Tips to Stick with Your Healthy Lifestyle Through the Holidays
This time of year, sometimes it seems like you are just bombarded with food and goodies everywhere you go. There are sweets at work, holiday parties with lots of food, desserts and drinks – and who doesn’t love baking cookies for the holidays. All the exposure to soo much food can leave your willpower a bit overworked – and leave you feeling like those healthy behaviors you were practicing are out the window.
First of all, we have to remember that leading a healthier lifestyle is a journey, not a race. Part of your holiday memories may involve food – you certainly don’t have to give that all up. Having a less than healthy day or week or even a few less than stellar weeks doesn’t mean it’s over. I often tell my clients “you cannot fall off the wagon of life, this is your life – get back up, dust yourself off and keep going”. One of the things about making healthy living truly a lifestyle is that we have to learn how to handle things like holidays, parties, stress, and other bumps in the road. You have to do the best you can. Here are some tips to help you “do the best you can”.
1. Make Exercise FUN – find ways to still move – even if it’s not the formal 30 minutes on the elliptical you are used to. Sometimes exercise could be going snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, building a snowman, or having a dance party.
2. Keep Moving – If you have a few extra minutes here and there – use it to move. Park further away in the parking lot when you go to a store, do an extra loop around the stores when you are buying (or returning) christmas presents or buying groceries – little things will add up. If you are able to maintain your usual exercise regimen as well – fantastic!
3. Don’t forget the water– Maintaining hydration helps avoid cravings, and mistaken signals of hunger (which might actually be thirst). Strive for at least 8 – 8oz glasses of water per day (better yet, go for 10).
4. Make sure to get in your fruits and veggies – Assuring that you are eating enough of these will mean that you are filling up fiber (as well as all those vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals). Fiber helps make us feel full (usually with a lot less calories than other foods)– so keep filling ½ your plate with veggies – and have a couple pieces of fruit (sometimes they can help cut a sweet craving and help avoid another cookie). Make it easy, keep a veggie platter around – use steamer bags, keep oranges and apples in the fridge – things that don’t take a lot of prep are more likely to be used!
5. Eat regularly throughout the day – Stay on schedule (or start a new one if you are not good about this) with eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Assure a protein source at each meal – along with a fruit/vegetable or both to help keep you filled. Getting overly hungry (ie. skipping meals) can set you up to really over eat when you get to that holiday meal – and really diminish your will power to just have 1 cookie instead of 10.
6. Make sure to get enough sleep – with all the stress of the holidays – you may find yourself burning the midnight oil to get things done. Lack of sleep can cause increased cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, lower your willpower, and maybe feel too wiped out to get in exercise. When we don’t sleep enough we also don’t re-set our brain chemicals at night that control our hunger and fullness signals (so hunger signals stay on – making us feel hungry even when we have had enough – and fullness signals take longer to kick in). Despite all that you have to do, assuring you get in 7 hours of sleep a night is important to your health – and you will be more alert and productive when you are awake!
7. Reduce Stress – When things are crazy with holiday celebrations, santa visits, shopping, wrapping, decorating, family visiting, holiday traditions – you may find your stress levels go up. This can wreak havoc on your body and healthy behaviors. Try to practice stress reduction methods: listen to relaxing music; take a bath; try a guided meditation app like Headspace; take a yoga class (or do a youtube yoga video at home); exercise; or sit in a quiet, dimly lit room and enjoy the peace- whatever works for you! Sometimes just doing things like planning meals ahead can reduce weekly stressors!
8. Practice self-compassion – okay, you had one too many desserts, portions were too big, or you overindulged on the spiked egg nog – you are human, and enjoying the moment – don’t beat yourself up over this. Get back to those healthy behaviors now (and listen to your body)– make healthy choices at the next meal, and move your body. Think about how you want your body to feel – and what will help you get there.
9. Most importantly – Enjoy the Season! The holidays are a time to be with friends and family – focus on that rather than food.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season!
Tracey Soulia MS, RD, CDN, CDE
Registered Dietitian/Certified Diabetes Educator
My Healthy Bites Nutrition Services, PLLC.