The Holidays: Maintain, Not Gain

By  0 Comments

It’s that time of year again. Just as soon as Halloween leaves us floating in candy bars, here comes Tom Turkey toting marshmallow sweet potatoes and pecan pie. No wonder by New Year’s we’re wondering if we’re walking or waddling.

And this year, with its own set of health issues, only adds to the holiday weight stress we might normally experience. For some of us, the holidays can stretch our will power and our waistbands. We know our regular health habits will be challenged by a list of social functions and a myriad of Pinterest treats, not to mention a global pandemic. So why not plan ahead? Check out these easy ways to enjoy the fa-la-la-la of Christmas without falling flat by New Year’s Day.

Doing It Differently
This year, think of the days between Thanksgiving and the New Year as a time to be extra assertive about your health rather than treating it as a free-for-all with food and festivities. Instead of missing workouts because you’re too busy or overwhelmed, add an extra workout once or twice a week, or rev up your normal routine to compensate for the splurges. This way you can indulge a bit without feeling guilty.

Write It Down
During the month of December, write down the healthy choices you make, such as how many minutes you exercised each day, how many steps you walked, that piece of pie you passed up, that new spin class you took. Make a game of it. The more you track your accomplishments, the more you can see yourself in a healthier holiday light.

Get Your Shut-Eye
Buying, wrapping, decorating can leave us feeling exhausted and anxious. Losing sleep one night can change the way our brains respond to high-calorie junk food the next day. When we don’t get enough Z’s, we experience a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made. In other words, if we’re sleep deprived, we tend to eat mindlessly. Making sleep a priority can help us wake up with the energy we need to get it all done.

Ho, Ho, Hiccup!
Let’s face it. There are lots of cocktails to be had at Hanukkah, Kwanza and your Uncle Hank’s birthday. Mint mochas and spiced eggnog are treats, not just drinks. Drinking alcohol not only adds calories but over-indulging increases hunger and challenges our choice-making. Aiming to drink just one or two low-calorie cocktails is still celebratory, but conscious. Drinking dry white wine or liquor with non-calorie mixers such as sparkling water, diet tonic and plain water helps keep you lighter.

Lighten Up the Party
Potlucks are plentiful in December and so are the casseroles and decadent desserts. To ensure there is at least one healthy choice at your family function, be in charge of bringing a healthy dish. Scour the internet for low-calorie recipes or check out magazines for lightened-up versions of your favorite treats. Share them at parties, and who knows, your healthy version of vegetables au gratin may be a huge holiday hit.

Healthy Food Fast
Busy days and event-filled nights may require finding food on the go. Many fast food chains offer healthier choices that won’t weigh you down. Check out the grilled sandwiches and wraps at burger joints, but nix the creamy sauces. Many restaurants will also switch the bun for lettuce to lessen the carb load.

Indulge to Lessen the Bulge
It’s okay to have a treat, cookie or holiday yum; depriving ourselves may lead to bingeing later. In fact, most research suggests that we’re better off indulging a bit, because avoiding certain foods may deplete the energy we have to eat healthy. So, by demonizing “that piece of pecan pie” we might be setting ourselves up for failure.
It’s easy to say and often hard to do; setbacks can occur when we make rushed or emotional choices. But just because we fall off the wellness wagon doesn’t mean we have to weigh down the sleigh. Planning for a failure and learning from it can recharge our desire to get back on track.

Reward Yourself
Try setting mini exercise goals such as taking a new exercise class, walking as fast as you can to the end of the block, or increasing your weights. Small successes will keep you focused and merry. Then, reward yourself with something non-food related, such as a new dress for that holiday party or a one-hour massage to relieve some seasonal stress.
This holiday, we can actually enjoy the jingling of the sleigh bells while keeping our bellies from jiggling, if we stick to our holiday health plan. A few simple ideas can maintain our weight right up to the New Year, and we won’t need to make any unrealistic resolutions for 2021. ■