Seven Tips for Making Your Way Through Christmas
Thanksgiving has passed, and we are deep into the weeds of the holiday season. Chanukah, Christmas, and New Years are with us. The holidays seep into every aspect of our lives. Music in the car, decorations in our homes, offices, stores, smells of pine and pastries surround our space. There is no escaping the holiday atmosphere. To obtain or maintain a healthy lifestyle seems a fairy tale as good as the Grinch.
Looking at the start of this season, how has it gone? Your introspection on how you handle(d) Halloween and Thanksgiving may give some indication of how you will fare with the rest of the season, or better, how you should prepare to handle what might seem inevitable.
First, consider how you tolerate holiday hassles. Often those who are best at keeping a good routine and fairly strict discipline act very differently in times of stress. During the holidays, stress can come at you from several different directions. Days off or even weekend days are not necessarily relaxing. Your stress load at work may increase as you try to get more done in less time. (No good day off goes unpunished.) At home, life stress is increased by adding chores, obligations and other holiday tasks. Even when preparing for a fabulous party that you are looking forward to, you might take much more on your plate to make that party happen. Let’s not forget that many of the activities are not that fabulous. Many dread the holiday parties, obligations and are forced into visits with family and spend time with acquaintances that are not their first choice for their social life. Tighter deadlines, extra work at home and less than optimal social situations combine to build the stress for many.
Aside from dealing with the stress itself, for many stress increases the likelihood that we’ll head for the soothing fatty and sugary foods, self medicating our stressors with food. Stress can also steal some of the motivation and energy we usually reserve for a work out.
Consider your activity pattern. Often activity is the first thing cut during the busy holidays, but the tendency to take a rest from activity can have far reaching repercussions. The business of cooking and entertaining can seem like a worthy distraction from your mundane routine. It seems necessary and even understandable that activity just doesn’t fit in. (You can convince yourself, “I can or even should skip that _____ (walk, the gym, spin class) today or even this week.” But breaks in your existing activity routine can snowball during the holidays. As the sun is up later and down earlier, your motivation might wane. A break for a day becomes a break for several days or even more. One drop from your routine can make further lapses easier to tolerate.
Of course the menu of foods available in front of you is also now changed. Your usual plan may not have taken into account the many parties and festivities, cookie swaps and generous co-workers, all treating you to just a little indulgence. Parties are often laden with alcohol, eggnog and other forms of liquid treats. But just a little, builds to a season of weeks of indulgence in foods that we might not even consider the rest of the year. While stress drives many to the holiday cookies and treats easily, others are lured in by the constant borage of yummy smells, and the constant visual of cups of eggnog, plates of delicious foods, and delectable candies. It’s hard to resist.
And should you resist? Here is the $64,000 question. Is it necessary to be a health purist through the holidays to make it through without an extra five pounds? I think not. To live life and celebrate the holidays by denying yourself all aspects of the tasty treats is a recipe for being miserable or worse, throwing in the towel and indulging past the point of good sense.
So here are my recommendations for handling the season:
1) Take stock of your stressors, and plan for the hot buttons that will throw you off.
2) Keep up your exercise routine, regardless. You need it to counterbalance any food excesses and to keep your stressors in check.
3) Indulge your taste buds a little. Have a taste of your favorites, but don’t overdo it. One or two cookie or a reasonable piece of your favorite dessert is worth the calorie price.
4) Find the salad and vegetables (bring them if you’re contributing), and make sure that you have a hefty portion of the good stuff before you start on the treats.
5) Don’t over-indulge on the meals. Really tasty meals can be enjoyed without piling your plate high. Be very aware of your portion sizes, and be reasonable.
6) Beware of the beverages. Keep those in check as much as you would the solid forms of indulgence.
7) Don’t forget the water! Stay hydrated and avoid excesses with water, especially in the cold, dry winter.
Don’t forget to have fun! Have a fabulous holiday season!