We all know what busy is—year-round family, work and social obligations can eat into personal time. But when the holidays roll around schedules become even more hectic. Increased demands on our precious time and resources and our best intentions to maintain an exercise regiment and healthy diet often fall to the bottom of our to-do list.
As a Certified Nurse Midwife, I help women achieve optimal health at all stages of life—and that includes coaching for potential pitfalls like holiday overeating. Many women are surprised that it’s possible to choose indulgences and successfully reframe how to approach holiday functions that can take a bite out of healthy living.
All it takes is a solid plan—and the commitment to work it—to sail through the holidays and enjoy family, fun and food.
Adopt a New Outlook
Sometimes we resist change in our lives because we fear the unknown. Consider starting your New Year’s resolutions before Jan. 1 this year. Feed your body and mind with self-awareness instead of food; learn the art of meditation; sign up for a yoga class; walk, walk, walk. Chances are you’ll slip into the holidays with a new mindset—one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Tip: No doubt you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule—80 percent of the time stick to healthy choices, including a schedule, exercise and eating. And then 20 percent of the time, allow yourself that piece of cheesecake or an afternoon on the couch, sipping cocoa and watching favorite holiday classics on Netflix.
Make Smart Choices
Sounds simple, right? But we’ve all been there—standing in front of a holiday buffet, plate in hand, hovering over a creamy casserole or mashed potatoes with gravy. It takes willpower to move to the healthier options at any gathering, but you’ll feel better and won’t have to deal with the consequences later. Avoid consuming lots of sugar (one piece of pie or a cookie is okay—don’t deny yourself an occasional treat) and processed foods and halo foods (those that seem healthy, but in reality aren’t that good for you, like juices). Gravitate toward items like guacamole and salsa and give Brussels sprouts a chance. It’s not just about choices, though—also be aware of portion size and even the plate you eat from. Try a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, which will help reduce the temptation to load up.
Tip: It’s tempting to skip a meal during the day before attending an evening function. Don’t—it will affect hormones and your blood sugar will plummet, creating even stronger cravings for high-calorie carbs.
It’s essential to drink enough water every day—I suggest to patients that 64 ounces of fluid is a good goal—but staying hydrated is even more important during the holidays. Also, think twice about drinking alcohol—it’s full of hidden calories and can leave you feeling bloated, not to mention a hangover the next day if you’re not careful. Opt for a sparkling water and ditch the eggnog and Champagne.
Tip: Infuse your water with cucumber or fresh fruit; during a party, ask for a vodka and water with a lime.
Especially at this time of year, say “no” to extra commitments and yes to nurturing yourself. Try a calming cup of tea at the end of the day or a warm bath with a couple of drops of lavender essential oil to soothe your jingled nerves. Deep-breathing exercises are helpful, too, for ratcheting down the stress level and leaving you in a relaxed state.
Tip: One way to feel good has nothing to do with exercise or diet. Volunteer at a food pantry or an organization that needs help during the holidays. Giving time, talent and treasure to those less fortunate is a guaranteed stress reliever.