The Holidays are depressing, but don’t go on an eat/drink binge…

It’s the holidays at the moment.  And consumerist North America would want you to believe this is the best time of the year.  A time for sharing and giving, hanging out with loved ones, and just being thankful, for all the stuff we can get!  But truthfully, it is a really stressful time of year in most people’s realities.  Family get-togethers, the obligation to give gifts and find outfits for parties…and just eat, drink and be merry.  But mostly we eat and drink and gain weight.  I actually quite despise the holidays.  Being forced to deal family relations that are mostly difficult, flawed and painful are on my list this year, and there is no awesome shade of lip gloss, smoking hot colour of eye shadow, or cute mini skirt that can lift my spirits.  Christmas music playing everywhere just compounds this feeling of suffocating repetition that is the end of the year.  Mostly, I just think about all that I wanted to get done and all that I didn’t.  Yes, this time of year always depresses me for all the above said reasons.

The depressing qualities on life in general.  Degas paints it in a disconnected way with the clutter of zig-zaging bar tables.  The sadness of drink.
The depressing qualities of life in general. Degas paints it in a disconnected way with the clutter of zig-zaging bar tables. The sadness of drinking a glass of absinthe.

But that brings me onto this topic of eating and drinking during the holidays.  I like food.  I like me the drinks.  But I recently found out how the two actually do not go together…drinking (alcohol) actually slows down your body’s ability to break down fat and sugars, raising the risk of it being stored as fat.  That means every drink you have actually makes what you eat during that time twice as fattening…simply because it is being ignored, and your body is busy metabolizing the alcohol.  So what does this mean in terms of our holiday eating habits?  It means we have to be careful when pairing the two.

Wine and beer tend to have more calories because there are still sugars and starches left over from the fermentation process.  Which makes straight up spirits the more slimming choice.  I like to treat myself to gin and diet tonics just because I know at least I am not adding sugars to my drinking.  But also think about how drinking puts a pause button on your metabolism, and makes what you eat before, during and after crucial in terms of picking what and how much to eat.  Therefore keep meals and snacks light.  And after drinking avoid the urge to gorge on super greasy fattening foods.  Just keep drinking tons of water to wash yourself out.

You often see people washing down burgers and fries, wings and nachos with alcoholic drinks, wine and beer and as normal as this would seem, it is probably the easiest way to gain weight.  Our culture is about living, and enjoying life.  But what is enjoyable about looking in the mirror a few days later and having a double chin, or having your pants feel overly tight?  It is not always worth it, if you think about it.

You often see ads about drinking responsibly during the holidays…and this is true.  Equally as true is the sentiment that it pays to be responsible to your waist line too.  The saying everything in moderation is always one of my favourites to live by (except when it comes to great love, in that case I say live like there is no tomorrow!).

 

 

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Water retention and its affects on appearance…

I must brag that I have light and easy periods.  Mine usually only last for 3-4 days, are quite light and painless, and I only get grumpy mood swings in mild form.  But last month was a horror for me.  I felt bloated, gassy, my stomach was huge, and I was retaining water for days…noticeable in my chubby cheeks. (I was also travelling, so that didn’t help!) I was wondering what was causing this bloat, as my periods usually go through with little affects.

I hate this photo.  Look at my chubby face! Taken during travel and my period.  That's water retention, not weight gain...
I hate this photo. Look at my chubby face! Taken during travel and my period. That’s water retention, not weight gain…

I think we’ve gotten to the point where we are watching sugar and fat content, but it’s easy to ignore sodium intake.  During my period, I was so bloated, and I thought I was gaining weight, but now that I am over my period, and my stomach is back to normal, I’m thinking it’s the salt.  What is the use of having a low fat or modest diet, when certain times, we will just “blow up” from water retention?  It’s just not fair.  Isn’t there enough foods out there to avoid, now salt is also on the list?  But how much does salt affect water retention?  Probably only a bit, but during vulnerable times like that time of month, it seems to affect it a lot.

Our bodies are like sponges.  It can decide to hang on to water, or to shed it like mad.  An example would be long ago when I had just delivered my child, I was married at that time and my wedding band would not come off my chubby fingers.  They were swelled! I figured it was all the bodily stress and post delivery medicine I was on that made me retain water like crazy.   Then after a few weeks, after getting on with my normal life, I could not stop that ring from falling off.  My body was shedding water fast.

If only my body could always be in that state of slimness!  I can’t believe that fat is not always responsible for feeling chubby!  It’s also salt now.  Who knew?!  What are some ways that you avoid gaining water weight during that time of month or in general?  Drink a lot of water to flush it out?  Cranberry juice as a diuretic?  No salt at all?  No coffee or alcohol?  What will work?

Sometimes during bloaty times I feel like Jabba the hutt
Sometimes during bloaty times I feel like Jabba the hutt

How not to get fat…

There are so many fad diets and cleanses out there. Low carb diet, raw veganism, south beach, lemon cleanse…the list goes on and on.  Well, I actually find all of those diets very stupid.  Obviously, if you eat a healthy variety of foods and exercise, this is the best way.  But are there also certain lifestyles that can help with weight control? For example  there are so many books and rumors out there about how French women do not get fat, and how Japanese women do not get fat or old!  So what to make of it all?  Are some cultures and lifestyles more conducive to a slimmer more attractive frame?  Is it something that us North Americans are doing wrong?  I don’t think so.  It’s got to do with just common sense. A diet based on culture can only help a little.

This is what I was bombarded with daily in France.  But looking back that was when I struggled with weight the least!
This is what I was bombarded with daily in France. But looking back that was when I struggled with weight the least!

French women do not get fat because of portion control.  They’ll have that buttery croissant, but then they’ll only have one.  When I lived in Paris, this was true.  I only had treats once in a while, and a fresh food market was on every corner for most of my main food…And what about Japanese women?  I used to work with a bunch of Japanese girls from different parts of Japan.  The reason I think that they were skinny was partly due to their work ethic.  They ate simple foods like rice and fish, but also, they worked non-stop…burning off little calories they did consume.  So yes, in a way culture can help in terms of weight control, but still, it’s a lot based in common sense.  Eat less, eat well and be active.

Can you imagine getting fat on just rice?  Asians do tend to be slim, but then there are sumos!
Can you imagine getting fat on just rice? Asians do tend to be slim, but then there are sumos!

I’m a true North American, born and raised in Toronto, and I’ve NEVER had a weight problem.  At the same time, I’ve never been bone skinny either.  Infact, I am a nice in between…just plump enough to have curves, but not too chunky anywhere.  Here are some tips or common sense that I find works:

1. Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.  I am naturally not much of a snacker.  I try to keep busy most of the day, so eating for fun or for taste doesn’t really appeal to me.  Think about why you are eating.  Is it because you are bored, or depressed?  Don’t just snack blindly.

2. Stay away from processed, greasy food.  I am lucky that I actually do not find fast food or pizza all that appetizing.  After eating it, I often feel kind of gross, so it’s a great deterrent.  Think about the processed food you are eating…does it really taste good?  I’m sure you will answer no.

3.  Drink water instead of juice or pop, or sugared beverages.  I’m usually kind of broke, so having tap water instead of a fizzy drink works well for me.  But it also keeps me away from a lot of unneeded calories.  Think about how optimal hydration is simply achieved by water.

4.  No chocolate or ice cream, at least not regularly.  These two foods are the death traps for weight control.  You can have other kinds of candy and dessert, but just not these two things for a simple reason.  They taste so good, but are basically fat welded together with sugar.  It’s true.

5.  Everything in moderation.  I drink only one glass of wine, I don’t smoke, I’m not super healthy organic, but I try when I can.  These are the best most simple ways.  And also, read packaging if you’re eating ready made foods.  They tell you what is in it!  If the second ingredient is something like hydrogenated anything…it makes sense to not waste your money on it!

It’s as simple as that.  No fad diets,  and don’t follow another culture for an easy out.  Everything makes sense if you just realize obvious bad eating habits and cut it out.  But most important is to be yourself.  Many girls around me developed eating disorders back when I was in high school.  They had bad self esteem, or were just distracted by media messages that didn’t matter.  Some girls had said to me that I was the “perfect weight” and saw themselves as “fat”.  Now that’s just not right.  Everyone can have their own perfect weight and it is not dependent on models, or women you think are skinnier.  Just be yourself and all will fall into place!

Venus, by Henry Selous.  See this magnificent piece of art?  This woman is not skinny, but she she working it by being herself!
Venus, by Henry Selous. See this magnificent piece of art? This woman is not skinny, but she she working it by being herself!