How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, at least according to the songs. But sometimes, trying to make healthy choices, in addition to attending holiday gatherings and finding the right gifts, can feel overwhelming. Here are a few tips for keeping your waistline in check during the holiday season.
▪ Stay moving: This doesn’t always have to mean going to the gym. There might be road closures or bad weather, or maybe you’re visiting a relative and don’t have access to your regular facility. Try bundling up and taking children or pets on a snowy hike, or walk around the neighborhood to admire decorations. Another option is at-home YouTube exercise videos. Spending a few moments on exercise will help you de-stress and feel more calm and optimistic. CDC recommendations are 30 minutes, five days per week, but even a small amount of exercise can improve focus, reduce anxiety and blood pressure, and improve sleep.
Some recent studies, such as one published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, have even found that non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or essentially, being active throughout the day as part of daily life, is better at regulating weight than leading a sedentary lifestyle and spending an hour a day at the gym.
▪ Focus on filling up, rather than depriving yourself: Even those with the iron wills may find themselves slipping at the aroma of a freshly baked pie. Instead of relying on willpower alone, focus on filling yourself up with a snack or meal before holiday parties. According to registered dietitian Christy Brissette, of 80 Twenty Nutrition, the best snacks include a mix of fiber, protein and fat. Some ideas are vegetables and hummus, Greek yogurt and berries or apple slices, and almond butter.
▪ Bring healthy options to potlucks: You might be surprised to find that you are not alone in seeking to maintain a healthy weight. Try bringing a healthy appetizer, or make a lighter option of a classic dish. For example, instead of sugary sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, try bringing a root vegetable gratin, or make a mashed sweet potato dish with ghee, maple syrup and pecans.
▪ Accept that you may gain some weight: It may sound counter-intuitive, but simply accept that it is the holidays, enjoy them, and do your best to make healthy choices. Several studies have found that while most people estimate they gain 5-10 pounds during the holidays, in reality, the average holiday weight gain is only one pound.
▪ Practice mindfulness: Taking a few moments to process your emotions will help you avoid reactions such as overeating. Neda Gold, Ph.D., the director of the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program, advises that we also not take others’ behavior personally. “Whenever I encounter a difficult person, I tell myself, ‘this person is suffering, and that’s why they’re acting this way.’ It softens my frustration,” she says. This allows her to respond with more kindness during the stresses of the holidays and avoid potentially destructive (or hurtful) reactions. ■