Just as we are getting over the candy corns, and mini Milky Ways, it’s time to start thinking about turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. And then there is December’s fanfare! Let’s face it, food and the holidays go hand in hand; it’s one of the things that make this time of year special. But, while family and community togetherness is good for your health, weeks of overindulgence in your grandmother’s fudge is not.
If you find the holiday season to be a constant battle between your iron will and culinary temptation, consider some of these suggestions for guilt-free festivities.
Don’t wait until January! Increasing your physical activity now will help you prevent those extra pounds from adding up in the first place, and give you a head start on your New Year’s Resolution. Start with a moderate morning walk or an early evening stroll. Have family in town? Why not take a hike? It’s a great way to show them the beauty of our area and spend some quality time together while burning off those extra calories.
Moderation and Conscious Choices
It would almost be a sin not to enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey or your Christmas eggnog, just remember the key is moderation. Washing down an entire pie with a quart of eggnog is neither healthful nor festive. It’s OK to eat these foods, just pace yourself. If you have a special party over the weekend, stay on track the rest of the week with healthful breakfasts, balanced lunches and light dinners. Pack your meals with high-fiber, high-protein, low calorie foods and start each day with a morning workout, and you will be ready for a little indulgence at week’s end.
And before you walk into the party and become overwhelmed at the plethora of food, pay attention to how you feel. Are you really hungry, or just feeling seduced by the sights and smells around you? It’s fine to give in to your cravings a little, but don’t feel obligated to have a serving from each of the 25 dishes in front of you, just because they are there.
Food and Emotion
Many people overeat during the holidays to feed a lonely heart. Although this should be a time of joy, for many it brings stress and frustration. Set aside some time to spend with your closest friends. Talking to those who care about you will ultimately be more cathartic than inhaling a can of Almond Roca. Time alone can be OK, too, just remember to feel your soul instead of your stomach. Take a bath or read a good book to give yourself a little pampering.
The Power of Sleep
It is easy to put sleep on the back burner during the holidays, what with all of the parties, planning, shopping and excitement, but quality sleep is essential for good health. Studies show that individuals who are sleep deprived are more likely to overeat. Even a twenty minute nap during the day can make a huge difference in your energy level – so make the time if you are feeling even the least bit drowsy.
The holidays should be a time of high energy and cherished moments. Don’t let the season be an excuse to add inches to your waistline. If you do find your jeans a little tighter, give yourself a break. Adding a few minutes to your daily walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and forgoing that caramel mocha for the next few weeks will get you back on track. With a little effort and some conscious choices, you can have your holiday pie and eat it too.
Julian J. Varela holds a M.S. degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. Julian also holds a M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy and is a registered MFT intern with the Center for Human Understanding and Growth.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org