We have done it all: made fitness resolution goals, even signed up for a gym membership as motivation only to falter barely a week into them; used non-food distraction to keep off from indulging; stocked up on healthy snacks which you probably barely touched. But somehow, the buffet won, as it always does especially during the festive season.
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Here are a few tips that will help you catch up with your fitness routine even as you indulge in that chocolate, cake and wine.
Focus on one healthy living goal.
Hollywood celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson advises that the only way to live a healthy lifestyle is to only choose a single healthy practice. “I try not to give myself too many rules during the festive seasons,” she says adding, “it can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the appetizers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you are more likely to stick to it.” Martha Mbae, a marketing professional, says that when she realized she was gaining weight she ditched her car and started taking a matatu.
“The distance I walked to board a matatu seemed short in isolation, but the cumulative effect at the end of the day was huge. In a month I started seeing the difference and I had not even changed my diet yet. That encouraged me to change my diet.” She says that now she strikes a balance, only opting to drive if she has a load to carry, which is not that often. Park that car and have fun walking as you also keep your weight in check.
Award winning healthy cooking and living blogger, Anthony Kahonge observes that the most unhealthiest eating habit among Kenyans is their love for sodas. “While it is okay to indulge in a sweet treat once in a while; in weddings and other social gatherings which are in abundance at this time of the year, soda contains empty calories meaning that this sugary drink does not trigger a sense of fullness the way food does.
Kenya Nutritionist and Dietics Institute (KNDI) certified nutritionist Millicent Awinoh could not agree more. She advises that moderation is key. “At breakfast, go ahead and drink your soda. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of soda. I interchange the water with fruits, for they keep me satisfied much longer.” Antony adds that you can switch up the water for bone and veggies soup. “I drink spring or boiled/filtered water. I love rain water best. I eat fresh sugarcane. It is fresh juice, so it is very healthy.”
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Since a lot of eating will be taking place during this season, Millicent advises that one should opt to cook as opposed to buying prepared food or eating out. “The first ingredients on any prepared food in the supermarkets reads sugar, fructose, or corn syrup. Cooking at home ensures a lower-sugar version of the same type of food without compromising on taste,” she says. However, if it is a must that you buy, opt for sugar-free varieties of foods such as ketchup, salsa, cajun seasoning, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. They provide lots of favour with no fat and few calories, plus the hot seasonings turn up your digestive fires, causing your body to temporarily burn more calories.
In addition, you are likely to ingest less hydrogenated foods if you cook. “I cook my own fries. They are fries, but healthier because I cooked them myself with fresh oil and less salt,” says Loise, an intern at a PR firm. Even before you start cooking ensure you look for more than two grammes of fiber per 100 calories in all grain products when shopping.
But be careful not to be caught in the fat trap of sampling the cheeses as you cut or licking the frosting bowl. Instead try New York City food stylist Lori Powell’s trick: Right before she gets busy in the kitchen, she cuts an apple into slices and snacks on them as she cooks. Apples have fiber and help her stay full, so she tends to nibble less. She also tastes stuff with baby or demitasse spoons to keep servings small.
How to handle a buffet
If cooking is not an option, as would be in case when you are invited to a buffet, start by scouting out a buffet before grabbing a plate. In his book Slim by Design, Brian Wansink, PhD, further advises that one should choose a small plate and sit farthest from the buffet.
Listen to music
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Listening to fast-paced music, especially when working out could help you lose more weight. According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain On Music, either music acts as a distractor - and distractors are known to modulate pain levels hence why combat soldiers do not always realize they have been shot until after a busy maneuver is over, or music acts as a mood enhancer - because the release of endogenous mu-opioids and other mood-enhancing chemicals raises the pain threshold.
That’s not all. The brain’s neurons can even synchronize with the tempo of music. Depending on the tempo, this synchronization can help you to perform repetitive motions, such as running, more quickly hence burning more calories faster. Yet another study published in the journal Sports Medicine showed that listening to music while working out can help regulate and maintain an exercise pace and regimen.
Walk 45 minutes a day not 30
A Duke University study found that while 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most relatively sedentary people. However, exercise beyond 30 minutes results in weight and fat loss. Burning an additional 300 calories a day with 5 km of brisk walking (45 minutes should do it) could help you lose 14 more kgs in a year without even changing how much you are eating.
“Since the holiday season is usually a laid back period, take the advantage and walk as opposed to taking a matatu,” advises Douglas Locho, a personal bodyguard, trainer and fitness instructor based in Lang’ata. He adds that the opportune time to walk is just before dinner as you will not only cut calories but your appetite as well, a claim supported by a study of 10 obese women conducted at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, where 20 minutes of walking reduced appetite and increased sensations of fullness as effectively as a light meal.
Talk, but not with food in your mouth
After walking and you are at the table, contrary to constant reprimand from your mother while growing up that it is bad table manners to talk at the table, intersperse your eating with stories. Catch up on the day’s events, reminisce on past occurrences, laugh at old jokes, but definitely do not talk with food in your mouth. A different study by Duke University suggest that your brain lags your stomach by about 20 minutes when it comes to satiety (fullness) signals. If you eat slowly enough, your brain will catch up to tell you that you are no longer in need of food. This translates to fewer calories consumed.
Do not diet
Joan Ruto loathed her body and had been on a fad diet for three years back in an attempt to shed off weight, instantly cutting off all unhealthy foods. And shed off weight she did. Unfortunately, immediately she was done with the diet, she started gaining back the weight plus more. “I was stuck in a gain-lose cycle for as long as I was on a diet.
So I started loving my body as it is, and I started shedding off the weight and it stayed off,” she says. “Thereafter, I started stealthily sneaking in healthy habits like taking tea with one less spoon of sugar, and then two, and now, I cannot believe anyone can take that much sugar in their tea.”
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth after every meal especially dinner helps in cuing your body and brain that mealtime is over. Then again, you are less likely to put something in your mouth with that clean, minty freshness.
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