Ahh the holidays…the magical time of year. The time for loved ones reuniting, giving and receiving, and lights filling the streets. Also the time for overeating, stressing over in-laws, and losing track of our normal schedules. The holidays often add a long to do list for many people - decorating the house, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and scheduling times to visit family. And with this long to-do list comes added stress. For others visiting with family means sitting inside for extended periods of time and skipping usual plans for physical activity.
Today, we bring you a how to guide for avoiding falling too far into this unhealthy pattern of behaviors - without having to avoid the holidays altogether.
Eat a healthy meal. It is easier to focus on eating something healthy than it is to focus on not eating something unhealthy. So pick one meal each day where you will plan to eat a healthy meal. I am not a huge fan of breakfast foods, so I have decided to have a glass of juice for breakfast each morning through the holidays. This way I am skipping out on overeating French toast, bacon, eggs, cereal, or whatever other high calorie breakfast foods my family puts in front of me. And then I can indulge as I would normally, on lunch and dinner - the good meals. If you love your heavy breakfast foods, then consider setting a goal to have a salad for lunch - and I don’t mean a taco salad with a cup of Caesar dressing on it. I mean have a veggie salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Here is one of my favorite salds that is healthy, but also filling. (I leave off the coconut...)
Switch out your snacks. Do you and your family snack throughout the day on holidays? What do you usually snack on? For my family, favorites include chips and salsa, cheese plates, meatballs and constant trips to the candy/cookie jars - 29 years and they have never let me down. As delecious as these snacks are, try switching one of them out for cut up vegetables and fruits. This way, the family can still snack while the football games are on TV, but not at the cost of several hundred additional calories. Plus a bonus: with this one, your family will eat a little healthier too. If the family demands a dip for the veggies try a homemade chickpea or artichoke hummus over ranch dressing. Alternatively, this veggie salad is a great one!
Go for a walk. Is there a store you and your family can walk to instead of driving? Or do you live in a neighborhood that has Christmas lights up? Take a walk with the family to see the Christmas lights instead of driving through the neighborhood. The kids will be able to see the lights better this way anyway.
And as you are planning activities to pass the time with the family, rather than suggesting 2-3 hours sitting in the movie theater munching on popcorn, suggest a hike, a visit to the park, or a trip to the local zoo. It's another way to spend time with the family, get everyone active – and the bonus on this one? You save a ton of money.
Set a weekly budget. The holidays are expensive. And this can stress out most adults. Pile on the stress of money management with the stress of planning and family drama, and this can be enough stress to make you sick. Reduce the stress of the holidays by taking some time to figure out how much money you are able to spend between today and a selected date after the holidays. Write this number down then convert it into daily or weekly averages and keep track of the amount of money you are spending. Stay within your budget and then stop worrying.
Get your yoga on. If you are running around getting the house ready for guests or trying to catch up on work so you can take your “vacation”, remember to take some time each day to just appreciate life and relax. If you have 30 minutes or more to spare, do some yoga, or go for a stroll. And purposefully put all of your concerns out of your mind while you do this.
If you only have a minute or two to spare, hug your significant other and forget about all of your responsibilities for a few seconds, or lay down and clear your head - appreciate what you have and where you are. A few minutes of meditation each day can make all the difference. As much as the holidays are about giving to others, it is also important to take some time for yourself - especially when you are busy – to keep a healthy mind and body.
Now that you have a plan to stay healthy this holiday season, follow these three steps:
1. Set one goal. Yes, only select one behavior to change at first. You may say this is too easy, but I say it is reasonable. Changing behavior is hard especially during the holidays when days are busy. It is better to only set one goal and be successful than it is to set too many goals and lose track of all of them.
2. Write it down. Find a place you look each day, on your fridge, in your day planner, on your computer screen, and write down your one behavior this holiday season you will follow to stay healthy. Writing down this new behavior will increase your chances of following through. Then mark down each day, whether or not you met your goal.
3. Tell others. Tell your friends and family – whoever you will be around during the holidays – about your plan. They will support you and help you follow through, or like my family, they will taunt you relentlessly, but either way, this will help remind you of your goal. And a public goal is more likely to be real and successful than a private one.
Before I go, here is one last tip for staying healthy during the holidays:
Put your feet up and indulge in a treat. - Don’t cut out the enjoyment of the holidays. Let’s face it; part of the joy of the holidays comes from eating decadent meals and taking a break from day to day obligations. If you try to cut everything out, you are likely to rebound at some point and over indulge to make up for everything you missed.
Allow yourself to enjoy the food that is being cooked and partake in family activities, even if every one of them is not active and healthy. Be in the moment and enjoy this time with whoever you are around for the holidays.