Holiday Drinking

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The holidays are here! This means family, friends, festivities… and drinking. A glass of punch here, a champagne toast there, and some wine with holiday dinner can be fun; they can also create the perfect storm of sugar and calories, leaving you dehydrated, heavy and bloated. So how do you partake in the holiday spirit (pun intended) while still taking good care of your body?

For years, I sat out as the one guy not drinking; this felt unsocial to me.  As with food, alcohol is about choices in quantity and quality.  I now savor martinis; I love a classic Grey Goose with 3 olives and recently found an even healthier alternative. Voli is a new low calorie vodka that contains only 80 calories for every 1.5 fluid ounce — that’s 25% fewer calories than other vodkas.

A pomegranate martini?  Not a good choice if you’re looking to control liquor calories. Mixed drinks involving sugary fruit juices and sodas pump even more sugar into your bloodstream. A better choice, if you cannot handle a straight up martini, would be a peach martini made with peach puree (no added sugar) or any other martini where fresh fruit is used.

Between drinks? Water. Before ordering your second glass, chase the first with a tall glass of water. The main cause of a hangover is tissue dehydration. While this does not diminish calories or increase metabolism, it may make the next day more enjoyable.

Egg nog, though a traditional holiday favorite, is a big no-no. This drink is jam packed with calories. I strongly discourage anything but a “tasting sip.”

People always ask me if it is better to drink wine vs. liquor with respect to calories and weight gain. The answer? It doesn’t matter. If the number of calories delivered in one glass of wine equals the number of calories in a martini, they have the exact same effect on your body and fat.  What you want to consider her is quantity.  People usually drink many more glasses of wine since the alcohol content is lower.  So, at the end of the night, 4 glasses of wine may equal the alcohol content of 2 martinis.  But, the wine calorie content will be much higher (4:2) and contribute to fat increase.

Liquid calories have a direct effect on fat production.  Calories delivered in food must be metabolized in the body before they are either deposited for storage (fat) or excreted.  I have heard people say, “liquid calories (liquor) go straight to your hips.”  Liquid calories are not necessarily digested prior to absorption in the stomach.  This explains the high one experiences after one glass of champagne.  The digested alcohol (sugars) are rapidly absorbed, produce a dramatic insulin spike, and the body shunts the sugars into storage (fat) to keep blood sugar even.

Have you ever noticed that the shape of people who drink a lot of alcohol is typical?  Think of young men after freshman year in college and their hard, protuberant bellies, or women who drink heavily who have obesity in the trunk and not in the extremities.  The culprit? Yellow fat. The fat that is formed is deposited around the intestines, inside the abdomen and not typically in the fat below the skin of the abdomen.  I call this look the “man-belly.”  When I was at conference in Vegas two months ago, I saw so many young men looking 6 months pregnant, usually standing at the bar or walking around with a beer.  All the exercise in the world isn’t going to make these bellies flat.  This shape is all about calories, diet and yellow fat and the power of alcohol in destroying a flat tummy.

My advice? Enjoy your holiday, and approach indulgence with moderation, moderation, moderation.

Thanksgiving Traditions

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I remember Thanksgiving, 15 years  ago as a pivotal holiday in the usual conflict of how to handle food when you are trying to lose weight.   I was eating very cleanly to lose fat and gain muscle:  small portions, multiple well-spaced  meals  which were  high in protein and low in carbs, no sugar, no desserts, and no alcohol.  I had been on this regimen for about 3 months.   On that Thanksgiving Day, I thought, “Make it your ‘cheat day.” Turkey, stuffing, white potatoes smothered in gravy, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry sauce, string beans, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and mince pie filled my plate as it had on every Thanksgiving.  About 2 hours after my meal, I had abdominal cramps, felt dizzy, cold sweats… like I had been poisoned.  Actually, I had poisoned myself by the volume of fatty food and sugar . I did not realize that  my body was in a delicate nutritional balance after  only  3 months of eating healthfully.  The large volume of carbs and sugar cause a monumental insulin spike which precipitated a rebound hypoglycemia which occasioned my symptoms. That said, Thanksgiving is defined by food, tradition and family. This is not the day to deprive yourself.  My advice for all of you who are on the Brown Fat Diet or eating well:  enjoy the holiday.  But take care to go slowly and eat small portions.

Think Global, Eat Local

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I love this article from a recent DailyOM, entitled “Think Globally, Eat Locally Have Fun and Save the Planet.”

They write:

Now it is more important than ever to eat locally and shop your local farmer’s market and small grocery store. We all know that our planet needs our help right now, but we often feel unsure about what to do, where to make an effort, and what will really help. The good news is that we can heal the planet on a daily basis simply by buying and eating food that is grown locally. Food that has been transported long distances doesn’t contain much life force by the time it gets to your kitchen.

Making a commitment to shop, buy, and eat locally is not only a very important part of creating positive change, it can also be delicious fun. One of the best places to begin the adventure of eating locally is a farmer’s market. Stalls brim with fresh fruits and vegetables grown on nearby farms. Not only is this good for the environment, it’s good for the farmers since they benefit from selling directly to the consumer. The consumer benefits, too, from the intimate experience of buying food from the hand of the person who grew it. In addition, the food is fresher and more diverse. In supermarkets, particular varieties of fruits and vegetables are favored due to their ability to survive transport to a far destination. Alternately, at a farmer’s market, you will find versions of the fruits and vegetables you know that will surprise and delight your senses—green striped heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, white carrots, and edible flowers, just to name a few.

Make an effort to buy as much of your food as possible directly from local farmers. You will become one of a growing number of people eating delicious food to save the planet and having fun doing it.
Do you know when and where your local farmers’ market takes place? Definitely something to look into.