Intuitive Eating Strategies Part Two: Fall and Winter Feasting

Well, here we are in October, and whether we are ready or not the fall and winter feasts are rapidly approaching. This time of the year is typically a time filled with family, friends, memories, food…and lots of it! October through the New Year tends to be that time we eat more sweets, eat larger portions, or eat more food in general which, consequently, could lead to weight gain. According to WebMD, any fat gain that does occur from holiday over-eating typically occurs after the holidays because fat gain takes many days, weeks, or even months of overeating to accumulate. The initial weight gain after feast days is more likely from 1) salty foods and 2) increased storage of carbohydrates (aka glycogen), both resulting in more water absorption.  Hence, why your clothes may become a little tighter around the waist, especially when this period is coupled with less activity and exercise. Now multiply the number of years this trend has continued, and the significant weight gain over the years makes more sense (WebMD “Holiday Weight Gain a Big Fat Lie”). 

Unprecedented challenges have crept into everyone’s lives in one way or another these recent months. New challenges can bring new opportunities, yielding new accomplishments if you allow it. This may be the season for you to focus and achieve better health and immunity. Nutritional habits have this tremendous power—food can either be your pitfall in health or food can empower your health. Instead of indulging in self-sabotaging habits such as the ones mentioned previously, take the steps to become more intuitive, or mindful, of your eating habits. 

We defined intuitive eating in part one as the ability to stay tuned in to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. Review our May County Connection to view the many benefits and strategies we discussed in part one.

Strategy #1: Using the hunger scale.  

The Hunger Scale below is an effective, simple strategy to discover how you should and should not feel when eating intuitively. The idea is to stay within the green zone and avoid the caution and red zones when you begin and stop eating. For example, begin eating when you are mildly hungry (zone 4) and stop when you are satiated or mildly full, with no discomfort (zones 5-6). The feeling of starvation or famished (zones 1-3) and eating to the point of discomfort, or feeling sick, (zones 8-10) should be avoided. Practicing this routinely will yield a positive impact on your energy levels and lessen negative emotions, such as irritability or being “hangry”. Be sure to keep a journal as a reminder and reference tool.

Strategy #2: Nourish yourself by other means.

We tend to treat the sudden onset of hunger as an emergency by instantly ravaging the fridge or cabinet to fulfill what we think is hunger. Hunger works in waves of about 3-4 hours and then it calms. Try these options to learn how to break the habit. The intent is to identify the trigger, and then discipline your thinking about food to create a new habit.

  1. Self-experimentation: Exploring tactics that work or do not work for you. When you pay attention to how foods make you feel it empowers you and energizes you to make better choices
    1. Try to skip a meal or two. Use your journal to make notes on how it made you feel.
    2. Instead of acting on the hunger, wait for your next scheduled eating time.
    3. Try scheduling a 24-hour fast or try an intermittent fasting day (I.e., Refrain from eating for 14-16 hours, and eat the remaining 8-10 hours.)
    4. Indulge in your stress (psychological) eating. By doing this it will allow you to identify the trigger. Write it down as a reminder so the next time you may remember to stop.
  2. Replace non-scheduled or triggering eating habits with something you enjoy doing that takes less than 15 minutes, such as:
    1. Do a workout
    2. Go for a walk
    3. Call a friend or family member
    4. Deep breathing exercises
    5. Listen to music or a podcast
    6. Play with your pet or kids, etc.

Strategy #3: Plan to indulge.

Be honest with yourself—we all like to eat during the holidays, and there is no way around eating. If this describes your sentiment about food on the holidays  but you typically do well with eating habits during other times of the year, then just plan to indulge. However, the keyword is “plan”. Here are some ideas:

  1. Significantly cut back on intake, mainly carbohydrates, about 1-2 weeks prior to the scheduled feast. This could help combat the increased carbohydrate and water storage weight.
  2. Go for a walk right after you eat. This will metabolize the food by using it as energy for the activity reducing the amount of energy storage.
  3. Increase your exercise and activity levels the weeks up to and after the holiday season. 

Final Thoughts

Try not to beat yourself up. A successful journey is persistently pursuing ways to learn, whether from accomplishments or from mistakes, and continuing to move forward. Striving for perfection will only let you down, and the stress makes weight gain worse. Allowing yourself to indulge here and there is ok, but overindulging often is the issue.  However, this should not be used as a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card by letting yourself off the hook. A key distinction here is that self-compassion is not an excuse to stress eat or indulge. Its purpose is to help remove some of the guilt. Enjoy your fall and winter holiday feasts and may it be filled with joy and memories, but stay healthy!

If you are interested in receiving health coaching on this topic, please contact Joshua Gaskins at [email protected].

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Congratulations to All of Our NACo Award Winners!

50 years ago, the National Association of Counties (NACo) began a rewards program to recognize innovative county government programs. This year, Henrico County Public Schools and general government departments won a combined 25 awards. This is the most of any county in Virginia (for the 15th straight year), and the seventh-highest number of awards nationally. While the awards were announced in the Spring, the certificates were recently handed out at the Board of Supervisors meetings on September 22.  

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas remarked that “These awards are well-deserved and shine a light on the outstanding work that employees of Henrico County and Henrico County Public Schools do every day for our community… But these award-winning programs reveal more than a county workforce focused on excellence and customer service. They also show our commitment to serving with compassion and heart, to leading and innovating and to building a community that’s vibrant, engaging, and welcoming to all.”

Some of the highlights of these programs include REVIVE! Training by Mental Health & Developmental Services (MH/DS). This is a free class on how to administer naloxone to potentially save the life of someone who has overdosed on opioids. MH/DS was also acknowledged for their Youth Leadership Development Program in which middle and high school students plan and implement prevention strategies and community service. Henrico County Public Library (HCPL) received recognition for their Trailblazers Wall at the Fairfield Area Library that showcases biographies of individuals whose lives and work had major impacts on the county, the state, and the nation. Finally, the Henrico County Human Resources Department received a NACo award for their Emerging Leaders Certificate Program (ELCP). This program provides non-supervisory employees with the framework, tools, and learning experiences to strengthen their leadership skills, self-awareness, and initiative to deliver customer service The Henrico Way.

Below is a complete list of winning programs and departments.

  • A No-Cost Camp Expands Access to Robotics, Engineering and Coding, HCPS
  • Leading and Mentoring the Future, HCPS
  • Queens United, HCPS
  • What’s Christmas Without Toys?, HCPS
  • CTE NOW: Podcast Explores, Promotes Career and Technical Education, HCPS
  • #LifeReady Expo, HCPS
  • Building the Future, Brick by Brick, HCPS
  • VARP Helps Students See Careers From the Top Down, HCPS
  • Who Kept the Dogs In?, HCPS
  • Creating a Culture of Life-Ready Learners, HCPS
  • Pooling Resources: Swimming Partnership Makes a Community Safer, HCPS
  • Making Professional Development Meaningful for Assistant Principals, HCPS
  • Cosmetology Advisory Council Leads Way to Mentorship Program, HCPS
  • Advanced Digital Literacy Skill Building at the Library, Henrico County Public Library (HCPL)
  • LGBTQIA+ Book Group, HCPL
  • Multilingual Storytimes, HCPL
  • Trailblazers Wall: Community History at the Library, HCPL
  • Youth Leadership Program, Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services
  • Office Based Opiate Treatment Program (OBOT) — Whole Person Treatment, Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services
  • REVIVE! Training, Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services
  • Emerging Leaders: Professional Development for Non-Supervisors, Human Resources
  • A Double Win: Changing Lives Through Second Chances, Human Resources
  • Savings and Sustainability with Solar Renewable Energy, General Services
  • Threat Assessment, Police Division
  • My County Academy: One County, One Community, Public Relations


Congratulations to all the winners on the very successful programs!


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15 Ways to Have Family Fun This Fall

With the ongoing Pandemic, many events and fall festivals have been canceled. Luckily, there are many ways to enjoy fall in Henrico and the surrounding areas. Here are fifteen ways you and your family can get out and enjoy the crisp autumn air!

  1. Visit the Farmer’s Market- Bryan Park and Dorey Park host outdoor markets every Saturday morning! Take a stroll and grab some fresh goat cheese or vegetables.
  1. Go apple (or peach) picking- Carter Mountain is always a fan favorite and is only about an hour away! There are a few local peach and berry farms too.
  1. Take a hike- The Blue Ridge Mountains offer a lot of picturesque views but if you are looking for less of a commute, check out the Capital Trail. In Henrico County, visit the Four Mile Creek Trailhead or Dorey Park Trailhead to begin your journey on the Virginia Capital Trail!
  1. Visit the Pumpkin Patch- Enjoy the hayrides and pick your own pumpkins at Gallmeyer Farm or Hanover Vegetable Farm. Then, carve or decorate your pumpkins to add festive décor to your home.
  1. Go for a coffee walk- Whether you are all about the PSL, chia tea, or ciders, grab your favorite hot drink from a local shop and go for a walk and enjoy the changing leaves.
  1. Savor cider doughnuts- Henrico’s own Country Style Donuts won the 2020 Best Local Doughnuts Award and have several seasonal flavors to enjoy. Mrs. Yoder’s and First Stop Donuts are also local favorites!
  1. Show your gratitude- It has been a challenging year for everyone. Fall is the time to reflect on thankfulness. Make a list or mail thank you notes to your loved ones.
  1. Plant bulbs for your spring garden- If fall leaves aren’t your favorite, get your garden ready for Spring. Narcissus, tulips, and peonies are beautiful options to plant now to see the colors emerge in a few months.
  1. Enjoy a fall craft- Hand knit a chunky blanket to keep you cozy in the cooler months or make a new door wreath or DIY Halloween costume. Have a fun, family photoshoot and show off your creativity!
  1. Jump into a pile of leaves- What is more fall-like than raking up the yard a little bit and then jumping into the pile and throwing leaves like confetti? Kids will enjoy hours of fun and maybe even a little yard work.
  1. Deck your halls (and your yard) with a little spooky décor- Why wait
    The home of Jenn Montrose, Department of Information Technology
    until December to add lights to your house? Add some jack-o-lanterns, witches, skeletons, spiderwebs, or some purple and orange lights for a fun festive look.
  1. Enjoy a faux tailgate in your driveway- Most sports are not currently open to the public so make a big pot of chili and invite your friends over for a social distance tailgate in your yard or driveway.
  1. Boo your neighbor- Sneak little treats like cookies or a bottle of wine on your neighbor’s porch and watch them pay it forward!
  1. Watch Halloween TV specials and movies- With all the streaming options available, enjoy a scary movie marathon or any of your fall favorites. Curl up on the couch or project it outside with a bonfire for a perfect fall night.
  1. Enjoy a fall festival- Many festivals have changed to virtual events this year, like the Richmond Folk Festival. However, there are some outdoor fall events that are still happening; like the Sunday Funday for Kids on the lawn at Walkerton Tavern and the Glendale Ruritan Club Trunk or Treat.

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