Your holiday season is likely to be filled with festivities, obligations and family traditions that can leave you feeling stressed, frazzled and overwhelmed.
“The holidays are hectic, but avoid an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to eating right and being active,” says Sophia Bradley, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Vista. “Our routines are interrupted, and it’s easy to work, sleep, eat and exercise in ways that are less healthy than normal. However, you can enjoy yourself while staying healthy and fit through the holidays.”
While some disruption in your exercise and eating habits is probably inevitable, try these practical tips to stay on track:
Swearing an oath not to have a holiday cookie, cake or cheese puff during the season, or to never miss a workout, is setting yourself up for failure.
“Often, the more you deny yourself, the more likely you are to binge eventually,” says Dr. Bradley. “Set realistic goals. For instance, allow yourself one indulgence at a festive event, such as a slice of apple pie, one or two cookies, or a glass of eggnog.”
And if you can’t make your regular workout, find 15 minutes to do body-weight exercises, yoga stretches or take a brisk walk.
Between office lunches, family gatherings and holiday parties, you are likely to run out of time in the evening or get too distracted to do a workout. If you go to the gym or run the first thing in the morning, you will have accomplished a goal and can enjoy any holiday hoopla guilt-free.
“Exercise helps decrease anxiety and improve sleep, so the holiday season is not the time to stop moving,” says Dr. Bradley.
Skipping sleep increases cortisol levels, the hormone released when you’re stressed. When you’re exhausted, you’re more apt to get pizza delivered or skip your spinning class. By all means, enjoy the festivities, but leave early enough to get your seven to eight hours of shut-eye.
“Keep in mind that enough sleep will improve your work performance, interactions with others and your general sense of well-being,” says Dr. Bradley.
Malls and shopping centers are filled with tempting smells and sights that can coax you to eat—passing the cinnamon roll stand or the hot pretzel vendor when you are hungry can make those sugary or salty treats impossible to pass up. Schedule lunch or dinner at a sit-down restaurant that serves healthy options.
Learn how to feel comfortable saying “no” to help keep holiday stress to a minimum.
“People get overcommitted,” says Dr. Bradley. “But you don’t have to go to every party or bake dozens of cookies for the whole neighborhood. Reflect on what is most important to you and your family, whether it is sending cards, baking, religious observances or spending time with family and friends.”
Treats usually abound during the holidays at the work place, so bring healthy snacks from home to avoid temptation. Raw nuts, fruit, nut butters, string cheese and protein bars can stave off the afternoon slump and make it easier for you to avoid the fudge and candy.
“It’s all about balance during the holidays,” says Dr. Bradley.