The holiday season is fast approaching. Wow. How did that happen so quickly? It seems that I was just getting together school supplies and putting away the camp gear, and now our local grocery store is setting up display upon display for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And a few adventurous souls even have holiday lights out front.
Seeing all of this holiday paraphernalia in stores, in the daily deluge of catalogs in my mailbox, in advertisements on the web and on television reminds me that in the face of such abundance, it is actually moderation that will get me through the next six weeks intact.
‘Tis the season to be jolly—and overwhelmed. There will be family celebrations and work celebrations and school celebrations. Everywhere I turn there will be too much to do and too many wonderful treats to overindulge in. I’m already thinking of how many holiday cookies I’ll need to stare down. According to the New England Journal of Medicine*, the 1-to-2-pound weight gain that we’re all at risk of in midlife usually occurs during the next six weeks. (Whoa.) And for overweight individuals, that 1-to-2 pounds might actually be closer to 5 pounds. Add that up over the years and you’ll realize that it could mean significant weight gain, which can snowball into bigger health problems along the way.
The good news (and there is plenty of good news!) is that with a little thinking and planning upfront, you can have celebration without the sabotage. The key to being able to enjoy the festivities without losing your grip on your health is to find balance. It shouldn’t be all or nothing. So, how do you find the balance you need? By remembering to honor the healthy habits you keep the rest of the year, even if you have to tweak them a little to fit them into a hectic holiday schedule.
Simply try to work the following suggestions into your lifestyle over the course of the next few weeks—your health and wellbeing depend on it!
1. Sleep. This season is a marathon, not a sprint. No need to stay up late for days on end. Continue to maintain healthy sleep habits, striving for a goal of 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. You’ll not only feel better, but chances are you’ll make wiser food and exercise choices, too.
2. And speaking of exercise: Keep doing it! No matter how busy or tired you may feel during this time, try to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be at the gym; you can make cleaning, cooking and decorating your workout for the day. As a bonus, it’s great for stress relief. (And we know there’s plenty of stress to deal with around the holidays.)
3. Keep track of your alcohol intake. It’s easy to drink too much with all of the festivities, and that’s not good for many reasons. It dehydrates you, disrupts your sleep (passing out doesn’t count) and adds a lot of extra calories to already indulgent meals. The rule of thumb for women is to have no more than seven drinks a week (an average of one per day).
4. Eat! Seriously, eat three meals a day. Don’t skip a meal just because you have a party to attend. Chances are that if you do, you won’t make smart food choices at that party. You wouldn’t go to the supermarket starving, would you? Think of parties the same way—but with more booze and hors d’oeuvres.
*Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, et al. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23; 342(12): 861-7.
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