The last two months of the year tend to be full of holiday parties, family gatherings, cozy evenings indoors and an abundance of tasty treats. All this can greatly derail the health strides we’ve made throughout the year. While we all know how challenging it is to maintain our healthy habits during the holiday season, with a little determination, planning, and commitment, we can survive the holidays and start the New Year off right.
How to Stay on Track
Select your beverages wisely: Between the bubbly, the eggnog, the gingerbread lattes and the peppermint flavored mochas, a person can easily consume up to a third of their recommended caloric intake with just one drink! Instead, opt for fruit-infused sparkling water, cinnamon or fresh peppermint tea, a wine seltzer (half wine, half seltzer water, half the calories), and if you really want to satisfy the craving, a smaller and lighter version of your favorite holiday drink!
Practice portion control and be selective! You don’t have to stay away from all holiday foods! Treat yourself to one serving of your favorite dish and pair with fresh or steamed fruits and vegetables.
If you’re attending a party or a potluck, take a healthy dish. This guarantees that you’ll have access to at least one nutritious option.
Beware of those lunch room snacks! Yes…those cookies, cakes, and breads that magically appear by the coffee pot. Partake in the conversation with your colleagues and bring along your own healthy snack.
Satisfy a craving with a bite-size treat. You don’t need a full serving. Plus, if you don’t love it, don’t eat it.
Tips to Stay in Shape Over the Holidays
Lack of exercise and unhealthy eating lead to weight gain. They also increase our risk of disease and make it more difficult to manage chronic illness.
- Get your annual flu vaccine. Holiday stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits – all these can weaken our immune system and increase our risk of illness. When we receive our annual flu shot, we greatly lower our risk of catching the flu, developing flu-related complications and having to take time off due to illness.
- Partner-up or even better, group-up! When you make a commitment with another person, you’re more likely to honor it. After all, no one likes a flake! A fitness partner can help motivate you, challenge you, pace you, and best of all, make it fun!
- Start your day with a morning work-out! Exercise is not only crucial for weight control, but it can also help us cope with holiday stress. One of the benefits of the recent time change is the fact that it gets lighter earlier. Become a morning person! Not only will you feel more energetic and accomplished throughout the day, but it also frees up your evening.
- On those rainy days, try an indoor workout! Yoga, Tai Chi, a 30-minute dance session, a stairs workout, heck, even musical chairs with the kids! Try anything that gets you moving!
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast. People who eat breakfast end up eating fewer calories throughout the day. Make sure you include a complex carb like oatmeal, whole grain bread or quinoa. Add some berries to your morning oatmeal for a delicious meal.
- Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals leads to hunger-eating which results in overeating. Consume healthy snacks throughout the day. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and non-fat yogurt are all great choices.
- Keep your body well hydrated. Regardless of the temperature outside, our body needs enough fluid to function properly. Our body can confuse thirst for hunger, and this can result in overeating.
- Take it easy! Holiday stress can make you feel overwhelmed. Only take on what you can handle. Ask for help and realize that it’s ok to say no.
- Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep. When we’re lacking sleep, our appetite is one of the first things to become skewed, thus resulting in weight gain. That’s because you’re more likely to consume extra calories from high fat and high sugar foods to cover the energy cost of staying awake. Lack of sleep impacts our hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin) hormones. It also causes a spike in our cortisol levels, signaling our body to conserve energy to fuel our waking hours.
Content contributed by Dr. Sean Hashmi, an Obesity Medicine Specialist and the Adult Weight Management Lead for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.