Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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7 Ways to Make Your Conference Healthier

Frustrated colleagues playing at conference callI’m planning a conference in London later in the year (much more about that in due course). Given that I spend most of my life helping people stay healthy while they’re traveling, I want my event to reflect that. The last conference I attended was in the bowels of a huge property with room-less windows. We had soggy sandwiches in brown paper bags for lunch (the bags were delicious). Breakfast was cheap coffee, sugary muffins, and under ripe bananas. Thankfully we were on our own for dinner and had plenty of good options locally.

Being subjected to artificial light all day while being sustained by sugary foods has a profound effect on morale and energy levels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my tips for making conference experiences healthier, more comfortable and more productive.

  1. Make sure you have healthy dining options at every meal or break. The purpose is not to have delegates gnawing on granola for the sake of it, but to provide foods that will sustain and nourish them, meaning that mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps will be avoided. “Options” is the key word. Some folk will want their cookies and cakes. It’s about making sure that attendees aren’t obliged to eat one way.
  2. Bored business training at officeBook a room with windows. Many conference facilities are tucked away in basements and don’t have natural light. Being deprived of the opportunity to visually connect with the outdoors leads to low energy and morale. Even if artificial light is going to be used, having a room with a view of the outside world will make attendees more productive, less fatigued and more positive.
  3. Allow plenty of breaks. It’s unreasonable to expect delegates to sit for hours at a time and stay focused and attentive. Ninety minutes is the recommended maximum for continued input without a break. People need to get up and move around after sitting and listening for long periods so they can recharge and be ready to absorb information from the next session.
  4. Have stretch breaks. Sitting for several hours will lead to spinal compression and low energy. After coffee, tea, and lunch breaks, have someone lead 4 to 5 minutes of stretching so that attendees feel revitalized for the next session and more aware of their posture. Local yoga and Pilates studios will usually be glad to help out.
  5. Hydrate. Check what kind of water the property is prepared to offer during your event. Mineral water with its high electrolyte content is much better than tap or filtered water for cellular balance, energy levels and overall feelings of wellbeing. Make sure your contract with the venue includes an unlimited supply of mineral water.
  6. Offer opportunities for exercise. If delegates are staying overnight, make sure the property has a decent work out facility (or a nearby gym), swimming pool or safe jogging paths.
  7. Make sure the property is in a safe location, especially for female attendees. My pal Carolyn Pearson, founder of Maiden-voyage.com says it’s crucial to work with a female-friendly hotel so you can take the quality of accommodation and service for granted, leaving you free to focus on your program content and delegates.
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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 10

Holiday Survival Tip #23: Eat mindfully

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Another one that we’ve heard before but we’re all guilty of it.  When was the last time you watched TV or read a book while eating?  And at this most wonderful time of the year when you’re glued to the telly watching Miracle on 34th Street and sobbing your eyes out, you definitely won’t notice how many cookies you’re eating.  The longer you watch TV while eating, the more you will eat.

Brian Wansink in his fabulous book, “Mindless Eating,” tells that people who watch TV for an hour while eating will eat 28% more than those who watch and eat for half an hour.  In this case, it was popcorn and carrots.  What they were eating really didn’t make much difference.

Holiday Survival Tip #24: Distract Yourself When Eating Between Meals

If you’re eating between meals, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just looking for something to do.  The whole concept of eating five or six times per day is a relatively new, American concept.  Traditionally people have eaten three squares and been quite satisfied.  Then the snack food industry came along and changed all that.

Before you reach for the peppermint bark, sugar cookies or eggnog ice cream, go for a walk around the block, call a friend or play with your Holiday train set.  By keeping your mind occupied, you’ll forget about eating.

One of the same Brian Wansink’s friends commented to him how he lost 30 pounds within a year by eating anything he wanted.  The trick, apparently, was that if he had a craving when he wasn’t hungry, he would say out loud, “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway.”  Apparently declaration a voce alta was enough to deter him.  Try it and see!

Holiday Survival Tip #25: Take a dance break.

Get up and dance!

Get up and dance!

I think Christmas is about celebration and, come on, on the inside everyone wants to dance.” TobyMac.

This is the one time of the year that we’re bound to boogie.  If the thought of dancing the night away at the office party isn’t your thing, then I strongly recommend closing the curtains, turning up Mariah and truly dancing like no one’s watching because they’re not.  If you have a dog or cat witnessing you access your inner Lady Gaga, reassurances and treats might be in order afterwards.

Dancing uplifts your energy and mood, burns a ton of calories, and puts you in the festive spirit.  It’s also a good distraction tactic (see tip #24, above).  This time of year is a free for all, so go for it.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 9

Holiday Survival Tip #20: Re-gift the chocolate

Christmas is a stocking stuffed with sugary goodness.” Mo Rocca

Portrait of beautiful young girl with chocolate cupcakeRe-gift?  Are you joking? Okay, within reason.  A box of Godiva’s new line in truffles is one thing but your fifth box of Russell Stover’s is another. Keep a little quality goodness for when it’s needed and donate the rest to a homeless shelter or food bank.  Spread the cheer to those who don’t have as much.  You’ll feel really good and look really good inside and out.

Holiday Survival Tip #21: Fat, fiber, protein at every meal.

Qué?  One of the secrets to not overeating is to balance your nutrients.  Does this mean counting calories, fat and carb grams?  No.  Making food about numbers creates food obsessives.  Combining the right foods at each meal makes for a satisfied body and mind, and fewer cravings and overeating.

Aim for good fats (nuts, avocadoes, oily fish, olive oil); quality protein (lean meats, fish, organic eggs and legumes), and fiber (vegetables and fruits).  For more information about balancing foods, give me a shout at info@jaynemcallister.com.

Holiday Survival Tip #22: Don’t give up when you get derailed

On December 13th you over indulge at a party.  That’s it, you say.  I’m done. I have no control.  I may as well wait until January 1st.  And since when did one little lapse make anyone a failure?  Time to pick yourself up, stand tall and carry on.  What would make you happier right now? Wandering down the path of self-destruction or picking up where you left off?  Every little step you take now is going to take off the pressure on January 1st (we’ll talk about that later).


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 8

Holiday Survival Tip #17: Journal

Typically, the only people who lose weight during the Holidays are journaling.  Research has proven this. So, grab yourself a notebook, a pretty journal, the back of your grocery list or a cocktail napkin but do it!  And no sugar coating.   People tend to write down only the good so be sure to write down everything you eat and drink each day.  You’re starting to be accountable to yourself and you’ll be able to identify patterns, such as reaching for the cookie jar at 4 PM or late night snacking.

Journaling is a wonderful way to gain insight into your relationship with food.  Try it for three days, then see if you want to continue.  You might be intrigued by what you learn about yourself.

Holiday Survival Tip #18: Avoid the Cheese Appetizers

“Nothing says Holidays like a cheese log.” Ellen

A little dinner with your cheese?

A little dinner with your cheese?

I’ve never quite got my head around the habit of serving cheese and crackers BEFORE a meal rather than following the European custom of serving it afterwards. In the latter case, a smaller amount suffices because one is already satiated.  The cheese can even be eaten with a knife and fork so that its full flavor is appreciated.

What about having an entire melted Brie with half a baguette just before dinner?  Nope. Plus, let’s face it, most people are serving squares of processed cheese with trans-fat laden crackers. When you have cheese as an appetizer, you’re filling up on saturated fat so you’ll be sated but your arteries will not love you. Cheese is one of life’s great pleasures but it is meant to be savored and appreciated in small portions.

Holiday Survival Tip #19: Take time each day to de-stress

Christmas stress shopping womanBut I’m not stressed,” you protest. Well, if you’re the only person who can get through the entire Holiday season without an iota of stress, give me a call and you can write this section next year.  Who knows what can set stress in motion?  A little angst about pulling together a fabulous meal; the dog eating the pumpkin pie (as happened at our Thanksgiving); the juice for the gravy accidentally getting soapy water in it (as happened at our Thanksgiving); seeing an unpopular relative for the first time in ages; worrying that people won’t like their gifts; or the turkey not being cooked (as happened to me the first two times I made Christmas dinner for large parties).

This is the time of year when we give in to the irrational. The smallest incident can escalate, inflate and blow out of proportion. (I know those are synonymous – I’m making sure you’re paying attention). Take time each day to step back, enjoy the peace and quiet, and reflect on what’s going well.  Even ten minutes will make a difference.  If matters start heating up or becoming overwhelming, excuse yourself and retire to a “safe place,” a quiet spot where you can regroup.

And just think, you won’t have to deal with this again for approximately 11 months.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 6

Holiday Survival Tip #11: Remember How Many Days There Are Between Thanksgiving and New Year

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas,” unknown.

There are 33 days between Thanksgiving and New Year. Do you really want to let go for a twelfth of your year?  You can stay on track through the holiday period like you have for the rest of the year.  The odd splurge and fabulous dinner are, of course, allowed.  Throwing caution to the wind is not.

Holiday Survival Tip #12:  Get Enough Sleep

The relationship between weight management and sleep is underrated.  For a start, if you feel rested and have enough energy, chances are you won’t be reaching for pick-me-ups (usually sugar and caffeine) at all hours of the day.

Secrets to getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Don’t eat too late (post 8 PM).  The liver goes to work sorting out your system between 10 PM and 2 AM.  Help it out by not eating too late and you’ll avoid indigestion.
  • Don’t drink too much.  The second glass of wine inevitably leads to a 4 AM internal wake-up call.  Trust me, I know.  Without vino, I sleep for 9 glorious, uninterrupted hours.
  • Start cutting back on liquids in the evening so you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.  Drink most of your water in the morning to rehydrate and the early part of the afternoon to keep you going and to stave off hunger.

Holiday Survival Tip #13: Keep The Unhealthy Stuff Out of Sight

FeiernOut of sight is truly out of mind.  While that might not be good for the love of your life, it’s perfect for the inevitable influx of candies and cookies that should be starting to head your way about now. If you’re not going to re-gift them, stick them in the back of a cupboard where you have to make an effort to get them when you really want them.  If they’re in plain sight, that’s an invitation to mindless eating.

Finally, how the heck are you doing with these tips?  Do let me know in the comments below.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through The Holidays Part 5

Holiday Survival Tip #8: Take Control of What’s On Your Plate

Fill your own plate if that’s an option so you can go heavier on the veggies and lighter on the fattening stuff.  Most of us don’t eat enough veggies anyway and you’ll avoid feeling bloated and heavy, and probably sleep better!

Holiday Survival Tip #9:  Think Twice Before Seconds

If you think you want seconds after your main course, have a drink of water and wait ten minutes.  Check in with yourself to see if you are really hungry, especially if you’re planning on having dessert.  If you do decide to head for seconds, limit them to vegetables.  If you’re truly hungry, they’ll fill you faster.

ScaleHoliday Survival Tip #10: Stay On Your Weigh-in Schedule

Be sure to continue to weigh in weekly.  If you let it slide, the weight can creep on really easily.  Even if you’re eating healthy food, too much healthy food is unhealthy.  While I was in college, I spent time in Africa, in a town where modern conveniences were practically non-existent so I had no access to a scale.  I was eating like the locals, so no processed foods and enjoying a well balanced diet.  One day I went to the “big city” to see an expat friend and she had a scale. I was horrified to see that despite my good eating habits, I had put on 10 pounds.

Weight can creep up even if you’re being moderate, because of stress, sleep patterns, the wrong foods or a shift in thyroid.  Weigh yourself on a Sunday since parties are usually on Friday and Saturday nights.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 4 (Exercise)

Holiday Survival Tip #6: Keep on Moving

Did you over indulge yesterday?  It’s time to get moving.  There are so many excuses you can proffer for not exercising at this time of year as your social life steps up.   While it’s very easy to get off track, it’s really not an option.  The reality is that it’s not necessarily about the calories.  Let’s face it, you can spend an hour on the treadmill and burn 250 calories.  That’s about a smallish portion of turkey.  You’d have to spend ten hours in the gym to work off the stuffing, pie and potatoes. So why bother?

As well as the obvious health benefits of regular exercise, keeping on track through the Holiday season will give you a huge sense of achievement.  With your blood oxygenated and your metabolism revved, you’ll feel better for the rest of the day.

Holiday Survival Tip #7:  Wear A Waistband

????????????This will keep you honest, especially at parties: When you overeat, you’ll know it.  I know someone (okay, my mother) who went through a phase of waxing lyrical about the comfortable clothes she was wearing.  They were comfy because they had elasticated waistbands.  Over time, an unsuspected 30 pounds crept on.  Before long, the elasticated waistbands felt as tight as a regular one.  Thankfully she has lost the weight, but it was a lesson worth learning.  Time to zip up and button up!

That’s it for today, folks.  I’m off to work out!