When October rolls around, Halloween triggers the start of a long season of sweets and treats. It’s the first of three months of holiday-packed parties. Many offices have bowls full of candy and break rooms filled with sweets and carb-heavy foods. It’s easy to overindulge on what’s right in front of you.
I’m here to tell you, you can both enjoy this long holiday season while also staying on track with your healthy lifestyle goals. It’s possible with a few simple steps.
What The Research Says About Your Health During The Holidays?
The span of holidays from Halloween through New Years creates a three-month long holiday melded together. Throughout this time, it’s common to splurge on goodies during more than just the one day of celebration itself. It’s not a typical one and done like the Fourth of July, for instance.
Americans gain more weight during the Thanksgiving through the New Year holiday season than any other time of the year.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed just that. In this particular study, the same thing was observed in Japan and Germany during Golden Week and Christmas respectively.
The study also found that at least half of the weight a person gained during the holidays remained with them months down the road.
Furthermore, a research article published in the Atherosclerosis Journal found that the holiday season (specifically Christmas) translates into higher total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. As you may know, LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol.
Given these findings, knowledge is power and setting yourself up for success is key. I’ll share with you 5 main tips to keep you on track and healthy during the holidays.
How To Stay Healthy During the Holidays- 5 Tips
You don’t have to wait until the New Year to set some new goals. In fact, you’ll be steps ahead if you start now and focus on navigating what’s ahead.
Lifestyle change is all about living your best life each and every day. Doing the best you can each week to stay on track. And recognizing that sometimes life happens.
Below are five tips on how to get started in the right direction.
TIP #1: MAKE A PLAN
Begin with the end in mind. Decide what you want to achieve over the next couple of months. Whether it’s maintaining your weight or wanting to lose a few pounds over the holidays. Both are doable.
Get clear on your intentions and write it out. Focus on what you can achieve each week to move you one step closer toward your end goal. And set SMART goals. S- Specific, M- Measurable, A- Achievable, R- Realistic, T- Timely.
For example, you could set goals each week similar to these:
- Ride a stationary bike for 12 minutes 3 days this week.
- Practice mindful eating at work– when tempted with junk food in the office drink 8 ounces of water and wait 10 minutes before considering eating it.
- Bring one healthy snack to work each day this week (e.g. carrots and celery with peanut butter, apples with peanut butter yogurt dip, hazelnut energy bites etc.).”
Stick with 1-3 small goals each week. Think tiny steps and set goals you feel are doable. Schedule your goals to make them real.
Whenever goal setting, always come up with ideas on how to tackle obstacles that may occur. For instance, how you plan to avoid junk food at work or at home. Or what obstacles you foresee getting in the way of achieving a movement goal of 3 days per week. Play out in your head how you will navigate any holiday parties you have coming up.
What can you do to ensure you still reach your goal? Come up with a plan on how you will tackle these situations before you’re faced with them. Clarity on what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it is the first step to setting solid boundaries.
TIP #2- SETTING BOUNDARIES
Boundary setting is a big one and many clients I’ve worked with over the years struggle with this on some level in different areas of their lives.
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
- You never turn down Sally Sue’s yearly frosted sugar cookies because you’re worried you’ll offend her.
- Your desk is where the candy bowl usually sits as you greet customers coming in. And you find yourself grabbing a Tootsie Roll or strawberry flavored Starburst ever so often until you’ve eaten more than you’d like.
- The break room is sometimes filled with sweet treats and you’ll grab whatever’s there because it’s readily available and you’re hungry.
- At holiday parties you tend to overindulge and then feel guilty afterward.
Setting boundaries, specifically around holiday food, can help move you closer to reaching your end goal. It starts with clarity and knowing what you want to achieve and what’s important to you.
Come up with your non-negotiables. Write them down. And stick with them.
Tackle each situation one small step at a time. Recognize that you can only control how you react to situations and your environment. How others react is on them.
Setting boundaries is one of the best acts of self-care. Know your self-worth and realize you’re the driver in your life.
Plus, I’ve heard it said we teach others how to treat us through the boundaries we do and do not set.
When setting boundaries with coworkers or family members, an effective communication tool is to use “I” statements. This will ensure the other individual does not feel attacked.
Some examples might include:
- “Thank you for the offer. But I’ll have to pass. I’m focusing on my health goals this season. It’s really important to me that I stay on track.”
- “I feel uncomfortable when my body is the topic of discussion. I’d really like to hear more about how things are going for you at your new job.”
(See tip #5 creating a healthy environment for tips on boundary setting within a physical setting.)
TIP #3- USE MINDFULNESS
Being mindful of your behaviors such as eating, drinking, and moving goes hand in hand with setting boundaries.
When cravings arise and you’re faced with temptations, use the ride the wave concept. Allow the craving to come and go. Sometimes it takes two minutes, sometimes it takes 10 minutes. The anticipation is always more satisfying than the actual event of eating something you later regret.
Brain research has shown that when it comes to our behaviors it’s the craving that we ultimately are wanting to relieve. The reward itself doesn’t satisfy us as much as the anticipation of relieving the craving. Use distractions such as going for a walk, doing some deep breathing, or drinking some water.
And if all else fails, before acting on your cravings remain mindful. Ask yourself two simple questions:
- So let’s say I eat this comfort food, what do I gain from it?
- So let’s say I don’t eat this comfort food, what do I gain from it?
Now with your mind focused you can make a better judgment call on what serves you and moves you closer to your small and big goals.
At holiday parties, keep these things in mind:
- Drink lots of water before holiday parties or gatherings.
- Consider working out beforehand.
- Be picky about what you put on your plate or in your mouth.
- Start with veggies first.
- Take smaller portions of sides.
- Take time to enjoy your food.
- Pay attention to how the food tastes and smells.
- Eat slowly and focus on your body’s signal that you’re full.
- Give thanks for the food you have in front of you.
Use mindfulness to also stay aware of how often you’re moving your body at work and at home. You can find free apps on your phone or your computer to remind you to move throughout the day.
TIP #4- MOVE MORE
Make a point over the holidays to move 10% more than you do now. Even if it’s simply adding two minutes of movement a day for a total of 10 minutes a week. Here are some examples:
- Take a walk around your office building during lunch
- Do 10 sit-to-stands at your desk every hour or at least once a day
- March in place for two minutes at your desk or while watching TV
- Park further away from the entrance of a building
- Take the stairs
- Consider stacking movement habits on top of habits you’ve already established such as before, after, or during brushing your teeth, doing dishes, or getting ready for bed
- Another alternative is to make an agreement with yourself that before you can do something you want to do (i.e. binge watch the Queen’s Gambit) you must first move your body for 5 minutes
- Download a workout app on your phone for exercise ideas (e.g. 7 minute workout, Sworkit, My Fitness Pal, Nike Training Club)
Get creative and focus on how you can move more each week.
TIP #5- CREATE A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
Set yourself up for success at home and at work by creating an environment that supports your healthy lifestyle goals. Some of this goes back to setting boundaries and making agreements with yourself and others.
At home, talk with your significant other or roommate about what you’re hoping to achieve and what you need to accomplish your goal. Express how it would make you feel to have their support and ask if they’d be willing to establish some agreements. The same goes for at work.
It may sound something like this:
- “I’m wanting to work toward maintaining my weight this holiday season. I’d love your support. Can we come to an agreement with regards to sweets and where we keep them?”
Remember to focus on what you can control and have a clear idea of what your non-negotiables are and what you’re hoping to achieve.
Other ideas to consider when creating a healthy environment include:
- Stocking your desk with healthy snacks like almonds, raisins, homemade granola, or bringing an apple with a slice of cheese or carrots and celery sticks.
- Keeping sweets out of sight (hidden in hard-to-reach cupboards, the freezer, having your spouse hide them, etc.).
- Serving the main holiday meal from a separate location than the table.
- Having conversations at holiday parties away from the food and drink tables.
- Making healthier sides by swapping out unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones (e.g. whole wheat in place of white flour).
- Displaying fruit and vegetables in beautiful containers on your counter or in your fridge.
- Placing healthier dishes at the front of the line or simply filling your plate with the healthier dishes first.
The most important point is to make healthier foods more visible and do your best to keep unhealthy foods out of sight.
WHAT WILL YOU DO TO STAY HEALTHY DURING THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?
Now that you’ve learned 5 tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays, I’d love to hear from you.
Let me know in the comments below what you hope to achieve this holiday season. Which of the five tips will you use? What other tips have you found helpful in the past?