How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Ever Worrying About Weight Gain

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  The holiday season has officially arrived. There is something special about breaking bread together and enjoying good food. Usually the food is a little too good and we tend to overindulge leading to that infamous holiday weight gain… or is that just what happens to me?!  

A few years ago, I would worry so much about gaining weight over the holidays. I would skip meals, so I could indulge at a potluck or obsessively exercise to mitigate the damage of a big, unhealthy meal. This was not only stressful, but totally inefficient. Every year I would end up gaining weight, feeling bloated, tired, and like a failure. Then in January I would join the masses in recommitting to healthy lifestyle changes.

This cycle was exhausting and no way to live.

I wanted to enjoy the holidays in a healthy way, including the FOOD– without guilt or stress. You, too, can make peace with your plate and enjoy a stress free holiday without worrying about gaining weight.

First, you must make up your mind and prioritize committing to a healthier relationship with food and your body.

Next, incorporate these simple strategies into your holiday social calendar and reap the benefits.

holiday weight gain

 

Take the focus OFF the food.

Focus on fun, family and friends. Often I’m so busy socializing that I forget to eat or end up eating less!

 

Don’t Skip Meals

Skipping meals to save up your calories for later on will backfire. You’ll end up eating much more than you normally would have, because you’re so hungry. This causes your body to store more of the excess calories as fat.

You don’t have to starve all day to earn your dinner. Before the big meal, eat lighter meals like smoothies, salads, fruits and veggies throughout the day instead.

 

Build a Better Plate

You’re face to face with a beautiful spread of delicious foods. What do you put on your plate?

Fill up on fruits, vegetables and salads to get your nutrients. These foods usually have fewer calories and will fill you up quicker, preventing over doing it on mom’s stuffing.

Go easy on the calorically dense options, specifically dessert. Of course you will and definitely should enjoy some pie but limit yourself to one slice. Try not to have one of every dessert on the table, but if you must, then at least share with someone.

 

If you don’t LOVE it, don’t eat it.

Sometimes a few bites is all you need, then move on to the next thing on your plate.

 

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Alcoholic drinks, sodas or juices are big culprits for weight gain.That wine or cocktail you’re sipping on can easily and quickly add up to the same amount of calories in a full meal.  

Sip slowly. Hydrate with water between drinks. Limit the number of drinks you consume.

I don’t know about you, but I much rather eat my calories than drink them.

 

Eat Before You Eat

Never go to a food gathering hungry. Having a satisfying snack before going out will help you have more control over your food choices and portions.  

 

Stay Consistent with Exercise

The holidays bring about a lot of stress and hustling & bustling. This is a time of year you need to workout more than ever because exercise helps you combat stress. You’ll instantly be in a better mood and equipped to handle whatever curveballs come your way. It’s also a great way to balance out some of the extra calories you’ll likely be consuming.  However, it’s super important to remember that you don’t, and should never, feel like you must exercise to eat. Exercise to maintain your weight and to feel energized, focused, strong and healthy.

 

Potlucks

If you’re going to a potluck style gathering, be that person that to bring a healthier dish. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I usually bring some fruit, a green salad, or just simple roasted veggies.

 

Eat intuitively

Listen to your body’s cues. Does it feel full? Bloated? How will you feel tomorrow?  Are you eating in a way that nourishes and honors your body, or the opposite? Be sure to chew your food and enjoy how it tastes. Eating mindfully will help you stop eating when you’re full.

 

And if you accidentally go overboard... Be kind to your body, forgive yourself, let it go, and do better tomorrow.

 

Now go enjoy that pumpkin pie, girl! Feel confident that you are going to make better choices this holiday season and maintain a healthy weight.

When you’re eating right, you feel energized and vibrant. People around you pick up on that, and without even realizing it you’re inspiring them to live better, too.

Living a healthy lifestyle is about eating well, feeling good and celebrating life, so go do that!

 

 

Happy Holidays,

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Travel to Cuba: The Best Recommendations

My recent trip to Cuba proved to be a beautiful mix of cultural immersion, breath taking sites, salsa and rum. If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful island soon, let me share my top recommendations with you. You can find general tips on money, internet, Visa info, and more HERE.

cuba travel

 

There is more to see than the big city of Havana.

Here is the itinerary of my two week adventure in Cuba.

  1. Varadero (2 nights) – where we landed.
  2. Trinidad  (2 nights)
  3. Havana (5 nights)
  4. Viñales (day trip, ~ 12 hours)
  5. Varadero (4 nights) – where we flew out of.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Varadero –

TO DO:

  • Enjoy the beautiful beach!
  • Can rent beach chairs for 2CUC a day
  • Walk around the streets and check out souvenir shops and larger markets 
  • Take a romantic stroll around Parque Josone
  • Try the Hop-on Hop-Off bus for $5CUC a day
  • Enjoy free rum tastings at the House of Rum 

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TO EAT:

  • La Vicaria $
  • La Casona del Arte $$
  • El Amanecer $
  • Waco’s $$$

NIGHTLIFE:

  • Calle 62
  • The Pirates Cave
  • Havana Club
  • La casa de la Musica

WHERE WE STAYED:

  • Casa Magda y Gilbert
  • Norma’s B&B

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Trinidad –

TO DO:

  • Take a trip to the sugar cane plantations with a private driver or organize bus tour
  • Spend the morning at Playa Ancon
  • Get lost wandering the streets of this quaint town 

TO EAT:

  • Guitarra Mia $$
  • Restaurante San Jose $$

NIGHTLIFE:

  • Plaza Mayor has live music and dancing starting at 10pm 
  • Casa de la Musica  
  • Disco Ayala (Cave)  

WHERE WE STAYED:

  • Hostal Las Margaritas

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Havana –

TO DO:

  • Visit museums: Museo de La Revolution and Museo De Las Bellas Artes (Fine Arts)
  • Take a walking tour
  • Walk along el malecon 
  • Shope at the Almacenes San Jose Artisans Market
  • Walk down Obispo St. 
  • Go dancing

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TO EAT:

  • San Cristobal (where the Obamas, Kardashians, and Beyonce have eaten)
  • El Cocinero (rooftop restaurants attached to Fabrica de Arte)
  • Los Nardos (across from el Capitolio)
  • La Guarida 
  • Paladar los amigos (Anthony Bourdain ate here)

NIGHTLIFE:

  • Fabrica de Arte
  • 1830
  • Hotel Florida  

WHERE WE STAYED:

  • Casa Yadilis y Joel

 

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Viñales – 

We were only here for the day so I can’t recommend anything regarding night life, where to stay, or places to eat.

TO DO:

  • Visit coffee plantations
  • Walk through caves and take a boat ride through
  • Visit a tobacco farm
  • Stop at El Mirador for a breathtaking view of the landscape 

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I can’t wait for my next trip to Cuba. There is still more places I would love to explore there. If you have enough time, I highly recommend exploring the areas outside of Havana to really fall in love with Cuba.

 

 

Viva Cuba! 

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Travel to Cuba: Everything You Need to Know

Cuba’s growing popularity as a new travel destination for Americans has left people with many questions about planning for this trip. I recently spent two weeks in Cuba, traveling through Varadero, Trinidad, Havana, and Vinales.  In preparation for this adventure, I found it difficult to obtain clear information for putting together the itinerary. I figured I would share my experiences to help out others planning to visit this beautiful country in the future. Here are answers to many common questions and tips on how to make the most of your trip to Cuba. 

cuba travel

 

Are Americans Allowed to Travel to Cuba?

YES, but there are still some restrictions…

Technically, American tourism in Cuba is still a no no but you can travel there under one of the 12 categories of authorized trips.

You’ll need to plan a “people-to-people” trip (reason #8: aka “In Support of the Cuban People”). This means you are meeting Cuban citizens in their normal daily life settings like schools and community centers, but no one will ask to see your itinerary or for proof of these activities. You may be asked, however, at the U.S. airport for your travel reason so have your answer prepared.

Do I Need a Visa?

You can now purchase flights from the USA directly to Cuba, but a Visa is required. Check with your airline first as many of them will sell you a visa at-cost (~$50) and mail it out to you. Not all airlines offer this, for example, American Airlines outsources their Visa process, raising the customer costs to $85. Many airlines will also have the option to purchase Visas at the airport the day of your flight for ~$100 (cash only).

Another option for obtaining a Visa to Cuba is through a travel agency. They can mail one out to you within a few days for around $80.

The visa process, in general, is simple but pricey.

 

How Much Cash Should I Bring and Will My Credit Card Work in Cuba?

Bring enough cash to cover all of your expenses, including food, transportation, and accommodations. American credit cards and debit cards will not work in Cuba at this time. If you run out of cash during this trip, you are SOL.

 

What’s the Cuban Exchange Rate?

Cubans use cuban pesos (CUP), while tourists use the cuban convertible peso (CUC). You’ll need your currency in CUC, which has a 1:1 exchange rate to USD.

My advice is to exchange USD for Euros or Canadian dollars (CAD) before your trip. Once in Cuba you can convert Euros (or CAD) to CUC. This will help you avoid the 13% tax, imposed by Cuba, for converting USD to CUC.

You’ll find the fairest exchange rates at local Cuban banks or cajas de cambio (exchange windows).

Beware of locals “accidentally” giving you change back in CUP instead of CUC. It happened to a few of my travel companions. Many local spots will have pricing in CUP, but will accept your CUC currency. Just be sure to know that 24 CUP = 1 CUC and that your change is given in CUC.

 

Can I Bring back Cigars and Rum from Cuba?

In the past, restrictions limited travelers to a combined total of $100 in rum and cigars. Obama recently lifted this restriction, allowing Cuban rum and cigars to fall under the same limits as alcohol and tobacco from other countries.

 

Accommodations: Hotels vs Casa Particulares

Hotels in Cuba are pretty much government-owned, resulting in lower quality service and accommodations. Expect to shell out $100+ a night for your room. Food is usually buffet style, although many hotels have restaurants inside. Usually the hotels are further away from city centers and major sites, requiring cab rides or buses to get around.

If you really want to experience the Cuban culture and support the people, casa particulares are my recommendation.

I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and comfortable the casas were. The hosts were also so friendly and helpful, giving us recommendations on restaurants, things to do, and even organizing transportation for excursions.

Many provided beer and water in the rooms for $2CUC and amazing homemade breakfasts for just $5 CUC. Breakfasts always included coffee, toast, freshly made fruit juice, a bowl of fresh fruits, and some variety of egg dish.

AirBnB’s are also an option in Cuba and will offer similar accommodations as a casa particular, but at a higher price point since AirBnB will charge you a fee aside from the host’s asking price.

 

Is There Internet Access in Cuba?

Wifi is hard to come by in Cuba…and slow. You need to purchase an internet card from someone on the street, certain hotels or the internet company ETECSA. The card is about $2-$3CUC for 60minutes. You have 30 days to use the 60 minutes.

These internet cards can only be used in a wifi hot spot. Most hotels and certain areas in the city are hot spots. You’ll know if a place is a hot spot because locals will be gathered around using their phones and computers nearby.

Here’s what it looks like..

cuba travel

 

Taxis, Travel Options, and Getting Around

We probably spent the most money in Cuba on transportation. The good news is that there are a few options to choose from. Car rentals are available but can be expensive. Book in advance.

There are plenty of taxis all over, but once they spot a tourist they hike up prices. This is where good bargaining skills come in handy. Yellow taxi cabs are government-owned, meaning drivers pay a government tax daily no matter how much business they had that day. These drivers tend to have higher prices because, naturally, they are trying to make a profit. Private drivers have more negotiable prices. You can usually ask your casa host or hotel front desk to coordinate transportation for you. There are also bus services which can be the most affordable option for solo travelers or couples, however they take much longer than traveling by car would. Get your ticket at least one day in advance and confirm departure times.

Avoid getting completely lost by downloading a map of the country in advance. Use the app called ‘maps.me’ for access to off-line searches and GPS navigation.  

 

A Few Tips:

Cuba is very safe but you should still be on guard for scams.

  • Don’t listen to anyone on the streets offering to walk you to a great restaurant/ paladar. They are usually getting a kickback and often the restaurant is no good.
  • Don’t be surprised if some restaurants are out of common things like bread or chicken. This happens often.
  • Many government owned restaurants are low quality, while paladares (privately owned restaurants) tend to be better. Finding good food at a fair price can be unpredictable. I recommend having a few restaurants picked out in advance or asking your casa host/ hotel for recommendations.
  • You’ll find many people selling “authentic” Cuban cigars in the streets for very low prices. Most of the time, if not all of the time, these are cheap knock-off cigars. The only way to guarantee good quality tobacco is to by from a government tobacco store.

 

cuba travel

 

In this next post I’ve shared my itinerary, as well as recommendations for restaurants, things to do,  night life and accommodations in each of the 4 areas I visited in Cuba. Read more HERE.  

 

Safe Travels, 

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