Staying Sane & Healthy For The Holidays

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As we welcome (or resist) the arrival of the holiday season, it's easy to get overwhelmed, lose sight of our health goals, and throw self-care out the window. Well have no fear, help has arrived! Here are my top tips to help you navigate the holidays with balance & sanity and maintain your waistline in the process.

1. Plan some down time.

The holidays are a busy and often stressful time for most of us. Before you get caught up in the shuffle, schedule some time for yourself each week that’s JUST FOR YOU. By having some time to unwind & relax you will enjoy the season more and be more present for your loved ones during holiday festivities. You will also be less prone to emotional eating, excessive drinking, sickness and depression, all of which are far too common this time of year.

2. Take Care of Yourself, Emotionally AND Physically

Getting regular exercise and good quality sleep are crucial in maintaining good energy and a positive mood, especially when we are overly busy and indulging in holiday treats. But even those of us who are fitness addicts often forget to take care of ourselves emotionally, and we brush any negative feelings under the rug because we feel we don’t have time to deal with them. During the darker winter days it is natural and even healthy for people to feel more melancholy and introspective. This is when that down time really comes in handy – you can be alone with your thoughts and have a good cry if you need to. Sometimes you’ve just gotta get it out! For others the holidays can be lonely and you may need more time with other people. In this case, don’t be afraid to reach out for extra support and social time.

3. Don’t “Should On Yourself”

We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “perform” at this time of year when we already have more obligations than usual.  We feel like we should be upbeat and functioning at 100% 24/7, wowing our friends & family with our Martha-like skills and entertaining prowess; We should make cookies for the school, we should have the house decorated perfectly and we should prepare the perfect meal and buy the perfect gifts and we should look beautiful and put-together while doing it. But this isn’t realistic and by overextending and burdening ourselves with all the thoughts of what we should be doing, making or feeling, we burn out and miss out on what could be a joyful and relaxing holiday season. Practice saying “no” to anything that’s not necessary or truly important and as my mom always says, “don’t should on yourself”.

4. Set Yourself Up For Success

On the morning of a big meal or party, start off right with a healthy, high-protein & high fiber breakfast (think veggie omelet or protein powder & whole fruit smoothie), and a good workout. DO NOT try to save calories by skipping meals before the big event. You’ll just end up overeating at the meal, inhaling the sugary stuff, and feeling generally rotten afterwards. By starting your day on a healthy note and reminding yourself of your health goals, you’ll be more likely to make healthier choices later in the day.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Aim to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water BEFORE your party or big meal. Staying hydrated will help keep your appetite in check, minimize sweets cravings, keep you more alert & energetic, and help prevent water retention the next day.

6. Strategize Your Meal

If fat loss or avoiding the impending “food baby” is your goal, then you need to have a strategy for your meal. Eat plenty of veggies and your protein of choice first, chewing slowly and savoring each bite. Then, if you’re still hungry have some potatoes and/or stuffing but start with small servings and continue to eat slowly.  The protein and fiber from the veggies will fill you up faster and you’ll end up eating less of the starchy foods & feeling more satisfied overall. 

7. Pick Your Poison

Think about what sweet or decadent item (other than the main meal) that you love the most and leave the other less appealing options behind. Pick your favorite thing and don’t waste your calories on the other stuff that you don’t enjoy as much. Mine is pecan pie. I wait all year for it and I enjoy every bite! For others it might be cheese or a hot toddy. Whatever you choose, really take your time as you eat/drink and savor it, noticing the smell and how it feels in your mouth. Often when we overeat it’s because we eat to quickly and don’t take time to truly enjoy our food, leaving us unfulfilled and unsatisfied. If fat loss is a priority for you, choose alcohol OR dessert, but not both.

8. Have Some Fun and CELEBRATE!

Above all, make it your goal to have some fun this holiday season. Plan a special outing with a friend or loved one and do something that’s purely for fun and enjoyment. Remember all the things you have to be thankful for and celebrate them! You’ll reduce stress and create happy memories that you’ll treasure for years to come.