanda Brimhall, Naturopathic Physician

To avoid cold and flu season, keep your stress low, take a good multi-vitamin, get enough exercise and enough sleep. Socializing is important too. Another thing that really helps is the Neti pot — it can prevent congestion and head colds. If you already feel the symptoms coming on, put yourself on immune boosting herbs. There are many: Echinacea, golden seal, elderberry, medicinal mushrooms and zinc lozenges.

Kim Sullivan, Acupuncturist

Drink lots of teas. Fresh ginger is wonderful — put six slices of raw ginger root in a pot and boil it for a long time so the properties are released. Drink astragalus tea on a regular basis throughout the winter for a big boost. Fresh garlic is one of the best medicines in the world. If your stomach can handle it — and your husband/wife or family can handle it — eat a fresh clove every day. At least eat a clove a day at the first sign you’re getting sick. Make a soup. There is no exact science for the recipe, but combine chicken or vegetable broth with fresh chopped garlic, sliced ginger root, green onion, lemon juice and some Cayenne pepper. You can drink it as a broth or throw in additional greens and chicken.

 

Related Articles: 

Warming Winter Soup Recipes

10 Tips for Winter Wellness

How to Survive the Winter Produce Season

Feeling SAD? A Doctor's Top 4 Remedies for Winter Blues

 

Winter Wellness Solutions:

Ceramic Neti Pot and Accessories

HappyLight Liberty Energy Lamp Kit

Pureguardian Ultrasonic Humidifier

Rise & Shine Light Alarm


Jenny Rough is a writer and blogger. Find her on the web at jennyrough.com.

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