Strategies For Healthier Holidays

It’s official, we are smack dab in the middle of holiday season! This time of year can present many challenges when it comes to eating well and staying physically active. Here are a few strategies that can help.

  1. Give Yourself a Break.  There is no way around it, things get a little crazy this time of year.  So, give yourself a break and don’t be too hard on yourself.   It’s ok not to be perfect and you can expect that sometimes even the best, most planned out goals just don’t happen some days. Even the healthiest of eaters experience that this time of year. The key is to let it go and get back to it as quickly as possible.  Don’t waste time and energy beating yourself up, instead focus on getting back to healthy habits going forward.     
  2. Make specific small goals to help keep you on track.  Set specific weekly doable behavioral goals for yourself to follow. Including things like “I will have a fruit or vegetable with each meal” or “I will walk 30 minutes 4 days a week during my lunch hour” or “I will plan 4 dinners and have the ingredients on hand”.   Look at your week ahead, pick 3 specific things you can do each week to stay on track.
  3. Don’t lump all the holidays into one long holiday.
    If you’ve been in celebration mode since Thanksgiving Day it may be a good time right now to pull back the reigns and check in with yourself.  It’s tempting to just say what the heck and let it all go starting Thanksgiving Day and on through New Year’s. Keep it in check. Enjoy each holiday thoroughly, but don’t let them stretch into each other creating one long extended holiday.
  4. Enjoy your food.  There is food everywhere we look in this season making it very easy to eat mindlessly.  As you take your first bite of that cookie or dip at that holiday party consider whether it actually tastes good and whether you are truly enjoying it or not.  Recently we had a big family brunch at Friday’s and someone ordered potato skins.  I hadn’t had them in years so I decided to take a mindful bite and see if they were good.  So I cut a cheesy, bacony bite and decided that while they looked good they actually weren’t very good at all and so that one bite was all I took. I could have easily gobbled up a couple of those skins without even thinking about it, giving my body far more fuel that it needs – an order of those bad boys, by the way, has somewhere around 2,000 calories, 130 grams of total fat, and almost 60 grams of saturated (artery clogging) fat.  It takes practice, but becoming more mindful and actually enjoying what we eat can have a huge impact.
  5. Don’t wait until January 1st this year.  Don’t be one of the millions of people who wait until January 1st to make resolutions that, for many, are temporary and create that all too familiar feeling of diet failure. Don’t put it off. Instead start today and make a plan for yourself to do even just one small thing per day to improve your health. Take a few minutes in the morning and get your head right to stay on track. Planning ahead for what is to come that day, or even better for the week ahead, will help you to be better prepared and in charge of your choices. Write it down or put it in your phone as a reminder of what you are working on.
  6. Stay active, even if it means switching things up a bit.  Keep moving during the holidays and make it a priority. I have had to be a bit creative with my workouts over the last couple of weeks.  A walk/jog here, a workout on our elliptical machine there, mixed in with workouts on my tablet. It is not my norm, but I realize that some movement is better than nothing.  Don't have time for your regular workout, break it up throughout the day. Aren’t really moving much at all? Start moving, even if it’s 10 or 15 minutes a day. Your ultimate goal should be 150-300 minutes per week, but it’s ok to work up to that. Remember, little things like taking the stairs when you can and parking further out at the mall or grocery store help too. If you don't have a regular plan for exercise, don't wait until January to get started. Do something to get your body moving now!
  7. Maintaining your weight during the holidays is OK.  The holidays may not be a great time to set a weight loss goal. Even if you can maintain your weight through this busy, food-laden season you are doing good.  It’s a bonus if you lose.

With a little planning and some awareness you can enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer and start the year off right, even through this jam-packed holiday season!