Holiday Healthy Weight Challenges
by Jennifer Warren, M.D.
That cozy time of year is approaching, and family and friends gather for
good times and good food. The holidays can present some special challenges
for healthy eating and activity, but with a little care and attention, you
can soar through the season, happy and healthy! A few tips to help…
1. When it comes to Holiday foods, adopt a “Love It, Need It, or Leave It”
policy. In other words, save your “special treat” calories for foods you
REALLY love - don’t waste them on high calorie food that you can get any
time of the year, or treats that don’t taste really fantastic. Remember,
you can always be a “taster”; if you don’t love it, don’t finish it - leave
2. Be careful to keep up your healthy basic eating this time of year - with
three meals of healthy lean protein, high fiber whole fruits, vegetables and
whole grains, and a little bit of “good fat” - you need these year round.
Do not skip entire meals to save calories - this can slow your metabolism,
and lead to out-of-control overeating later, often of the wrong choices!
It’s best to save special desserts and treats for AFTER a healthy meal or
3. Keep up with your routine exercise plan, despite temptations to “just
take a break” for the holiday season. Exercise can be the single most
important factor when it comes to your health during this time. In
addition to the calorie and metabolic benefits, exercise can help you relax,
control stress, re-energize you, and clear your head during the whirl and
confusion of the holidays. Make this a top priority for yourself and your
family - be a role model for them, and encourage them to participate. A
neighborhood walk can also be a great way to reconnect and bond with family.
4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - whether you are traveling to visit
family, or just heading to the mall for holiday shopping - plan ahead by
bringing healthy portable snacks for yourself and companions. Don’t get
“caught hungry” with only high calorie, nutrient-poor options. Bring along
a few healthy protein bars, some dried fruit and nuts, and bottled water -
examples of portable healthy options that can save you in a pinch.
5. Plan for Parties - here are the basic principles…Before the party, eat a
snack with protein - this can help you stay in control when faced with a
buffet. If you are bringing an item, make it a healthy choice such as a
fruit/veggie/ yogurt plate, or lean protein such as shrimp, chicken kabobs
on skewers, or vegetarian or turkey chili. Once you arrive - don’t head
straight to the food; find your hosts, and start with a low calorie drink
such as flavored water or a spritzer, and then socialize. Minimize the
alcohol - it can make you lose control with food, among other things! When
you do head to the buffet, choose a small plate, and scan for healthy
starter items, and then special treats(see tips one and two!). Enjoy!
6. When you are the host: Plan some non food-oriented activities such as
family walks to gather balsam, holly, and sea shells for wreaths, centerpieces
or crafts. have an ornament painting party with simple wooden shapes
and acrylic paints. Turn on music and encourage kids(and adults) to dance.
Play family games such as Pictionary, bingo, or hold a Yankee Swap.
And encourage guests to bring home leftovers. You may want to invest in some
inexpensive containers to facilitate this!
7. Above all, take care of yourself, so you can enjoy time with others.
If you are over-tired and cranky, you won’t be any fun at all! Take some “down
time” for yourself - don’t over-commit - and make adequate sleep a priority.
Relax with whatever method works for you - meditation, yoga, stretching,
listening to music, dancing, reading, or being creative with arts and
crafts, knitting, writing, or painting, for example. If your family islucky, perhaps you’ll share some of these activities with them!