The weeks between Halloween and New Year's Day can be difficult for those trying to stick to healthful eating and exercise.
It’s the season for celebrating holidays, observing family traditions and indulging in favorite holiday foods.
The weeks between Halloween and New Year’s Day can be difficult for those trying to stick to healthful eating and exercise. This year, make a plan to avoid some common holiday pitfalls so that when January 1 rolls around, you are still on track.
Pitfall #1: Holiday shopping. Spending countless hours searching for the perfect gift can leave you tired and hungry. But don’t fall prey to the food court selections or the smells of freshly baked cookies at the mall. Instead, stock your purse with some healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts or protein bars. If you need to stop and re-energize, choose a restaurant with healthier options, for example, soups, salads or whole grain sandwiches. And remember, don’t start shopping on an empty stomach.
Pitfall #2: Treats at the office. Many people love to bring in their special holiday treats to share with co-workers. Gifts of food are also common this time of year. Ideally, these treats should be stored someplace not readily accessible. There’s some truth to out of sight, out of mind. Keep healthy snacks at your desk so you’ll be less tempted when the urge to snack hits. Decide what is really splurge-worthy, and then make a bargain with yourself to eat a piece of fruit first or climb a flight of stairs before indulging.
Pitfall #3: Cocktail parties. In celebrating with family and friends, it is easy to forget that alcohol can pack some major calories and indulging too often can pack on the pounds. If you are going to indulge, choose a drink with lower calories, for example, wine, champagne, light beer or flavored vodka. Avoid sugary cocktails because these can deliver 400 calories a pop. Sip slowly, and alternate cocktails with water. Alcohol can stimulate your appetite and reduce your willpower, so choose your snacks carefully. Lots of appetizers have around 60 calories a bite, so that’s an easy way to keep track. Fill up on raw veggies or popcorn, if available.
Pitfall #4: Meals away from home. If you are the one entertaining, you have some control over what is served. But if you are traveling and need to eat out or are going to someone else’s house for a meal, it can be harder to stay on track. Offer to bring a dish, and make it a healthier choice. Most restaurant menus are online, so scope out the selections beforehand so you have good choices in mind. If you are eating buffet-style, survey all the selections before filling your plate. Fill up on the healthier choices, leaving just a little room on your plate for the rest. Start with a broth-based soup or leafy green salad.
Pitfall #5: Pressure to eat. Maybe it’s Aunt Janet insisting you eat some of her fudge or family members trying to sabotage your progress. We’ve all felt pressure to eat when we really didn’t want to. Start practicing your “No, thank you” now. Try being honest about your health goals. If you decide it’s best to give in, take just a small portion or eat only a few bites.
Pitfall #6: Inactivity. The shopping, cooking and preparing for company can leave you short on time. Exercise is one of the first things people give up when life gets extra busy. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, work on ways to sneak in some exercise. Park farther away, take the stairs, speed-walk while shopping, or work some extra movements into your housework. Do squats when picking things up off the floor, do lunges while you vacuum, and tuck your tummy muscles while sweeping. Maybe you could get up a half hour earlier and get your exercise in first thing in the morning. Enlisting a buddy for support can help you stay on track.
Pitfall #7: Lack of sleep. Late parties, hours travelling and extra chores during the holiday season mean less time for sleep. High-fat foods and too much alcohol also can hinder your sleep. Try to keep as much of a regular sleep schedule as you can. The holidays are extra stressful, so work on relaxing before bed by taking a warm bath or playing soothing music. Create an optimal sleep environment by turning down the temperature, blocking any light and turning off electronics. If you have worries or a big to-do list, write everything down and make an effort to forget about it until morning. Though a nap may be tempting to recoup lost sleep, keeping it to no more than 30 minutes is a good idea so it doesn’t interfere with bedtime.
Keep your focus on your long-term goals, which should be specific and written down. When faced with obstacles, remember your reasons for exercising and eating better. You don’t need to be obsessive about your goals during the holidays, but you want to keep the rhythm of healthy behavior so that you don’t have to start all over come Jan. 1.