As much as I always loved the holidays growing up, I also always dreaded them.
I knew that along with all my favorite things — like the hugs and the carols and the twinkle lights — there would also be my greatest demons: the apple pies, the peppermint fudge, and the oatmeal raisin cookies.
(Here, by the way, are my absolute favorite paleo dessert cookbooks: Every Last Crumb: Paleo Bread and Beyond and The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook.)
Holidays meant feasts.
For my relatives this was a great thing. They loved nothing more than sitting and delighting in each other’s company and good, hearty food.
But for me it was hell – because I was in a sea of temptations. I would always start out good. But then over time my willpower would wear down. I would have one nibble. And then another. And another.
And soon enough perhaps a whole dessert tray would be gone. I would have eaten a few pounds of sweets.
And absolutely hated myself for it.
Nowadays, however, I am so happy and relieved to report that this is no longer a problem.
Might you happen to need a little – or a lot – of help making that shift yourself?
To that end, Here are 5 helpful things I always do before the holidays:
1. Absolutely nothing different
That’s right. Nothing.
There plenty of diet and health gurus out there who will tell you that the key to “getting through the holidays” is to fast.
I tried this for several years. I kept thinking that if I starved myself before big meals, then I wouldn’t feel so guilty if I overate a little bit.
Here’s why this doesn’t work:
When you fast, two things happen to you. One is physical, and one is psychological.
Physically, your body sends you a lot of hunger signals. When you don’t eat — and especially as a woman — your body really, really wants you to eat.
Psychologically, you begin to develop feelings of deprivation. You are hungry but you can’t eat. You feel deprived. And then you may, like me and like millions of other women, start to obsess over all the things you can’t have. The cookies, the candies, the tarts, the fruit cakes….they start to haunt you.
These two things mean that, by the time the cookie trays come out, your brain and body both are super eager to eat. It will be nearly impossible to eat “normally.”
This is not your fault. It is a biological fact.
So don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Don’t let the gurus trick you. I change absolutely nothing about my eating in the days leading up to holiday parties or feasts. This has radically improved my ability to have peace of mind and enjoy them.
2. Eat whatever macronutrient ratio I want
Many diet gurus will tell you that it’s imperative to eat low carb before big feasts. The point is to maximize insulin sensitivity.
For one thing – managing insulin sensitivity is a matter of nourishing one’s gut health over a long-term period.
(Get my favorite fermented treats delivered to you by amazon on this page.)
For another, a short-term low-carb fix isn’t going to necessarily make any impactful changes.
And finally, even if there is any slight different in insulin sensitivity for a meal, it really won’t make a difference in the long run. I find it much more physically and psychologically healthy to just always focus on eating well most of the time. It’s not worth the 20% change in insulin sensitivity for a meal or a few days (if it even happens). It is much better for me too eat a whole range of macronutrients all of the time, and focus on their quality rather than on their quantity.
3. Forbid pinching and mirror nitpicking
We may all be a lot of things, but one thing none of us are is objective.
Your perception of your physique is highly influenced by your psychological context. If you’re feeling guilty, you’ll probably pinch your hips and think “wow, I’m definitely thicker than I was yesterday.” You’ll think this is real.
But there is a very good chance you will be wrong.
I positively forbid myself from doing anything of the sort. I attempt to do this in my every day life, of course. But I do get more serious about it over the holidays are special occasions.
You cannot be objective about your body. (The scale won’t be objective either.)
So just let it go. I promise your body will still be there when you get back. 😉
4. Go to the gym, or not
I exercise on a reasonably regular basis. Usually this entails dancing, but I do lift weights from time to time. All of these things are good and important and healthy. They support healthy insulin resistance, healthy brain function, and healthy bones, lungs, and hearts.
I work out during the holidays if I feel like it.
If I don’t, I don’t.
Exercise is a part of a long-term plan in life that can wax and wane based on your needs for flexibility.
Sure, you might be in a “calorie deficit” if you work out on Christmas morning… but who the hell wants to work out on Christmas morning?
It’s fine if you don’t. The world won’t end.
Nothing will happen to me, or to you, in the long run if we let ourselves be flexible over the holidays.
5. Remind myself that love and relationships are the most important things
Something that’s very interesting to me about body image and food issues is how selfish they are.
This is not to say that they aren’t very real and very important things that need to be dealt with.
But they are also very much within ourselves, within our own hearts.
Throughout my entire life, I try to remind myself that the quality of my life, my goodness in the world, and my relationships are the most important things.
My self-respect and love most certainly matters… so much… but it is much easier for me to love and embrace my body when I think about it as the vehicle in which I have the capacity to love, rather than the idol that I need to worship and prevent from being judged.
During the holidays, when I focus on loving, supporting, hugging, and laughing with the people around me, I don’t have issues around food. I don’t worry about how much eggnog I drink. Instead, I feel loving and warm.
So this is it! I hope it helps. 🙂 What do you do during the holidays to make it through feeling safe and warm?
If you’re looking for some extra emotional support over the holidays, check out two of my favorite body image and love books: Why Weight and When Food is Love, both by Geneen Roth.
If you’re looking for a self-loving way to maintain a healthy weight after the holidays, check out my guide designed to help you do just that: Weight Loss Unlocked.
Today I’m reviewing the GREAT Well Fed Weeknights, Melissa Joulwan’s newest cookbook.
The main thing I hate about eating paleo is the pure and total inconvenience of cooking my meals.
With so much going on in my life -being a student, being a dancer, blogging, working on a podcast, etc- trying to fit in time for healthy, home cooked food is really tough.
I know many of you struggle with that as well.
I know many of you have much busier lives than even I do.
You’ve got school. You’ve got kids. You’ve got extremely demanding jobs.
And that’s partially why I write so much about convenient meal replacements, protein bars, shakes, and snacks. (Did you see last week’s on all things PUMPKIN SPICE??)
Because, if I’m being truly honest, most of the time I’m not cooking an actual, balanced meal.
Most of the time, I’m opening a can of wild-caught salmon and plopping it on top of some greens.
I review a lot of cookbooks and I always test out the recipes.
They are good, delicious, excellent recipes, too.
But the reality is that many of those recipes just aren’t practical for me personally.
And that’s why I get so psyched when cookbooks come out that truly speak to my heart.
Other cookbooks I’ve reviewed will sit prettily on my counter.
I might pull them out on weekends or holidays or special occasions.
But mostly, they end up collecting dust while I scarf down an Epic bar.
Not this one.
Melissa Joulwan’s new book, Wellfed Weeknights, is a cookbook after my own heart.
It’s a workhorse cookbook that you’ll use again and again.
Because every SINGLE recipe takes under 45 minutes to prepare (many of them less).
And because she helps you come up with ways to be creative about food prep that mean more leftovers and less cooking, without sacrificing on enjoyment.
There’s about a hundred ways to make a hamburger or hot dog (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point!) so that you can cook less and still eat something that feels different every night.
Greek burgers, Californian burgers, Hawaiian burgers, breakfast burgers, there’s something for every mood.
There are ethnic dishes and classic American dishes.
And there are ways to add to your meal for fancier nights when you might want some fries with that.
What I love about this book is what I love about all of Melissa Joulwan’s work.
It’s a no-nonsense, good eating, practical cookbook that will help you not only figure out what to cook tonight, but help make you more creative so that you can start coming up with your own recipes.
I’ve lived off of Melissa’s first book Well Fed for a long time and I couldn’t be more excited for this one.
I’ll stop gushing now and just tell you how you can find it!
Well Fed Weeknights is available for pre-order and comes out on November 1st. Find it on Amazon here.
What do you love about Melissa’s books? Are you excited for this one? How do you fit paleo cooking into a busy schedule?
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: what’s the difference and which do you need?
It’s a common question I’m asked by readers and the answer is a little complex.
Overall, you need both really.
Prebiotics and Probiotics are not the same thing. Each of them work differently in the digestive tract and provide different benefits.
Prebiotics are nondigestible sources of fiber within foods, things like resistant starches, which provide food for the good bacteria in your gut, whereas probiotics are different strains of good bacteria that you eat or take which help colonize your digestive tract.
The best thing is to use them together as part of a healthy diet.
(Side note: occasionally, for those with IBS or leaky gut, prebiotics and some probiotics may be too much to handle in the gut at first and can cause gastrointestinal issues. I recommend starting with a small amount and working your way up to avoid this!)
Both prebiotics and probiotics can be consumed as food sources, too!
Prebiotics like unripe (green) bananas are easy to chop up and gobble down.
Other sources of prebiotics in food include jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, and even honey (yay!).
Tigernuts are also a great source of prebiotics and make a wonderful snack or baking flour. I use them often for my baking needs (here’s my article about baking with tigernut flour)
You can find tigernut flour for sale here and tigernuts here.
Prebiotics can also be consumed as a dietary supplement, which makes it easier to fit them into your life. I like this prebiotic supplement .
Probiotics are arguably more important than prebiotics. These strands of “good” bacteria help not only to colonize the gut but to fight the “bad” bacteria.
As probiotics go there are several food sources that are both delicious and functional such as home-made or properly fermented sauerkraut (I like this brand), or raw yogurts, kefir and kombucha tea (like this one).
I also really love raw fermented pickled veggies. Oregon Brineworks has tons of them from beets (find it here) to carrot-ginger root (find it here).
One caveat I will always make, though, is that it is incredibly difficult to get enough probiotics from food alone. It can be done, but it isn’t often not feasible for many.
Not to mention that those with damaged guts will need more to start than a diet filled with probiotics can attain.
I recommend taking a high quality probiotic supplement. I really like this one, but there are tons of others as well.
And if you don’t have the time or energy to take separate supplements or foods, there’s even a combined pre-biotic/pro-biotic supplement. You can find it here.
Prebiotics and Probiotics are an AMAZING food team that will help you have a stronger gut. With that comes a host of other benefits, from decreased risk of depression to better digestion to a strong immune system. It’s one of the most important things you can accomplish for your health!
How do you get your pro and pre biotics? Let me know in the comments below!
We all eat it, we all crave it.
And while there are some health conditions that warrant it’s limitation, those of us in the paleo community generally agree that it’s an important addition to a healthy diet.
Sodium is an important part of our extracellular fluid and that makes it very important for cardiovascular function. It often gets a bad rap, but it is a vitally important component to human life.
Bottom line is you don’t want too much of it (this is dependent on a lot of factors), but you also don’t want too little.
But some of us stop there.
The reality is that there is a hierarchy in salt: some of it’s better than others.
And while this article isn’t about telling you how MUCH to eat or any of that minutia (basically, salt to taste if you’re the large percentage of people without a health condition like hypertension) I am going to share a few reasons why you might want to swap the salt you currently use.
Why Table Salt is No Good
Salt has been a part of the human diet since ancient times. People have been using it to make food tasty for thousands of years and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Back then, they had some interesting and crafty ways of making salt, but today we are fortunate to have processed salt, packaged up in nice bags and boxes, and ready for our consumption.
Sadly, regular table salt is a heavily processed ingredient.
Because of that heavy processing, it loses most if not all of it’s trace minerals and it often also contains additives like anti-caking agents.
This makes it not only devoid of helpful nutrients, but also potentially not so great for your health.
Overall, it’s not an ingredient we want to be including in a whole foods diet, and there are better options out there.
Since the good stuff isn’t THAT much more expensive, and since you don’t use a ton of it anyway, there’s really no reason not to invest in some good salt.
Salts that provide health benefits are natural salts like Real salt, Sea salt, and Himalayan pink salt.
I’m torn between Himalayan salt and Real salt as to my favorite, the taste is slightly different in each. Personally, I feel like Real salt gives me a more salty flavor that is stronger with a smaller amount.
Both salts come from ancient sea deposits and contains trace minerals including iron, zinc, and the coveted potassium and magnesium.
Potassium, in particular, is a very difficult nutrient to find in large quantities it nature and is often sorely lacking in even healthy American diets, including the paleo diet. (This can be avoided with lots of attention to the potassium content of the diet, but honestly, most of us don’t put that much thought or time into the micro nutrients we consume.)
It can be hit or miss as to whether you can find these salts in grocery stores, but Amazon is always my friend and I usually buy there.
Here’s my favorite Real Salt and my favorite Himilayan salt.
A lower cost, easier to find option would be Sea Salt. This stuff is pretty much everywhere in stores.
This type of salt comes from current ocean waters and is then dried and processed.
Some folks worry about consuming salt from increasingly polluted oceans. As of yet there’s not much data (if any) supporting this theory, but science is sometimes slow to catch up and it doesn’t hurt to be careful.
Sea Salt doesn’t have quite as much of a nutritional benefit as Himalayan or Real salt because of the heavy processing but it is still overall a less processed food. And hey, it’s better than table salt!
Here’s a great Sea Salt.
What are your thoughts on salt? What kind do you use? Do you think we should/shouldn’t include it in the diet?
Da*****mn Alfie! Back at it again with the paleo Indian recipes!
Yep, we’re here again bringing you Raan.
It’s a classic!
You love it, I love it, and those who haven’t tried it are going to love it too!
If you haven’t read yet, Alfie is my friend from Paleo Diet 4 Beginners and he’s sharing with us several of his unique, traditional Indian recipes.
Find out more about Alfie in last week’s post for Chicken Tikka here.
And check out our other recipe for Beef Buffad here.
When cooking any of these recipes, you’ll need lots of spices.
That’s what Indian food is all about, right??
So you might want to invest in a nice spice rack, like this one, if you don’t have one already.
For now, enjoy this yummy Raan recipe and look forward to more awesome recipes coming soon!
This is the stuff of legends! A Showpiece for any special occasion! Turn heads and wow your guests with this Paleo Raan recipe!
Recipe takes around 280 minutes to Prep and Cook and serves 6
● 5 lb leg of lamb
● 2 oz ginger (chopped)
● 6 cloves garlic
● Rind of 1 lemon
● 2 lemons (juiced)
● 4 x 2 finger pinches cumin (I like this one)
● Sprinkle of cardamom (like this one)
● 2 x 2 finger pinches cloves (ground) (like these)
● 2 x 2 finger pinches turmeric (find it here)
● 1 x 3 finger pinch chili powder (find it here)
● Salt (this is my favorite)
● 10.5 oz coconut milk yoghurt
● 5 oz almonds (find some here)
● 2 x 2 finger pinch saffron threads soaked in boiling water (like these)
- Prick the lamb all over and make a few deep cuts. I made 12
- Now to make the marinade – blend ginger , garlic, lemon rind + juice, salt and spices. Spread all over the lamb and leave to stand for around an hour. I did this in a large casserole dish as I was going to use this to cook the lamb.
- Now blend the yoghurt with the almonds and pour over the lamb. Cover this dish up using clingfilm tightly and leave in fridge for 48 hours.
- Before cooking, let the lamb come to room temperature unassisted. Cook in a preheated oven at 230 C or 430 F or gas mark 7 for 30 minutes. Next, drop the temperature to 160 C or 325 F or gas mark 3 and cook for 3 hours.
- Next sprinkle the saffron water and cook for a further 30 minutes.
- Now to make the sauce. Take casserole dish out. Separate the meat and remove the fat. The liquid that’s left behind, boil this to reduce it and make a thick sauce.
- Carve out the meat, pour sauce over it and enjoy!
Alfie from www.paleodiet4beginners.com has been helping readers lose weight without
starvation, mood swings or counting calories. Join him as he shares exactly what worked for him,
scientific evidence (from real papers) and free recipes.
Connect With Alfie
Paleo Diet For Beginners
What’s your favorite Indian dish? What kinds of recipes would you like to see on Paleo for Women?
Noelle and I have talked about pre and post workout nutrition on our podcast before because it’s a crucial topic that women sometimes do not take seriously.
Conflicting information about what is healthy is everywhere.
When I think about exercise, I think of it from not only a perspective of strength and conditioning, but also from a hormonal balance perspective.
That’s why I always want women to eat, before and after workouts, but especially after.
If we don’t get a good dose of carbs, fat, and protein post-workout, cortisol and testosterone raise and our bodies perceive a stress that can send hormonal balance out of whack.
If you do this every once in a while it’s probably no big deal, but if you’re an avid exerciser, this is something to be aware of.
Many women think that fasting before and after working out will help them lose weight faster. The opposite is actually true, since the stress response created by this behavior causes the body to hold on to unnecessary fat instead.
There are plenty of people out there better qualified to go into the ins and outs of exercise and eating- Noelle being one of them- but I do always suggest, within 30 minutes of a workout, eat a little snack.
It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, just something balanced with some carbs in it to help prevent the stress response.
One of the reason’s that many women don’t eat is because of time and energy.
You wake up, you work out, you’ve got a thousand things on your mind and you just don’t feel hungry or you don’t have the energy afterwards to make anything.
Since we don’t do a lot of processed snacky foods in the paleo lifestyle, it can be tough to get something relatively quick and easy for a post-workout snack.
You could do an apple or banana with nut butter, a paleo cookie with deli meat and avocado, or any number of easy quick things. Or, you could try an easy-mix shake.
A new company called Rootz Nutrition is actually doing some pretty cool stuff with workout drinks.
They are a paleo company that creates super-food shakes for paleo folks who work out, especially those who do high intensity stuff. They use some very interesting blends to support metabolism, energy, antioxidant status, and recovery.
They sent me samples of their pre and post workout shakes to try and review and I liked them enough to let you all know about them.
Now, to clarify, I’m not as crazy about their pre-workout drink as their post-workout drink, personally. It’s got a bit of caffeine in it which I don’t drink (though it is from green tea).
But the taste is good, I trust their sources, and if you are needing a pre-workout drink, I’d suggest giving it a try.
The pre-workout drink made our promotion’s manager feel more energetic but not weird and jittery pre-workout and she is someone who drinks a moderate amount of caffeine.
Their post-workout drink I really like. I got chocolate banana nut flavor which was just as awesome as it sounds.
If you’re still not used to food without tons of added sugar, this is going to taste a little lacking to you.
BUT for a paleo drink, it is very tasty and I like that there is not much added in the form of sweetener.
I mean, it’s still a workout shake and not, sadly, a real milkshake, but the taste was pretty good.
It’s packed with anti-oxidants and there’s even spinach and brocolli in it and they use stevia for sweetener. It’s dairy-free which is a huge plus as it is incredibly hard to find whey-free shakes.
The only thing I don’t like is that it does contain nuts, which most of you know I don’t tolerate except in small, rare doses. But if you do well with nuts its a really great option!
Rootz is offering a 10% off your first order to you lovely readers, just use the code PALEOFORWOMEN at checkout.
Find out more about Rootz, their products and story here.
Regardless of how you do it, always make sure to listen to your body and work out in a way that feels good to you. Always refuel afterwards and seek to create fitness and wellness and not some idealized, unattainable body.
How do you like to fuel your workouts?