It’s that most wonderful time of the year and along with the festive decorations, parties, and the spirit of giving back comes piles of stress and potential additional pounds.  It’s the annual Battle of the Bulge when will power is often defeated by the endless parade of holiday sweets and treats and waistlines expand.

Although holiday stress is inevitable, it doesn’t have to negatively impact your health. If you’re pregnant during this bustling season, there’s added pressure to ensure you don’t go overboard on errands and obligations or indulge in too many goodies.

As a Certified Nurse Midwife, I help women stay happy and healthy during their pregnancy and offer simple tips for maintaining that positivity post-pregnancy.  Much of the same advice applies during the holidays, too—things such as healthy eating, staying active, getting plenty of restful sleep and staying healthy emotionally.

Try this no-fail recipe for a happy holiday season.

#1: Healthy Eating

Try eating off a smaller plate—portion control is much easier when you eat from a salad plate rather than a large dinner-size plate.  Slow down when you eat, chew your food and consider using chopsticks instead of a fork, or putting the fork down in between each bite.  

Be sure to eat three meals a day.  Although it’s tempting to skip a meal, that doesn’t help you lose weight—in fact, studies show that forgoing a meal (especially breakfast) triggers cravings and can actually prompt you eat to more. 

Limit sauces such as gravy, Hollandaise and ranch, which can quickly add calories to a meal. Ripe avocados are perfect for alternative spreads or purchase or make chutney to use as a flavorful condiment.

#2:  Avoid Liquid Calories

Beverages such as soda, milk, sweet tea and juice are packed with extra calories.  Switch out this fattening drinks for seltzer water garnished with fresh fruit, plain tea or even flavored water. Consider this staggering fact: a can of soda each day for a year is equivalent to 15 pounds of added weight.

#3: Keep Moving

This topic has been in the news a lot lately: inactivity can be worse than smoking. It’s essential, especially if you’re pregnant, to keep active and not sit for long periods. If you work in an office, develop a routine of stretching exercises or take a twice-daily lap around the perimeter of your building or choose the stairs over the elevator. Yoga will help you relax, and keep you moving as well. 

#4: Shift Your Focus

Simplify your holidays—make it not as much about buying gifts, but about spending quality time and making memories with family and friends.  Volunteer in your community at a food kitchen or homeless shelter or another nonprofit that aligns with your personal passions.  Make a date with your family for board game night or pack a mug of hot chocolate and take a drive to enjoy holiday lights.  Start a new tradition by making a craft that gets the entire family involved.

#5: Get Restful Sleep

Again, studies show that sleep deprivation lead to hunger pangs and other health ailments.  Get your eight hours of sleep in a darkened room; turn off the television or computer at least an hour before turning in. 

#6:  Get YOU Time

Easy to say, hard to do.  But quiet time alone, away from the hustle and bustle, can help readjust a stressed-out frame of mind. Listen to favorite holiday music, make a cup of herbal tea with a drizzle of honey, and close your eyes.  That’s the best gift you can give to yourself this holiday—peace and serenity.

Crystal Murphy, Certified Nurse Midwife, Overland Park Regional Medical Center and Specialists in Women’s Care in Shawnee and Lansing, Kansas.

About Crystal

With over 15 years of women's health nursing experience, Crystal has spent the last 10 years practicing as a Nurse Midwife. She loves empowering women with knowledge, enabling them to make the best choices regarding their healthcare. Her primary focus is preventative care, family planning, weight loss, pregnancy and delivery, and urinary incontinence. She has vast experience encompasses low to high risk aspects of care from uncomplicated pregnancy to those involving gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and twin gestation. She feels strongly about advocating for women and families that desire VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section), and deep experience in successfully assisting numerous women VBAC. Crystal received her bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College Of Nursing, and her master's degree in nursing from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. She is an active member of the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), and previously sat on the Board of Directors of the Kansas chapter. She has been married to her husband for more than 20 years and together they have a teenage son.  She has completed many medical mission trips within Venezuela, Tanzania, and Jamaica. She is personally committed to wellness and has completed five triathlons, two half-marathons, and numerous other races. She loves reading, playing the piano, listening to K-Love Radio and time with friends.