Thanksgiving has come and gone and we know what that means – the holidays are officially here!
So, we are again at the beginning of another holiday season. I am always surprised how quickly it comes around every year. You too?
What I want for myself, and I suspect you might also want, is how to enjoy the season while avoiding getting too stressed out and staying as much as possible on my health regime during this busy, sometimes stressful time full of festivities, temptations and indulgences.
In other words, I want to avoid gaining weight and I want to have an enjoyable holiday season. (Is that too much to ask?)
If you are of like mind, here are some great tips that can make it easier for you to focus, stay calm, choose healthy options during the holidays and have fun.
20 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season
1. Avoid thinking of the season as a month of tempting events. It may seem that way but it’s not true. There are realistically only a few special events scheduled during the holidays and all of those need not be opportunities for overindulging or losing control. There will be many “normal” days included in the season. Remember that the holidays are not necessarily ALL about overindulging in food and alcohol. If you find yourself thinking so, check out the tip below:
2. Think about what it is that you truly want from the holidays. Many of us have read the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo where she encourages readers to declutter their closets and homes, only keeping what “sparks joy.” The same approach can be taken when approaching the holiday season. Look at a calendar of December and schedule events and activities that spark joy and have meaning for you.
- Ask yourself from January’s perspective, what would you like to say about the month of December you just experienced. What did you enjoy? What enhanced the month for you? What had meaning? What you come up with may have you making some changes, letting go of some activities that have lost their meaning and adding some new ones that will give you more joy. Or perhaps you will want to keep them the same.
- Visualize how you want to look and feel while at special events as well as when the season is over and plan meals, snacks, exercise and rest accordingly.
- Plan a few breaks for yourself during the month. It’s a great time to get a massage, visit with an old friend or two, take a nap by the fire, read that great book you’ve been meaning to read or to get away for a few days. We don’t have to go into a frenzy–honest. Reclaim the holidays so that they work for you.
- Instead of overindulging in goodies and drinks, we can indulge in healthy ways. For some ideas on healthy indulgences, check out this list on my What Works Weight Loss Web site.
3. Keep moving – whether that be continuing your regular exercise routine, dancing at an event or adding a seasonal exercise like ice skating or x-country skiing. Schedule the dates and times you will exercise on your calendar and get yourself to the gym, the yoga studio, the trail or wherever it is that you work out. Plan some walks with holiday visitors, or plan to ski, snow-shoe, hike, dance or ice skate. What about when it is raining and you don’t want to get soaked?
Check with your local indoor mall to see if they open early for morning walkers. Or walk in a covered outdoor shopping lot parking lot before the cars begin to arrive. Or, if it’s not pouring, get wet – it’s only water. Exercise DVDs can be another great idea for days when you don’t want to venture outside. Exercise not only burns up calories, it helps us deal with stress. As we all know, the holidays can be stressful!
4. Know which foods are packed with the most calories. Surprise! Did you know that gravy can have 800 calories/cup? Or that a handful of mixed nuts (1/2 cup) can cost you over 400 calories? What about 1/2 cup of eggnog? (170 calories and 10 grams of fat for 1/2 cup!) By knowing the caloric content of the seasonal foods, you can spend and budget your calories on foods that have the most value to you.
5. Get enough sleep. Many of us eat more when we are tired, especially in the evenings. We often try to pack in even more than we do normally during the holidays and getting enough sleep can be difficult. Make a list of what is essential, what can be let go and what you can ask or pay someone else to do. Delegate when possible. Be reasonable in what you can realistically accomplish.
Make the word “ease” part of your vocabulary this time of year. I often tell my weight management clients (and anyone else who will listen) that the picture-perfect Victorian-type Christmas holidays we work so hard for were actually provided by a household of servants. The mistress of the house had lots of paid help! Now, it is usually just us who is trying to decorate, shop, cook and entertain, which can leave us exhausted (and resentful) if we aren’t careful.
6. Make sure that you eating enough protein. Eating enough protein really can help you feel more full and therefore, less open to temptation. Many of my clients and I eat protein-based food before going to an event where we are not sure that the food offered will support the healthy choices we want to make.
7. Watch your alcohol intake. Not only is alcohol full of calories, but by drinking too much, your resolve to eat more nutritiously can be lost. 4 ounces of red wine will cost you 100 calories. (8 ounces will cost you 200!) Again, choose and budget what you truly want to enjoy. Check out my blog on alcohol calories if you dare!
8. Preplan, preplan, preplan. How do you plan for any kind of successful endeavor in your life? You preplan.
- Preplan what kind of snack or meal you will have when spending hours shopping. Take food with you or know where you can get something healthy.
- If eating dinner out with family and friends, being specific about what you will eat is important. For example, will you have an appetizer? Have you checked out the menu ahead of time online so that you know what to order? Will you eat dessert? If so, how large a piece?
- If there is something you MUST have that you can’t get any other time of the year, have a small bite, savor it and understand that it will be available next year and the year after that.
- If you are asked to bring a dish to an event, make sure that it is a healthy choice so that you will have something to eat in case the rest of the dishes prove to be not so healthy.
9. Practice saying “no thank you” when you are offered goodies or other high-caloric foods or drinks that you don’t want to eat or drink. Think of something clever to say to those who insist you must eat what they spent days preparing or bought special for the occasion.
10. If you are planning an event, take that opportunity to serve lower-calorie, high-flavor foods to your guests. They do exist! Your guests will appreciate it. It is also a good idea to have a high-protein snack before you go to an event so that you do not arrive hungry and possibly sabotage your chances of making good food selections. A hard boiled egg, tuna mixed with a little Dijon mustard wrapped in lettuce, Greek yogurt with a little fruit, meat jerky, a handful of almonds or some vegetables and hummus are good higher-protein snack ideas.
11. Keep food records. This would be a great time for you to begin to use an online tracking tool if you are not already using it. Or, keep them on paper. Food records help us to problem-solve and to preplan as well as to see what is working for us. (Just like a money budget.) They can also keep us honest and on track. Those of us who have been keeping food records consistently know how important they are to our success in losing weight and keeping it off.
If you are having a hard time getting into the habit, or go into “Failure Syndrome” by the second day, begin to keep them for the parts of the day when you are successful. When you have had some success, begin to record more of your day. Subtotal after each meal to see how many calories you have left for the day. “Bank” calories by under eating some days prior to an event where you plan to eat some higher-calorie foods.
12. Breathe! If you meditate, this would be a great time to continue. If you don’t, this could be a great time to begin. Or, take a few deep breaths several times a day. Give yourself a cue that you see often (a dot on your watch, a new bracelet, a reminder on your phone or computer background or the dashboard in your car) to help you remember to give your body and mind a mini-break by taking a few deep breaths several times a day. You will notice a difference. Here is a quiz and good information on keeping your balance through the holidays.
13. Practice being grateful. There are so many awesome things that just are and also that happen everyday. Oprah spread the word and benefits of keeping a daily gratitude journal several years ago. She recommended writing down at least 6 things that you are grateful for each evening. Those of us that do keep one report a deepened awareness of and gratefulness for the things, situations and people in our lives that are sometimes easy to overlook otherwise.
14. Gifts: Instead of baking tempting goodies to give as gifts (and nibbling while making them), give plants, make mustard or chutney, soap, candles, etc. If you are the receiver of a high-caloric gift, give it to someone you know will enjoy it, and by all means, get it out of your environment. Give exercise wear or gadgets such as walking or hiking socks, a sun visor, a pedometer, a gym membership, walking tapes, exercise DVDs etc. as gifts. You could even put them on your Santa list. Here is a Healthy Holiday Gift List I put together on my WhatWorksWeightLoss.com site if you need some ideas.
15. Remind yourself of your successes. Celebrate the progress you have made with becoming healthier. Have you begun to exercise regularly? Have you lost inches? Have you lost pounds? Have you begun to eat more healthfully? Are you keeping food records? Are you maintaining a weight loss? Are you taking more deep breaths? Whatever your successes, give yourself credit! Success builds success. The more successful behaviors in which we engage, the closer to our goals we will be.
16. Dress your best throughout the season. It will remind you of how well you have done so far and will help to keep you focused on your goals when tempted.
17. Weigh in daily or not? A study recently reported that people who weighed themselves daily lost more weight over a certain period of time than those who didn’t. Weighing daily can be a two-sided coin though: If you find that weighing daily motivates you to be more aware of what you are eating and how much you are exercising, it can be a good practice. However, if you find that you become discouraged when the scale goes up due to excess salt, hormonal influences, muscles holding water due to a heavy workout, etc. etc., you might want to forego this practice and continue to weigh weekly.
18. Make sure that you are getting lots of liquids and fiber-filled veggies to keep yourself feeling full. Get in the habit of drinking decaf coffee, flavored tea, water, etc., when you have the urge for a snack or have them instead of dessert.
19. Remember to reward yourself for doing well in particularly difficult situations. After you have followed through with your plans, reward yourself immediately after the event for a job well done (but not with food!)
20. Get support. Some employee wellness programs have contests or check-ins to encourage employees to maintain their weight during the holidays, along with prizes. Buddy up with a friend to support each others’ healthy habits throughout the holidays. Let family and friends know that you are making an effort to make healthy choices and that you would like their support. Be accountable to a weight management/wellness coach who would be happy to help you realize your commitment to welcome 2017 looking and feeling your best.
I know that the title is 20 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season but I HAD to add two more!
21. Make a vision board of how healthy you want to look and feel and refer to it often. You might even want to take a picture of it and post it as the background on your phone and/or computer to remind you of your goals.
22. Do something nice for someone or something. ‘Tis the season of giving. Numerous studies have consistently shown that giving makes people feel good. There are always opportunities to give but many of us become more aware of them during the holidays season. Whether it’s volunteering, donating cash, or buying something special for someone, selfless action can help lessen the risk and symptoms of depression and day-to-day stress. A good way to ward off depression during the holidays, if that is something you experience, is to find a way to give of yourself that is enjoyable.
Do you have tips that work well for you? If so, please email them to me and I will share them.