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Tuesday
Nov242015

Top 10 Holiday Health Strategies

When clients share what events or seasons tend to trip them up, most inevitably mention the holidays.

As fun as the festivities are, the jumbled schedules, bigger to-do lists and constant eating-focused events are a lot to contend with.

Whether it’s the slew of parties, the ever present sweets in the break room or the less than healthy family/social dinners, it can be a challenge to keep up the same eating and workout plan (and maybe even sleep schedule!).

How can you enjoy the holidays - and stay on track health-wise? Check out these top ten strategies for making the most of the holiday season with health goals intact. 

Focus on the Festivities and Not the Food.

Sure, most holiday parties seem to revolve around food (and drinking). Nonetheless, make a point of shifting your mental focus. (Choosing a physical seat away from the dessert table helps, too!)

Recenter yourself on the positive (e.g. the chance to catch up with good neighbors) instead of the negative (e.g. I can’t have x, y or z at the buffet.). When we realign our expectations and choose our focus, we can enjoy the season as fun and abundant. Our attitude determines our enjoyment. 

Make a Plan for Moderation.

Have in mind where/when you’re willing to treat yourself and where/when you’re not. Small portions at a party each weekend might work for you. On the other hand, drinks and holiday treats several times a week in the office and at holiday get-togethers is another matter.

Also, be realistic about what cravings you need to ignore. Most of us have some kind of food that can send us down a spiral. Indulge sensibly, but avoid these personal traps. 

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Bring your own food! When all else fails, at least you know that you’ll have something tasty and healthy to munch on. Some go-to ideas include: vegetable platters, hummus trays, fruit and cheese trays, mini meatballs, cold cut platter, shrimp cocktail, assorted nuts, etc. Come equipped with at least one option that you know you can rely on for healthy fare. (In other words, don’t volunteer to bring the pumpkin pie!)

Plan Your Own Healthy Holiday Events.

Take a break from the buffets, and host something active for your family, your social circle (or just yourself!). Plan a group ice skating or sledding outing, or do an afternoon of cross country/downhill skiing with some healthy eating at your house afterwards.

Even if it’s something as low key as a walk around a local park or lake, it’s a chance to enjoy the season and be active together. Alternatively, host a small dinner or brunch, and share your healthy recipes with loved ones.

Don’t Go Hungry.

Holiday parties are sure to present spreads full of tempting treats that can woo you away from your weight loss goals. One of the best things you can do is eat something before you head out for the event. Have a simple snack or even a full meal 30-60 minutes before leaving the house.

Make sure that snack/meal is packed with protein, healthy fat, and fiber to keep you full and satisfied. This way, you’ll be less motivated by runaway hunger and more likely to make good choices.  

Be Generous.

So many of us associate celebrating the holidays with baking. The smell of cinnamon and butter baking in the oven can seem like one of the most comforting and festive smells. Adopting the Healthy Way of Eating doesn’t mean giving up those baking endeavors.

It does suggest you choose some healthier options and give away the bulk of what you bake. Enjoying a single apple pie muffin, for example, won’t be a major setback. Keeping two dozen around the house, however, can be.

Offer yourself the chance to sample, but get into the spirit of the season by giving the rest to extended family, co-workers, neighbors, local firehouses, or other groups and organizations that accept homemade foods. It allows you to do something kind for someone else, and you won’t feel stuck eating the leftovers because you don’t want them to go to waste.  

Eat Well during the "Off Days."

No events or parties tonight? Perfect. It's the chance to make a good, healthy sit-down dinner, right? Some nights that will work. Others not so much.

When we're tired from several evenings of social occasions, shopping or other holiday preparation, we might not feel like cooking. Give yourself a night off entirely, and plan for a wholesome meal at a healthy restaurant or your club's LifeCafe!

Prioritize Stress Management.  

Although it’s the happiest time of year, all of the extra events, shopping, meal prepping and hosting can stir up some major stress. When stress is high, of course, our likeliness to stick with our healthy behaviors tends to go out the window!

Anticipate the added stress, and plan for it. Be sure to make time for yourself, whether it’s committing to a daily walk, meditation time or even a luxurious massage

Also, be sure to share the holiday duties! I usually host Thanksgiving at my house, but I make sure to delegate some of the food items to other members of my family. They get to feel they helped with the special day, and I have less on my plate!

Be Financially Fit.  

During this time of year, many of us overspend to please our family and friends and end up paying for it after the holidays in the form of high interest credit card bills or just additional stress.

Make a budget this season, and stick to it. Start planning now how much money you are going to spend, and plan to save for it to avoid overspending. Alternatively, try a different approach and “make” gifts for your friends, family or coworkers. Homemade sugar scrubs or spiced nuts are two of my favorite (and very cost effective!) gifts to make and give. 

Be Present.  

It’s so easy to get sucked into the usual vortex of scheduling and responsibilities. When the holidays are over, we can sometimes wish we'd done them differently - whether it be our diets that were derailed or bonding opportunities we missed.

This time of year should be all about relationships and enjoying the season with our close friends and family. Take the opportunity to connect and have those deep conversations. Really enjoy the time that you have with the people around you. It will give you great things to record in your gratitude journal once the season is over. 

Would you like more tips and support as we head into the holiday season? Talk with a weight loss coach today! Thanks for reading.

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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