Move more and eat less to stay healthy during the holidays.
Welcome to the holiday season! Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season when we spend quality time with family and friends doing what we all do best – eating, of course. No office party or family get together is complete without lots of food and drink. Although there’s much merriment during the festivities, there’s often “eater’s remorse” and the dreaded “food coma” afterward.
In a previous article we outlined some general strategies for weight loss. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, you probably aren’t trying to gain weight either. Of course, being healthy is more than just your weight. The pressures of a busy social calendar, competing holiday events, conflict with family, and trying to orchestrate a perfect holiday create stress that can take it’s toll on your health as well. Let’s explore some ways to stay healthy during the holidays.
Move More to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
During the holidays most people spend a lot of time sitting – on long car rides to visit family, at the dinner table, playing family games, in the living room catching up with family, and so forth. Have you ever sat in one place for a long time and felt tired? Our bodies were designed for movement, not sitting still. You’ll feel much better if you can stretch those legs and move around. Here are some suggestions on how to move more depending upon your fitness level.
- Take a walk (or run) – before dinner, after dinner, around the mall, around your neighborhood, with family, or all by yourself. Early in the day is a great time to clear your head and you’re less likely to be interrupted. Later in the day will help you burn off calories.
- Go to the gym / take a fitness class – this is a great way to get out of the house and enjoy some “me time”. During the holiday season, most gyms have special holiday classes designed to move you around and burn off calories (and stress).
- Sign up for a holiday fitness event – from Santa jogs to holiday light tours, the local calendar is full of fun holiday-themed fitness activities. Our whole family is heading to Helen, GA for a holiday themed weekend of running this season. Look soon for our race report.
- Take short fitness breaks – if you don’t have large quantities of free time, but you can fit in 15 minutes here and there, consider short fitness breaks at home. You can stretch, do yoga, walk around the block, up and down stairs, or anything just to work up a little heat in your body. Do this several times a day for a fitness refresher.
- Help with the chores – whether it’s yard work, setting up the dinner table, hauling out the trash, washing dishes, or serving food go out of your way to lend a helping hand. Doing this will help you move and be productive!
- Go exploring – it could be a hike in the mountains looking for snow, a walk in a nature park, or a run in a new place, it’s fun to go exploring. The holiday season usually affords the working person extra time to go visit places they normally wouldn’t otherwise see. If you’re traveling for the holidays, plan ahead to go run a new route.
- Make fitness a priority – the most important tip is to make YOUR health and fitness a priority. You’re entitled to at least 30 minutes a day for “me time”. Not only will it make you feel better, but you’ll probably be more refreshed and pleasant to be around for others.
Eat Less to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
If you’re like me, then you’re already visualizing the culinary temptations that await you this holiday season. There’s so much good food during the holidays and most of us don’t want to miss out. If we don’t use some restraint, there’s the dreaded “food coma” and the feeling of being stuffed. Although we don’t want to give you carte blanche to indulge, do know that the full feeling doesn’t mean you’ll actually explode. A pound of body fat is about 3,500 calories. You might feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds, but in actuality you might gain a pound or two over the holidays. What if we just resolved not to gain any weight? Here are some tips on how to eat less to stay healthy.
- Eat half – visualize your plate full of food and then purposely take and eat only half of that. A half full Thanksgiving plate is more like a regular serving of food – you won’t be missing out on anything.
- Be last in line – if you’re in a serving line, then allow others to go first. The family and friends ahead of you will demolish the food and there will be fewer choices by the time you go through the line.
- Don’t get seconds – I know you love the green bean casserole and turkey. Resolve ahead of time to only get one plate of food, no matter how delicious it is.
- Be mindful of portions – take sampler portions if you want to try a bunch of different dishes.
- Avoid junk calories – save your calories for those special holiday dishes you rarely get to enjoy. Stay away from breads, pastas, and other carbohydrates that fill you up and, honestly, you can get any time of the year.
- Skip the appetizers – you’re hungry and appetizers magically appear before dinner. It’s easy to fill up before the main meal, so don’t.
- Drink water – water has zero calories.
- Eat slower – it’s not uncommon to shovel in the food during the holidays. I know I’ve been guilty of that too. Slow down, take time to enjoy your food.
- Taste the desserts – it’s usually counter-productive to totally stay away from desserts. I know some friends who do that, but frankly I think they do it mostly for show. Your diet will not fall apart if you have dessert. I’m going to have desserts this holiday season and you should too. What if we both agree ahead of time to simply “taste” the desserts and not make a meal out of them. If only one dessert is available, then share it with a loved one (see tip #1 above). If there’s a buffet of desserts, then take a teaspoon of each. In that way you can taste the desserts without overindulging.
The holidays can be a very stressful time if you enter the season dreading awkward family encounters, endless parties and socials, and the never-ending to do list. It’s supposed to be a happy time, but if we’re not careful the holidays can be the opposite of that. We have two more tips to help you stay healthy through the holiday season.
- Breathe and Be Thankful – that’s right, it may seem to be the opposite of the suggestion to “move”, but it’s not. Take the time to breathe and be mindful of your loved ones. Be thankful of them and the blessings in your life. Traditionally, that’s part of the holiday season but for some reason it gets lost in the shuffle of everything else. Whether you sit still or move, just breathe.
- Involve Your Family – let your family, particularly your spouse/partner, know ahead of time that you intend to make this a fun, but healthy holiday. Invite them to join you in holiday-themed fitness events. Let them know you plan to use restraint at the dinner table and why you think that’s important. Don’t force the issue, but set a good example and stick to it – for your sake and their’s.
From our family to yours, we wish you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season. Thank you for encouraging us to start this blog and we look forward to the journeys ahead together with you, our dear readers.
Joe & Mary Catherine Domaleski