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3 Keys to Survival
To make the feasting season a healthier one, experts say, it's important to do three things: Practice awareness, manage your stress and emotions, and plan in advance.
1. Practice Awareness
- Be conscious of what you eat and how much, says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS,RD, BC-ADM, CDE, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. Allow yourself some special treats on the holidays but have moderate servings. When there's a lot of food available, try an appetizer-sized helping of each dish instead of dishing up a full serving.
- "'Tis the season to be realistic," says Schmid, noting this is not the best time for weight loss. She recommends trying to maintain weight instead of lose it.
- Be sure to keep it all in perspective, the experts say. "Even though it's the holiday season, it doesn't mean for the next three months, you can do whatever it is you want," says Thayer. "Allow [some treats] for the special days, but then get back into your healthy routine the next day."
- Always look for opportunities to move, says Bryant. For example, take a brisk walk whenever you get a few minutes; stand up and move around while you're on the phone call; and walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing him or her.
2. Manage Stress and Emotions
- One way to keep stress at a minimum is to lower your expectations about holidays. Ask for help to lighten your holiday schedule. Host a potluck holiday meal instead of cooking dinner. Or serve it buffet style instead of having a sit-down meal.
- Learn to say "no," in a courteous manner, to activities and food that aren't in your best interest. "People may grow to respect it, and may even emulate it," Clemens says.
- If you're sad about a loss, turn to people for comfort instead of food. "Invite a new member to your holiday table," says Schmid. "Maybe it's not the same without a loved one, but think of new traditions."
- At social events, don't fill silence with food. "Many people will eat and drink any beverage because they don't know what to say or how to act," says Clemens. Instead, he recommends making an effort to really get to know people, beyond superficial small talk: "When we do that, we actually have the tendency to eat less," he says.
- Another way to deal with emotions is to make sure exercise remains a priority in your life. Exercise can be a great stress reliever.
3. Plan in Advance
- Eat a little before you go to a holiday gathering; hunger can undo the best intentions.
- Also, avoid sources of temptation whenever you can, says Thayer. After visiting a buffet, leave the room that's filled with food. If there are sweets in the office break room, don't go there. If you're given unhealthy food as a gift, bring it to the office to share.
- If you're traveling for the holidays, pick up some healthy, portable snacks at the grocery store before you leave so you're less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options.
- Think about what really matters during this busy time of year, and plan accordingly. "Figure out what you absolutely have to do, because there always are some obligations," says Laubgross. Then let go of the rest.
- Also, schedule a brisk walk or hike after a holiday party or meal. "Five minutes of exercise is better than 20 minutes of nothing," says Schmid.