How to put the focus on your health this holiday season

How to put the focus on your health this holiday season

Ah, the holidays are just around the corner (yes, let’s all take a breath and prepare ourselves). Will this year be the typical 6-week food frenzy beginning on Thanksgiving Day and lasting until January 1st, or will it be the year where you made the necessary adjustments to your diet and lifestyle, emerging a healthier you as 2017 begins?

This is often the time of the year when all good intentions for healthy eating fall apart, but it’s also the perfect time to adopt a few strategies that will not only help you survive the season, but also start the New Year with healthy habits you can rely on all-year round.

Here are three strategies you might find useful for either staying on track or getting on track during the holiday season:

Develop a plan for staying active

If you already have a routine involving walking, yoga and/or meditation, this is not the time to get so busy and overloaded that you interrupt your normal routine. Sticking with your plan is even more important now than during times when you are less busy. This is when you most need to stay on track. You will feel better equipped both mentally and physically for this busy time of year.

If you don’t have a routine for staying active during this time of the year, this is the time to get one! Consider taking a walk each day, or joining a class, if only once a week; it will keep you moving. When you make a commitment to improved health this time of year, it’s a confidence builder and the first step to a better “you” on January 1st.

woman doing yoga outside

Get rid of temptation

Manage the foods around you to help manage your emotions. I know this might sound strange, but food and mood are closely connected. This time of year, with its memories, expectations and extra demands, wreaks havoc on our emotions. Begin by controlling your environment by getting rid of foods at home that sabotage not only your good intentions but your physical and mental health as well. Go through your cupboards and get rid of as many processed and snack foods as possible. Sugary sweets produce metabolic highs and lows affecting both weight and mood. Artificial sweeteners, colors and additives of all kinds are known factors for affecting mood. The holidays especially are not the time to test your emotions with foods that we know are challenging to our wellbeing. Removing processed foods from your home makes you less likely to go astray.

Furthermore, family memories and expectations connected to traditions and foods can produce emotional eating. If you are expected to participate at meals with foods that you know are not the best choices for you, try reducing the portion size, or asking to take a dish home with you instead of hurting the feelings of well-meaning friends and relatives.

bird's eye view of holiday meal

Start new, healthy traditions

Consider ways to celebrate the holidays that do not involve food. One way is to create a new holiday tradition that doesn’t involve food. For example, this Thanksgiving I’m hosting the family dinner at the usual time of 2:00 in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. This year, however, I’m inviting everyone to arrive at noon to enjoy a beautiful walk along the boardwalk of our community lakefront beach. I’ll bring hot cider and tea for everyone to enjoy as well. It’s a way to get out and enjoy nature for a little while, and eliminate the “sit all day and eat” tradition. I’m hoping for a positive response to this new tradition, which mixes it up a bit and adds some family time together in a way that doesn’t revolve around eating.

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