How to Experience More Food Freedom During the Holidays (and anytime of the year!)

This time of year can bring up a lot of different emotions for people, particularly as it relates to food and all of the holiday gatherings centered on it.

So in the spirit of keeping things a bit lighter today, I’m going to leave you with a few sentiments that I would share with you should we be sitting across the table from each other having a cup of tea (or perhaps, a holiday glass of bubbly;)).

The kind of thing I would share with a girlfriend, or client, alike. In fact if you have worked with me, or have read earlier blog posts, I’m sure most of these will sound somewhat familiar.

Truthfully, these things can be applied any day of the year, and not just over the holidays…but given the season is upon us, I thought it would only be fitting.

If you’d like to experience more Food Freedom over the holidays, keep these 5 sentiments in mind!

1. Your Body, Your Business

Eat, drink, and be merry to the extent that it feels good to you. That might sound grossly oversimplified, but I believe it should be quite simple. Can’t eat something? Don’t. Don’t want to eat something? Don’t be pressured into doing so. There’s no need to defend your food choices to anyone. Some situations may warrant an explanation of course (i.e. explaining a food restriction ahead of time to somebody who is hosting you as a guest in their home for dinner), but oftentimes a simple “no, thank you” will suffice.

2. Raise Your Standards

This tidbit is especially relevant during the holiday season when there are treats galore at every turn. Eat those things you really desire or look forward to at this time of year, but don’t fall into the trap of lazily eating it just because it’s there. This is a great time to exercise the notion “quality over quantity”.

Cheap drugstore milk chocolate? No, thank you. Store-bought cookies with green and red sprinkles? Pass. Mom’s homemade whipped shortbread? Bring it on! You get the point. Save your indulgences for those things that you really look forward to once a year. (Side note: unless of course the cheap drugstore chocolate involves a box of Holiday Turtles then I may have to sample one;))

3. The Dose Makes the Poison

If you’re following any type of specialized diet or have food sensitivities, holiday gatherings can be a tad bit stressful for some people. Not to minimize the situation, but oftentimes it really is a question of quantity. It’s rarely ever so black and white, unless you have a true food allergy or a severe intolerance, and even in the case of just wanting to eat healthy and stick to your diet plan, the same still applies – in other words a little bit of indulgence shouldn’t derail you for weeks to come (unless of course you throw in the towel until the New Year).

Believe me, I understand not wanting symptoms to spring forth at inconvenient times, but being fearful of food doesn’t help the situation either. The stress of having to police ever single bite is enough to exacerbate digestive symptoms all on its own. By all means, avoid or limit potential food triggers if possible, but keep in mind that food sensitivities/triggers often have a cumulative effect.

4. Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

When you feel good, you make better choices. It’s simple as that. Don’t waste time entertaining feelings of guilt or remorse if you happen to get a little “off plan”. If you’re going to eat something, just eat it, enjoy it, and move on.

Thoughts are energy, just like the food we eat, and our thoughts ultimately affect the way we feel, which then influence the actions that we take (or perhaps lack of action, whichever the case may be).

Furthermore, if you go into a situation feeling fearful of food, or obsessing over the “damage” you’re going to do to your waistline, how does that affect how you digest and assimilate your food? A little food for thought…

At any rate, try to shift the focus away from food and towards the people whom with you are celebrating or sharing the moment.

5. Healthily Compensate

No, I’m not referring to starving yourself all day so you can enjoy yourself at the holiday party (that’s likely to backfire with one of those “eyes bigger than stomach” scenarios when you spot the buffet). I’m talking about compensating in a perfectly healthy way – no rigid food rules.

For example, if you know you have multiple holiday events to attend in the evenings, try to keep the rest of the day “business as usual”. In other words, be sure to get the good stuff in earlier (i.e. veggies, greens, lean proteins, plenty of water, your workout) knowing fully well that perhaps you’ll be indulging in richer fare, a few sugary treats, or imbibing a few holiday spirits later on.

Of course it’s not about perfection, but balancing things out (i.e. doing what you can given the situation even if it’s a 10 minute circuit of push ups, squats, and sit-ups rather than your usual hour-long routine at the gym, or even just getting outside for a walk with your family) – rather than just taking the whole month off in the name of the holiday season and then having to get “started again” when January rolls around. Snooze.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

xo Elaine


Post Holiday Eating Guide

Post Holiday Eating Guide

Can you believe it’s the last day of the year!?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the holidays.

I spent the last full week visiting my family in Niagara. It was so nice to kick back, relax and reconnect with the faces I hadn’t seen in a while. Plus I got to meet my new adorable baby niece who was just born last month.

Then of course there was the food, and plenty of it. There was no shortage of holiday goodies, including my mom’s annual Christmas baking.

Yes, I indulged and enjoyed. And I didn’t waste one second feeling guilty about it.

I knew it would only be temporary, plus I always know exactly what I need to do to get myself back on track afterwards if I veer too far off course.

The truth is, after a week of indulging in richer and heavier foods, my body naturally gravitates back towards lightness, and for the past few days since I’ve been back home what I’ve mainly been craving are vegetables and lots of them! I’ve been appeasing these cravings with huge veggie salads, vegetable sautés, and wraps made with cabbage leaves. I love how my body knows best, and I’m listening to it!

So if you’re feeling overstuffed after a few too many holiday indulgences and looking for a little post-holiday eating guidance look no further!

I know the New Year can bring with it pressures to start fresh by eating perfectly on January 1st or by beginning a new diet. But overhauling your diet in one night isn’t always the best solution, which you may be well aware of if you’ve been down this road before. You know how it goes, stick to an overly strict diet for the first few weeks of January and then slip back into old habits by the end of January when either the New Year excitement has worn off, or the diet is no longer sustainable.

This is why what I’ve outlined below is pretty simple, straightforward, and doesn’t involve you having to completely overhaul everything in one night.

The beauty of these tips is that you can start from wherever you are right now, regardless of your current diet AND without necessarily giving up your favorite foods (if you don’t want to at least). Sometimes though just knowing you can have something if you really want it is enough for you to drop your desire for it all together. Sneaky!

So if you’re looking to lighten up in January or just want to integrate some healthier habits – read on!

Post Holiday Eating Guide

Get Vegetable-Centric

It doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow, you can be vegan or paleo and the sentiment is exactly the same. Heck, you can be on a twinkie diet (heaven forbid) and still implement this tip. All you have to do is aim to eat at least 50% vegetables at each meal. This could be a combination of both raw and cooked, however it’s always a good idea to at least eat some veggies in their raw, uncooked form.

This isn’t an exact science and doesn’t require you to make any calculations. At one meal you might eat less than half your plate in veggies and at the following you might eat more, such as in the case of centring your meal around a huge raw salad. The point is to eat more veggies than you are now. I didn’t make this the #1 tip in my Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide for nothing! You can download it for free here.

Swap out the Grain

Another easy way to lighten up your meals (and eat more veggie-centric) is by swapping out the grain for – you guessed it – veggies! How about trying your favourite bolognese sauce over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta? Or stir-fry over parsnip “rice” instead of regular rice? If you really want to step outside the box and get fancy you can try making pizza with cauliflower-crust rather than regular wheat. As they say, the real magic happens outside of our comfort zone. Get creative!

Try Something New

Speaking of stepping outside the box, commit to buying just one new veggie at the grocery store each week. Eating vegetable-centric will be difficult and downright boring if you’re accustomed to buying the same old tomatoes, carrots and iceberg lettuce each week. There’s a whole new world of veggies out there just waiting to be discovered.

For instance, black radish! This was my new veggie this week. I used to walk by them in the produce aisle and would almost always mistake them for beets since they look pretty much the same except a bit darker in colour. I finally decided to pick one up and bring it home, and I’m glad I did! I’ve been enjoying it grated it over my salads, as well as sliced thinly and eaten raw with a dash of sea salt. Yummy!

Create some space

I don’t mean clearing clutter from your office space, although that can do wonders for your mental outlook. I’m talking about creating some space in your GI tract to give your body a rest from digestion. If you’ve been grazing on goodies throughout the holidays or just eating heavier in general there are a few simple tools you can use to optimize digestion and get back in touch with your true hunger.

Each and every night our bodies naturally undergo a fast until we break it with “break-fast”. Even just extending that fast until lunch by swapping your morning meal for a nutrient dense vegetable juice, or at the very least just waiting a few hours after you wake up before eating your first meal can give your body a much needed rest. Another easy way to reap the benefits of a mini fast would be to stick to some combination of vegetable juice, broth, herbal teas, cooked vegetables and/or salads for one full day. If a mini-fast feels to extreme for you, even just limiting snacking between meals can do wonders for your digestion.

Try Food Combining

Speaking of digestion, if things are feeling a bit off in this department and you’re constipated, bloated or just feeling plain sluggish, another way to ease the digestive burden and free up energy is by following the principles of food combining.

To sum it up, our bodies need simple, digestible food that nourishes us then leaves us, efficiently and effortlessly. By eating foods in easy-to-digest combinations we can ensure that things are moving smoothly all the way through (if you know what I mean). Even just properly combining 1-2 meals per day (ideally breakfast and lunch) can do wonders for our digestion. Not familiar with food combining? I wrote a whole post about it here.

Prep (just a little)

I’ve never been one for dedicating an entire Sunday afternoon to food prep, and most of the clients I work with usually aren’t interested in doing so either. With that said though, a little bit of food prep can be essential for making healthy choices during the week, especially when you’re caught in a pinch and need to throw something together fast.

An easy way to integrate food prep into your routine is to do it when you’re doing other tasks or household chores that need to get done anyways. For example, how about baking some beets or sweet potato chunks while you’re waiting for your laundry to finish? Or boiling half a dozen eggs while you respond to your emails (or ahem, watch tv)? Get strategic and fit in food prep where you can so it doesn’t feel like one big daunting task.

Apply the 80/20 principle

If you’re wondering where ice cream and chocolate croissants fit into the mix then the 80/20 principle is a great rule of thumb to follow. Aiming to make healthy choices at least 80% of the time can alleviate some of the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect 100% or the time. Remember, progress not perfection. Overtime you might even find that a 90/10 ratio is more up your alley!

Now I want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below which tips you’re going to put into practice this January.

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2015!

xo Elaine