Holiday Weight Gain? Here’s How To Avoid It with Carla Dueñas

Not extreme, but consistent. That’s the key that Carla Duenas emphasizes for keeping healthy habits during and after the holidays. As this week’s Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories guest, the Baptist Health Dietician walks us through actionable advice for navigating holiday dinners with intention and the best ways to kick off the new year with health and fitness goals. This episode is packed with tips from planning advice and common pitfalls, to a template you can use for building a plate in any setting. 

The Power of Nutrition

Carla Duenas loves being a dietician. She doesn’t believe in being the “food police”, instead she views her job as showing people how to enjoy the foods they’re eating in a healthy way. She’s always loved science, and kicked off her college years on a pre-med track. She saw a future in medicine, but a health mystery took her career plans in a different direction. Though she had experienced migraines since her teenage years, one day Carla experienced one that did not go away for three months. Her days were spent seeing different doctors, taking many tests, and luckily (but also frustratingly) saw that everything was as it should be. Still without answers, Carla took the advice of a new doctor and took a look at her diet. After two weeks of cutting dairy and gluten from her diet, her migraine cleared up and she finally had an answer for what triggered her debilitating pain. Her experience coincided with an amazing nutrition course that influenced Carla to pursue a career in nutrition. 

Tips for the Holiday Season

When it comes to holiday eating, Carla reminds us that the “holiday season” starts as soon as Halloween. Having the candy in the house is the first sign of a season of indulgent eating, increased social plans, and for many Americans- a time when routines get left behind. Carla walks us through her tips to prioritizing health while enjoying the joys of the season. 

  1. Keep up your exercise routine, even if it isn’t perfect. The longer you rest, the harder it might be to pick it back up.
  2. Planning ahead for big meals doesn’t mean skipping lunch. It means having balanced meals with protein, vegetables, and carbs for breakfast and lunch. 
  3. Have a strategy for building your plate. Scope out the menu, and remember Carla’s golden ratio: 25% carbs, 25% protein, and 50% vegetables. And for dessert? Everything is best in moderation, and you can count them in your carb category if it helps you keep on track. 
  4. The best way to help with digestion after a meal is to get out for a walk.
  5. When you’re traveling, you can still use your plate ratio to make the best food choices. All foods fit into those boxes, so it doesn’t matter where you get it from. Even the airport can have choices that will keep you feeling good.
  6. When setting health goals for the new year, keep them S.M.A.R.T.

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • The importance of keeping your goals attainable and why that avoids a feeling of overwhelm.
  • Tamika’s story of maintainable habits and what that looks like for her. 
  • Carla’s personal health tips and what she always keeps in her own routine.
  • The variety of programs Baptist Health offers, from nutrition to exercise, and manual health. 

Where to find Baptist Health: