In the face of opportunities to over-commit and overindulge, staying healthy through the holidays — physically and mentally — means following some rules, and bending others.
“Whenever things get busy, you have to remember to take care of yourself, because then you’ll have more to give,” says Traci Brown, who has more than a decade of experience working as a motivational speaker and, as she says, personal trainer for the mind.
Keep making time for whatever recharges your batteries — working out, cooking a meal a certain way, whatever it is that turns your light on a little brighter, she says.
Manage your crowded schedule prudently, and attend the parties and events you really want to go to.
If there’s something like a work party you really do have to attend, minimize your time there and, Brown says, decide to have fun, perhaps by mixing up the small talk.
“Open up a different conversation so you can talk about something you want to talk about,” Brown says. “Everybody is there and thinking they need to be there for one reason or another, so go and have a good time with that.”
Asking what people do for a living at a work party clearly isn’t going to spark the most interesting conversations.
“Find one question that anyone would be intrigued to answer,” she says. “What’s your favorite hobby? What was your last trip? How do you spend your time outside work?” And just because your parents sent out 50 Christmas cards every year doesn’t mean you have to.
“A lot of people are sending Valentine’s cards now or New Year’s cards,” Brown says. “Create what works for you instead of what you think you have to do.”
Plenty of those time commitments are for get-togethers that involve filling a plate with delicious diet-crushers. It’s easy to get stressed out about the skyrocketing caloric intake, and nutritionists encourage monitoring the portions — but not making yourself miserable worrying about it.
“What’s really important is not so much what you eat from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. It’s what you eat from New Year’s to Thanksgiving,” says Eileen Faughey, founder of Nutrition Connections and a nutrition consultant for 17 years. The pound or two gained each holiday season can be shed in the 10 months between them.
Still, prioritize what you put on your plate. “Take less of things you can have any time of the year and focus on what you only get this time of year,” Faughey says. “There are a lot of special foods, and you can enjoy them in small amounts.”
Some traditional foods actually are healthy, like potatoes, pumpkins, cranberries and white-meat turkey. So Faughey says to watch proportions, taking smaller amounts of richer foods — the pastries, cookies and cakes.
“Look at portion size. Really, anything in moderation is going to be OK,” says Jane Reagan, a registered dietician who works with Essential Nutrition and has counseled people with eating disorders.
“Be mindful of what you’re eating,” Reagan says. “Listen to your hunger cues and know when you’ve had enough.”
Keeping healthy snacks on hand will prevent you from arriving at a party that has a lot of high-calorie hazards so hungry you eat everything in sight, and drinking water can help cut back on cravings as well.
Other than that, Reagan says, “Stay active through the holidays.
Anything to get out with family, friends, kids, or get out and get fresh air — those are all great choices.”
And if you overindulge, she says, “Tomorrow is a new day. You can always get up after the holidays are over and start eating in a way that’s going to support the health you want.”
Traci Brown: www.tracibrown.com Essential Nutrition: www.eatwellfeelgood.com Nutrition Connections: www.nutritionconnections.comQuick tips for saving stress and sparing pounds:
• Make time for activities that keep you happy and healthy.
• Remember, it’s OK to say no — to those marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes and to the holiday party you just don’t want to attend.
• Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love that only appear at the holidays. Just have them in moderation.
• Pay attention to proportions.
Take more of high-protein or high-fiber foods, and less high-fat and high-calorie foods.
• Don’t skip meals. Have healthy snacks before you go to a party.
• Drink plenty of water so you don’t confuse thirst with hunger.
• Choose your beverages wisely. Non-alcoholic drinks often have as many calories as alcoholic drinks.
• Remember that the holiday season is about enjoying your friends and family. You don’t have to go to every party or eat every dish to enjoy that.