Staying healthy over the holidays is all about taking care of ourselves. From a holistic standpoint, that means adhering to a healthy diet, exercising, managing stress and sleeping. Here are seven tactics for soaring over stumbling blocks during the holidays:
1. Weigh in every other day
Most holiday traditions are centered around food. We tend to avoid the scale when we’re not eating well, and when we weigh ourselves on Jan. 1, we say, “Holy Moses!” Yet studies show that weighing yourself every other day during the holidays will help you keep your weight down. This is true whether or not you keep a food diary. Do it first thing in the morning, either without clothes or always wearing the same clothes.
2. Don’t try to lose weight
If you’ve successfully lost weight, make maintaining weight your goal. Don’t try to lose pounds over the holidays. It can be frustrating and lead to overindulgence. Focus instead on weight maintenance.
3. Write everything down
Keep a diary of everything you eat and drink. Write down what you’ve had when you get home from a party. It may make you think twice when the next party rolls around. You’ll be much more aware of how easy it is to overindulge when you’re in a large group.
4. Indulge, but watch your portions
I tell my patients to appreciate the “happy medium” during holiday season. I want them to have fun without focusing too much on their diet — but without going overboard either. You can still have whatever you want, but have it in much smaller portions. Really enjoy a small piece of pumpkin pie, eating slowly. Fully appreciate the taste and texture. Save your sweet tooth for the treats you love — not just for anything with sugar on it.
5. Buy, don’t bake, party desserts
When friends ask you to bring cookies or dessert to a holiday party, think twice about baking. Those leftover ingredients will linger. You’ll have chocolate chips, butter, white flour, etc., hanging around the house. You’ll also be licking the spoon and, if you’re baking cookies, sampling a few! But if you buy cookies or dessert, you know you won’t touch them because they’re packaged or because you want them to look pretty.
6. Switch up cookie swaps
Cookies are a big part of the holidays, but they don’t have to be a big part of YOUR holiday. Decline all cookie swaps, and suggest a different swap instead. Focus on foods that will help you stay healthy — how about swapping favorite teas, beloved spices or whole-grain holiday muffins and breads?
7. Trade in some traditions
Make new traditions that are centered on healthy behaviors:
- Ask the family to take a hike. Instead of going straight to dessert after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, propose a family walk around the block. We know that when we get up out of the chair and walk, we’re much less likely to have dessert because we’ve distracted ourselves. (We tend to be on autopilot at holiday meals and don’t even realize what we’re eating.) And we’re getting some exercise.
- Find new ways to have fun. Suggest a gift-wrapping party with your sisters instead of shopping for presents. If you wait until the night before Christmas or Hanukkah to wrap your kids’ gifts, you’ll be tired the next day. Lack of sleep will alter your digestive hormones, causing you to overeat. Another fun tradition could be an afternoon hike in the snow with your girlfriends — or even sledding. (Hiking up those hills is great for the legs!)