Holiday Bloat Buster

Last weekend, we drove west of Portland to the Helvetia area in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

It was a gorgeous day — cold — but sunny. And in Portland, in early December, sunny can be a rare thing — if it happens to be sunny, you get outside. No matter what the temperature.

After winding our way through the hills, we landed at Helvetia Christmas Tree Farm, which becomes Helvetia Lavender Farm in the summer months.

The farm was closed when we tried to visit it last season, so we were thrilled to find out they were open this year.

helvetia christmas tree farm

There was a light dusting of snow on the ground.

christmas tree farm - sapling

Plenty for making snowballs…


… and staging a stealth attack.

snowball ambush

snowball fight

My husband did his best lumberjack impersonation, and felled our pretty little tree.

christmas tree farm - saws

And then we were off to enjoy the small petting zoo, a visit with Santa, hot cocoa, and a firepit complete with complimentary marshmallows for roasting.

marshmallow - monica

Mmmm. Burned to perfection!

Traipsing around in the cold, in search of the right tree, dodging snowball fire — well, you work up a good appetite. 

And how convenient that Helvetia Tavern, in all of its deep-fried glory, is just down the road!

helvetia tavern

Let's just say indulgences were had.

onion rings

And they were really, really good.

Indulgences — they go hand in hand with the holidays, right?

And while this can all be festive and a lot of fun when shared with friends and family, indulging can leave us feeling bloated and guilty when we overdo it.

But isn't overdoing it the very essence of the holiday season?

Isn't it all about eating, drinking, eating, and drinking some more — and dealing with the aftermath in the new year?

Well, that's what it usually looks like for most people.

Working Out More Won't Save You

Some people try to overcompensate by working out more during the holidays. Which can be beneficial for many reasons, but it won't really help that much in terms of weight management (see “Exercise Does Not Burn Off Bad Diet,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, via Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.)

Researchers analyzed weight, blood pressure, and other health measurements between the months of November and January for 148 adults. Participants saw an increase in weight (with an average weight gain of 1.7 pounds), body fat, blood pressure, and heart rate by the end of the holidays. Exercise did not protect against weight gain or increased body fat. The average American gains 1.0 to 2.2 pounds per year, most of which can be attributed to holiday eating.

So what do we do if we're tired of arriving in January ten pounds over our usual, with some sugar-induced acne and maybe a cold to boot — and we don't feel like starting a sixty-day juice cleanse once the party hats are put away?

Fortunately, I have an alternative.

It's simple, it's fast, it's easy. And it works.

Three words: smoothie for dinner.

strawberry chia smoothie

Smoothie for Dinner

I know, it sounds radical and somewhat unpleasant — not the sort of thing you want to hear about when you're busy cruising from one holiday shrimp platter to the next.

But hear me out.

Chances are you'll be doing some indulging this holiday season; most likely, a lot of it. Me too.

But there's also a good chance you're not going to be in party mode for every meal, every day.

The trick is to enjoy your indulgences while at parties and out with friends —  and then maximize the opportunities to counterbalance those treats on the “non-party” days.

One of the most effective ways to make up for the party days is to eat a light and nutritious dinner — such as a smoothie — and to eat early, such as four hours before bedtime. That way, your body has less to digest, and plenty of time to do a thorough job. A smoothie is blended, and therefore easier to digest than a more complex meal, which also gives your digestive system a much needed break.

Make a habit of this approach, and you'll wake up feeling refreshed and more energetic — and you might even lose some weight, depending on the extent of your holiday merrymaking.

Losing weight during the holidays — now there's a radical idea!

goji berry chocolate smoothie

The whole smoothie-for-dinner thing works best if the smoothie is tasty — choking down some chalky protein-powder-and-water concoction will only leave you feeling starved, deprived and miserable.

Most importantly: your dinner smoothie must be high in nutrients, healthy fats and fiber. Otherwise, you may still be hungry and/or experience cravings later in the evening.  If you do get a little hungry later on, try brewing a pot of your favorite (decaffeinated) tea, or sipping hot water with some freshly squeezed lemon.

This probably goes without saying, but the smoothie-for-dinner plan works much better if your other meals are reasonably healthy; for example, a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast, lean protein with salad and/or vegetables for lunch, and then a dinner smoothie. That's what your “good” days should look like (for more on this approach, see Clean).

Easy, right?

Admittedly, it isn't always that easy, psychologically speaking, but all you have to do is remember that you're having a dinner smoothie because you indulged in a Death by Chocolate torte the night before — or will be having a steak dinner this weekend. 

Gently remind yourself that you're not depriving yourself for forever, or even for a week. You're taking a night off from the party food circuit so you can enjoy yourself later. 

And if you really have a hard time staying away from the snacks in the evening, go work out or hit up a yoga class. I know the experts at the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition say it won't help much, but at least it'll keep you away from the cookie jar, and you'll sweat out some extra toxins from the holiday bubbly going around.

If you need a recipe, try my…

holiday bloat buster - green smoothie

Holiday Bloat Buster Smoothie

  • 12 ounces of filtered water or almond milk
  • 3-4 large handfuls of fresh, washed spinach
  • 1/2 english cucumber or zucchini, peeled
  • 1/3 cup of hemp seed
  • 2 tablespoons chia seed (soaked for a few hours if you can remember to set it up in advance)
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 medjool date (important: remove the pit)
  • 2 tablespoons of chlorella, spirulina or other green powder of choice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit of choice (I usually go with bananas, peaches, or mango)

Add all ingredients to blender, adding the frozen fruit last. Process until smooth and creamy. Salud!


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