It’s holiday time! How does that make you feel? Happy and excited? Or stressed and bloated? Holidays can be a challenging time, especially if you are struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Temptations abound. The pressure to meet holiday expectations — our own and those of other people — is on. Then there are all of those time-honored traditions we feel compelled to follow. No wonder so many people feel relieved when it is all over.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can take back your holidays and make them enjoyable again — and you can do it without sabotaging your health. Here are 7 healthy holiday tips:
Take small portions
Holiday buffets are killers when you’re watching your diet. You want to try everything. The trick to doing it successfully is to take a small spoonful of each food. That way you get the pleasure of sampling without overloading your plate, or your body.
Savor your food
With so much food available, it’s easy to overeat, or to be tempted to eat something we know we’ll regret later. The antidote? Slow down and enjoy each bite. Appreciate the deliciousness of the food that’s in your mouth. Chew slowly, and make it last as long as you can. You’ll be amazed at how much less you need to feel satisfied. And, you may even find that by focusing on enjoying what you have, you don’t miss those off-limits treats.
Eat the healthy stuff first
If a salad is available, load your plate with that first. Then eat your veggies and a healthy protein. After that, allow yourself small portions of the other stuff. Chances are you’ll end up eating less and your total meal will be much healthier.
Keep your distance
If you’re at a party, place yourself out of reach of that bowl of chips or platter of cookies. Instead, sip a healthy drink, such as peppermint tea or mineral water with a twist of lime. You’ll enjoy the conversation just as much and you’ll avoid the post-party guilt.
Take an after-dinner walk
After indulging in a heavy holiday meal, it’s tempting to just sit — most likely within easy reach of even more holiday treats. Instead, why not suggest a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to a nearby park or nature area? Studies show that light exercise after eating is good for your heart, and the fresh air will make everyone feel refreshed.
Throughout the holiday season, take a stretch break every hour or two. Gentle stretching helps reduce stress and increase circulation, and puts a positive spin on your day.
Smiling is great for lubricating social relations. If you are on an alternative diet, one of the hardest things about the holidays can be informing friends and relatives that you can’t eat their special holiday fare. A genuine smile can help smooth the experience as you express your regrets. The act of smiling releases endorphins — the natural “happy juice” of the body. If you find yourself succumbing to holiday stress mode, remember to smile. It really helps.
Above all, don’t forget to embrace the spirit of the holidays. They’re about celebration, right? Make the decision to have fun and enjoy yourself. That may mean paring and simplifying. Give yourself permission to skip any tradition you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t support your lifestyle goals. Focusing on just a few favorite holiday activities and ditching the ones you find onerous has a way of bringing back the magic. Furthermore, when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, you’ll feel less inclined to overeat or indulge in foods that make you feel bad. Try these healthy holiday tips this season – and see if you end up enjoying your best holiday ever!
Bonnie went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at Columbia University and is a Certified Health Counselor. She now works at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers where she focuses on oral health, weight loss, and pain management.
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