Maintaining Healthy Habits During The Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us, experts say there should be an added focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Beth Frates with Harvard’s Medical School gives her advice on how we can keep ourselves healthy.

First, do not pause your workouts. Dr. Frates said exercise routines are usually the first things to go as we feel more stress.

However, she says it is what not to do. Dr. Frates said if anyone feels the urge to stop, try a new activity instead. People are generally more interested in exercising when they feel stimulated. Dr. Frates said its also not a bad idea to ask for exercise-themed gifts as well, especially if you are looking to keep up with your healthy habits.

Dr. Frates also says it is a good idea to track your habits. That means writing down what you eat and drink and how often you exercise. This log can help you recognize when your habits are starting to slip. And speaking of eating and drinking, she said we should all go in with moderation in mind. Setting limits will allow us decide our own fate on indulging in holiday meals.

Dr. Frates said to change your mentality going into the holiday season. Instead of just filling your belly with food, look to fill your heart with love. The holidays provide a good opportunity to build connections with friends and family.

And finally, if you do go off track during the holiday season, don’t shame yourself; just use it as an opportunity to grow and set a new goal.

If you can, plan in advance for the many instances you will be attending parties, get-togethers and other festive events.  With the right mindset and keeping your goals in mind, you may find that it’s not as hard to stay on track as you thought it would be.

  • Compromise With Yourself: Don’t tell yourself you can’t eat any of the holiday treats, just realize that you can’t eat ALL the holiday treats.  Try setting a goal to stick to 1-2 drinks per event and choose a smaller dessert to savor or share with a friend! Make it a goal to give yourself 20-30 minutes for each course so that your stomach has time to communicate with your brain, giving you a chance to realize you’re full.
  • Bring Your Own: If you know that you’ll be tempted, but still wish to avoid the unhealthy options that are often found at parties, make it a goal to bring a healthy appetizer or dessert to each party you attend. This way you’ll have at least one healthy option available.
  • Focus On Socializing; Not Eating:  If you find that you are too tempted around the buffet table, make it a goal to seek out someone who is sitting elsewhere — out of sight, out of mind will apply and you’ll find yourself enjoying the company and not thinking about the food!
  • Stick To A Schedule:  Try to stick to your regular routine of sleep and exercise. Getting enough sleep has also been associated with less weight gain. Practice good sleep hygiene, like turning off electronics in the bedroom and avoiding snacking at night.
  • Mind Over Matter: Still want more of those Christmas cookies, even after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, or just go out and DO something! Research shows that daydreaming about fun activities or distracting yourself can reduce the intensity of food cravings.
  • Keep Stress At A Minimum: While keeping de-stressed is easier said than done during the holiday season, it’s good to try to put negative thoughts on the back-burner.   Stress can trigger increased eating and cravings, especially for sugary carbohydrates. So try to keep a positive mindset.  Doing yoga, deep breathing, massage therapy and meditation are all ways to nix the stress and allow you to be more present in your daily life.
  • Positivity Is Key:  If you do have a bad day, don’t worry about it! Just get back on track the next day, and don’t punish yourself for indulging. Positive messages you can tell yourself can redefine your relationship with food. Believe it or not, research shows positive expectations are associated with weight loss. So try telling yourself at least one positive affirmation per day. A healthy mind leads to other healthy habits!

Food Tips For Holiday Parties

Food is literally everywhere during the holiday season, but there are many ways to keep your eating on track and make goals towards sticking to your diet plan:

  1. Avoid overeating at parties and social events by eating before the event. Eating something such as a healthy protein bar or some fruit to off-set your appetite will help you to feel like you are starving before the event, and in turn you’ll be less likely to overindulge. Before you hit up the soiree, eat a small, healthy meal before party time. This will help you from unconsciously snacking all night. Something full of fiber or protein are solid options that will keep you fuller, longer.
  2. Be careful of fancy, holiday alcoholic drinks. Alcohol has a lot of hidden calories and many holiday drinks are often full of sugar. Spiked eggnog is usually loaded with cream and sugar, and while other drinks all sound delicious, these provide “empty calories,” offering little to no nutritional value and contributing to excess weight gain. Try having a club soda with a lime twist to help cut calories and remain well hydrated in between beverages.
  3. Potlucks are a fun way to enjoy sampling many different items, however they are also can cause you to make unwise food choices. If you are contributing to a potluck, instead of bringing cakes and cookies, bring a vegetable tray, a fruit tray or a large vegetable salad, or a fruit salad. These options will not leave you feeling any guilt after the party is over.
  4. Using a smaller plate while at a party of buffet is a great tip.  You will fill up your plate faster than a dinner plate, and it’s smaller size will allow you to choose healthier portion sizes of the food that you are being tempted with, thus keeping you from overeating.

Workouts Tips During The Holidays

It can be tempting to drop off from your regular workout plan during the holiday season, but it is important to try and stick to your routine and continue to exercise. Making exercise a daily habit won’t feel like a chore, but rather a built-in part of your day.

With holiday parties, shopping, and work, the holiday season can be very hectic and schedules seem to get thrown off. If you aren’t able to keep your regularly scheduled workout time, it’s ok!  You don’t have to skip your workout, just move your workout earlier or a little bit later than usual. Keep a calendar of all of your obligations for the holiday season, and be sure to include workouts onto your schedule.

A big part of the holidays is often visiting family out of town.  As such, it can be difficult to find time to work out. However there are many ways to continue to incorporate exercise into your holiday traveling:

1. Hotel fitness centers typically have treadmills, some free-weights, and stair climbers for you to use. Take advantage of some down time before visiting family and get in a good workout!
2. Your personal, local gym may offer dual membership in the town that you are visiting, and some national gym chains will allow you to visit other locations as well.
3. Ask your family where they exercise, and if possible if you can tag along with them when they work out! Many gyms offer decreased rates for visitors or guests, and you may be able to get a one-week pass at an affordable rate.
4. Go for a run or walk around the neighborhood and take in your new surroundings.  This way you can get in a workout, and can still get out and sightsee.
5. Exercise does not always have to be basics like running going to the gym; it can be mixed up to include fun family time that is full of activity. Set up a game of flag football or other family-fun activities to get your blood pumping!
6. If you are typically a runner and it is too snowy or cold, research the area and see if there is a local yoga studio for a workout. Step outside your normal exercise comfort zone and you might discover a new activity that you love just as much!

Finally, remember to have a good time during the holidays! Being present is the best present your family and friends could ask for this holiday season. Try to stay focused during the holidays so that you don’t lose track of your end goal.

The focus on the holidays is enjoying the season, so becoming too regimented about food choices can have you giving completely up on your healthy choices in the end. Moderation is the key to having a fun, so choose your foods wisely and ensure that your portions are at a healthy size is the best you can do.  And remember if you do overindulge at one party, it’s ok!  After all, “falling off the wagon” one time is not as bad as overdoing it from now until after New Year’s Day.