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Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy This Holiday Season

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The holiday season officially starts next week.  If you are like most people your social calendar is already bursting with parties, gift exchanges and volunteering commitments not to mention shopping, wrapping, cooking and decorating.  All of these responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious as well as interrupt your daily routine sending your health and holiday sprit into a tailspin.   However, with some preparation and focus you can stay on track and enjoy the season.

Here are a few tips to keep you happy and healthy through this holiday season:

1- Eat 4 to 6 small meals during the day rather than saving up for that one big holiday party meal.

Eating smaller more frequent meals stimulates your metabolism helping you burn more calories all through your day.  In addition, eating throughout the day keeps blood sugar levels stable and helps prevent you from binging later in the day because your body will not “think” it is starving.

2- Eat before leaving for a holiday get together

You are less likely to overindulge on high calorie foods at the party if you are already full so before leaving home have a snack made up of broth-based low sodium soups, vegetables, fruit or even some lean protein.  

3- Plan your workout just before a big meal or holiday party

Enjoying some of those holiday delicacies won’t seem as bad if you have just finished a tough workout.  In fact, you will need the carbohydrates to help with recovery especially if your session was within 1-2 hours of the get together.  Just remember protein from that turkey, salmon or prime rib is important for recovery as well but skip the fat laden sauces and gravies.  Plus, your metabolism is more efficient after an exercise session so your body is better at burn the calories from your party indulgences.    Also, sticking with your workout routine will help you alleviate some of the stress associated with the holiday season.

4- Be aware of liquid calories

It is very easy to forget that what we drink can significantly increase our caloric intake.  Alcohol, mixers, and even after dinner coffee drinks can add hundreds of calories to our daily intake without our realizing it.

Here are a few examples:

  • 12oz Light Beer – 100 calories
  • 4oz Glass Red Wine   – 85 calories
  • 8.5oz Vodka and Tonic – 147-170 calories (depending on type of vodka)
  • 1oz Scotch (single malt) – 69 calories
  • 1.3oz. Bailey’s with coffee – 120 calories

As you can see 2 or 3 drinks can really add up especially over the course of a few parties.  If you must have more than 1 drink opt for lower calorie options or choose mixers with less calories such as diet tonic water or flavored seltzer waters which are generally calorie free and artificial sweetener free.

5-Take a “tour” of the buffet tables before picking up a plate

Most holiday get togethers will be buffet style or have several tables of food placed around the event.  Before you grab a plate and start loading up take a walk around the tables and survey the edible options.  Pick out which foods you absolutely must try and which ones you would be happy to do without.  Then narrow your “must haves” down to 3-4 items.  Serve yourself a modest serving of each and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables and raw fruit. 

6-Don’t mingle around the food

The more you stand around chatting at the by the food the more likely you are to unconsciously nibble on snacks without realizing how much you are eating.  Instead, choose a few items and then suggest to your companion that you move to somewhere you can talk without being “in the way.”

7-Stay hydrated

The hectic schedule of holiday parties and shopping can make it difficult to ensure you are drinking enough water.   On average, you should drink at least 8-10, 8oz. glasses of water every day.  Water can help you eat less by making you feel full and can help counteract the effect of water weight gain caused by the salty, sugary and fatty foods that are common during the holidays.  Also, dehydration can result in lowered blood volume.  The lower blood volume forces the heart and other organs to work harder and less efficiently making you feel tired and sluggish.  Drinking plenty of water keeps the heart and organs working at optimal levels.

8-Schedule some time in your day to relax and regroup

The frantic pace this time of year can leave you feeling harried and off your game.  Setting aside time each day to relax and breathe can help you refocus your attention to your goals as well as help you let go of some built up stress.  Allow yourself 10-20 minutes to meditate, take a walk, or do some simple stretches to clear your mind and get the energy flowing in your body.

9-Get your priorities straight

While out Griswolding your neighbors’ Christmas decorations may sound like a worthy endeavor is it really more important than spending time with your family or your friends?  It can be difficult to decline invitations for parties and outings this time of year particularly if they come from employers or coworkers, however it is important to remember that you need to take care of yourself.  Don’t get so consumed with socializing, shopping, cooking and volunteering that you lose track of what is important to you.  Try making a list or a journal entry of what the holidays mean to you, what makes them special, fun or important.  Your thoughts or list can become your personal holiday mission statement that you can focus on and follow to keep yourself feeling happy and calm all season.

10-Get a good night sleep

You may be tempted to cut your sleep time short during this time of year  to get more done, but this can cause more harm than good.  Getting a full night’s sleep, 7-8 hours, has been shown to improve memory, concentration, creativity and improve mood.  In addition, getting enough sleep is good for your heart, reduces the stress hormone cortisol and helps reduce inflammation.

With a little forethought and planning you can make this holiday season a happy and healthy one.  By making smart choices about what and when to eat, scheduling time for yourself and to exercise daily, getting plenty of rest and focusing on what is truly important to you, you can avoid the stress, anxiety and physical ailments commonly associated with the holiday season.


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