It’s that time of year again. The time when the best intentions to eat nutritious foods, stay physically active and keep blood sugars in a healthy range take a backseat to holiday festivities.
Yep, backseat! Buh bye well-intended eating and exercise plans… but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you find yourself in this predicament, here are 5 simple strategies to set you up for a successful and healthy holiday season:
1. Make a Plan
We’ve all heard the adage,” Failing to plan is planning to fail”, and those words don’t ring truer than during the final months of the year. Since time is limited, it’s important to think and plan to prevent less than optimal food choices. The biggest mistake made is to sway from normal eating patterns in anticipation of upcoming social eating events. Although the intention is to “save up” calories, this strategy backfires more times than not as the body hasn’t eaten enough which leads to later over consumption. Maintain normal eating times and don’t skip meals. Think about having a snack about an hour before an event to make sure the stomach is not empty. Snacks should contain a combination of fiber and protein (such as a whole piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts) to keep hunger at bay.
2. Prioritize Food Choices
The holidays can be filled with many extra treats and calories. Whether it’s Mom’s special stuffing or a plate of freshly baked sugar cookies, it’s important to not deny yourself of these traditions. True healthy eating involves pinpointing what you enjoy, savoring good flavors and leaving behind other options. Try surveying a buffet table of all food items and prioritize (or mentally rank) your top 3-4 choices before filling your plate. Remind yourself of the motto, “Eat Only the Best” and you will be able to leave the rest!
3. Slow Down
Take time to eat foods. That sounds silly, but it takes roughly twenty minutes for the brain and stomach to talk to each other to establish fullness. If you slow your rate of eating, you might find a smaller portion goes a lot farther. If you have a hard time determining when you are full, try using a numerical continuum ranging from 1 (very hungry) to 10 (overly full) to regulate food intake. The goal is to always stay in the middle (5 or 6) of the hunger scale. In addition, the more calories we take in through liquid means (think coffee drinks, fruit smoothies or alcoholic beverages), the less satisfied our bodies will be. The act of chewing foods works favorably on promoting physical as well as psychological fullness.
4. Find your Zen
Focusing on making good food choices is very important during these busy times, but don’t discount the benefits of physical activity. Regular, consistent exercise produces a positive immune response in the body to help fend off illness and elevate mood (say goodbye to holiday stress). Carve out time daily, even if it is only for a few minutes, to take a walk around the block to clear the mind and rejuvenate the body. You will find your productivity will improve in all aspects of your day.
5. Catch some ZZZZs
Give yourself permission to enjoy some well-deserved rest time. Ideally, the body functions best with at least 6 hours of nightly sleep. If chronically sleep deprived, internal hormonal balances and energy (calorie) use can be compromised. To help rectify sleep deficiency, gradually work up to adding another hour of sleep nightly by heading to bed just 5 minutes earlier than the previous night for 2 weeks straight.
Take time to care for YOU during the holidays so you can enjoy the true meaning of the season.