Happy and Healthy – 8 Tips for Staying on Track Over the Holidays

The holidays can be a nightmare for anyone who is trying to lose weight or is conscious of their health. It is a mine field of high sugar, high calorie snacks, drinks, and meals. We are encouraged to eat often and eat lots! From giant, indulgent dinners to specialty coffees and treats at the mall, it seems like the odds are stacked against you this season.

But wait… You decide what goes in to your body, and you have the power to stay on track. Sure, temptation is out there, but when you follow these tips, you can indulge a little without going overboard.

And why do you want to avoid going overboard? Because you and I both know how you feel when you do… you feel uncomfortably full, your mood and energy tank, you gain weight, and you feel guilty. None of that is enjoyable or sexy!

So, let’s make sure that this holiday is one where you practice healthy habits so you can keep your mood & energy high, so you can indulge sensibly, and so you actually enjoy the holidays this year and feel good about yourself.

Sound good?

OK, here’s how to do it:

1. Make a stash of Healthy Food Options – keep quick, portable snacks on hand so you always have something to pull out of the fridge when you walk in the door starving or to toss in your purse before you head out. Good options include: raw veggies and hummus, Kashi brand (or other low sugar) granola bars, nuts, seeds & dried fruit, low sugar yogurt or cottage cheese containers, and peanut butter and an apple.

2. Fill up on Veggies & Lean Proteins – these will fill you up on fewer calories and will keep your blood sugar steady so you don’t have a mood & energy crash later. A good strategy for home, restaurants, and holiday dinners is to fill your plate with half veggies, a quarter lean protein, and the remaining quarter is for your indulgences.

3. Drink Lots of Water – even slight dehydration can make us feel tired and cranky, along with giving you a headache, and making you feel hungry. Many people eat when they are actually thirsty. Dry indoor air doesn’t help any either. Make sure you’re sipping lots throughout the day. You know you’re drinking enough if you have to pee at least every 2 hours and it is pale yellow.

4. Watch the sugar! – sugar is everywhere these days… from your candy cane latte to the sugar cookies your co-worker brought in, it seems like there is more sugar in the forecast than snow! Sugar gives your body a quick boost of energy but then you crash down, feeling tired, groggy, cranky, and looking for that next sugar fix to pick you back up again. It is a terrible cycle! Minimize these effects by choosing only one or two sugary treats per day, MAX!

5. Some is better than none – with extra commitments around the holidays (parties, shopping, etc), many people end up skipping workouts or taking a break from exercise all together. Now though, is when you need to exercise the most – to manage stress, beat the blues, and counteract all of the excess food you are eating. If you can’t fit your regular routine in (or you don’t have a regular routine), at least do some. Even 10 minutes a day can boost your health and level of fitness. You could even get the full amount of recommended activity in each day by doing 10 minutes in the morning, 10 at lunch, and 10 after work – just make sure this is 10 minutes of uninterrupted activity that is getting your heart beating faster (no, shopping doesn’t count!)

6. Plan, Plan, Plan – make a list and check it twice. Planning ahead sets you up for success, reduces stress, and makes sure you’re not scrambling at the last minute. List out all of your holiday parties and get-togethers, and list all of the people you need to get presents for. Mark these into your calendar and review on a daily and weekly basis. Plan your meals and exercise around your parties, and do the same for your shopping trips. Things go much more smoothly when you have a plan (and you’ll be less tempted to reach for another sugar fix!)

7. Remember the Reason for the Season – for me, the holidays are about connecting with family, friends, and loved ones. When I keep that in mind, it is easier to let go of stress (like trying to find the ‘perfect gift’ or worrying about whether the house is clean enough, or if the dessert looks ‘just right’. When I focus on what is important to me, that is when I truly feel happy and healthy (and less stressed!)

8. Stay Present – focus in on the present moment. Live in the here and now instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Stay in the present by making use of all of your senses – really listen to the other person when you’re having a conversation, notice the colours of the lights and decorations, notice the smells of the trees and baking, and really notice the taste and feel of the food you’re eating. When you stay present and eat mindfully, you’ll eat less food and feel more fulfilled.

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