10 tips to avoid letting healthy habits slip during the holidays – NBC News

Posted: December 17, 2019 at 2:51 am

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Dec. 11, 2019, 4:40 PM UTC

The holidays roll around once a year so its understandable that youd want to enjoy the festive fare and put off healthier habits just for now. After all, why should you deny yourself the pleasure of that once-a-year holiday-themed sugar cookie or sausage stuffing or spiked eggnog?

Im all for enjoying any holiday goodies you fancy without guilt or giving it a second thought. However, the marathon food fest that occurs between Thanksgiving and December 31st can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Overeating, eating poorly, and drinking more than the healthy booze limits can impact your mood and your sleep, and that can really put a damper on your holiday spirit! Plus, eating and drinking to excess often triggers guilt, stress and anxiety, which needless to say, isnt good for your wellbeing. Navigating the holiday season healthfully is tricky for everyone. Heres how to get through the season joyfully while remaining healthy-ish.

The allure of holiday food is often more about the fear of missing out than the food itself. Its that once a year, get it now or wait til next year mentality that can override other food sensibilities. This is especially true if youve been on an overly restrictive diet that eliminates your favorite foods or fun, but less healthful menu items.

Think about it this way: If youre eyeing a pair of shoes and the store only has one pair left in your size, it makes you want them that much more. But if you know you can order them online any time youd like, youre in a better position to compare them to other shoes and decide if and when youd like to make the purchase. The same is true with food. If you really want stuffing in July or a sugar cookie in September, you can find those foods. You may have to go a little out of your way to get or make them, but its totally doable. With an abundant mindset, you can be more selective at holiday meals.

Some holiday foods are mind-blowingly delicious and others are just so-so. When you become more mindful and aware of these distinctions, it puts you in a better position to be more intentional and deliberate with holiday foods. Sure, fruitcake is primarily available this time of year, but if it doesnt do much for you, theres no point in eating it. Prioritize the foods you truly enjoy and eat them in portions that feel good to you.

Savoring your food can go a long way toward increasing your satisfaction, lowering your overall intake and even reducing bloating and indigestion that can occur when youre eating too quickly and not chewing thoroughly. We live in a fast-paced world so its seemingly normal to wolf down a meal, but your body wants you to slow down!

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive signals from your appetite-regulating hormones so if you arent spending at least this amount of time savoring a meal, you wont get those signals when youve had enough to eat. Several studies have linked fast eating with weight gain and bigger weight fluctuations and this habit is also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

But setting aside the health concerns, slowing down can lead to better enjoyment of your meal. Whether youre having holiday fare or an ordinary meal, stay present and take time to appreciate every aspect of it. How does it smell? Whats the experience biting into it? How does it taste in your mouth? What else can you appreciate about the moment? Maybe its the music, the party setting or a beautiful wreath. The holidays are about much more than food and the process of being more mindful helps you fully appreciate the entire experience.

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Your body is constantly sending you physical signals, but over time, you may learn to ignore or override them. Start to tune into these signals, which include sensations of hunger and fullness as well as things, like reflux, bloating and gas.

If youre wondering how to discover your bodys signals, here are some ideas. About halfway through a meal, you might ask yourself how much youre enjoying your meal and assess how youre filling up. When you have a few bites left, you might evaluate how youre feeling and if you want to eat a few bites more. You might examine how different portion sizes make you feel. For instance, how does a large helping of an extra-rich casserole impact your digestive system? What about a smaller portion? Do you feel sluggish after eating or does a meal revive your energy?

As you decipher what your body is saying to you, practice responding to the signs you pick up on. The facts you discover can help inform another eating occasion so if a meal makes you feel overly full or wreaks havoc on your digestion, you might approach your next eating occasion differently. But dont go overboard here! Its unrealistic to expect that you will only eat in response to hunger, that youll always stop at the point of feeling content, and that youll only eat foods that make you feel your physical best. Again, the idea is to bring more awareness to eating so you can make choices. At a holiday meal, it might make sense to eat a little more or have a larger helping of dessert, but at other meals, a different approach might serve you better.

Prioritizing fruits and vegetables isnt about sticking to low-cal fare in between holiday splurges. Its about the happiness-boosting benefits they provide. Studies continue to point to the fact that these fiber-packed, antioxidant-rich plants may lead to meaningful gains in happiness and life satisfaction. In one study that looked at the eating habits of more than 12,000 adults, those who ate the most defined as eight servings a day experienced improvements in life satisfaction. If eight servings sounds like a lot, consider that as few as four servings per day were linked to higher happiness scores. Another study found that people eating three to four servings of fruit and veggies reported less stress compared to those eating just a serving. And other research shows that your happiness fluctuates depending on your daily portions of these foods.

The holidays are stressful enough. Filling half your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner and eating a couple of pieces of fruit each day might help mellow you out and lift your holiday spirits.

A glass of wine or a festive cocktail can be an enjoyable way to celebrate the season, but making a habit of going above the alcohol limits can have a negative impact on your mood. Before you head to a holiday party, try to set an intention of one or two drinks (the limits for women and men). If this isnt realistic for you, try to pace your drinking by sipping water alongside your cocktail or alternating a glass of H20 between each alcoholic drink.

You probably dont need me to tell you that a nasty hangover can make you feel like a scrooge so do your best to avoid this scenario. In addition to staying hydrated, dont drink on an empty stomach and if your holiday party rages well into the night, continue to nibble throughout the event. These strategies along with stopping when youve reached your limit will help keep your spirits up.

Staying healthy over the holidays isnt just about the foods you eat. Managing your stress levels and getting enough rest are critical to your overall wellbeing. When you feel depleted, youre more likely to catch a cold, your body is more prone to storing fat, your work suffers and its harder to feel in control of your food choices.

Take a look at the self-care practices that you regularly participate in and determine whether youre caring for yourself well or whether there may be an opportunity to do better. Youll enjoy the holidays more if you dont run yourself ragged.

Its so easy to say yes to another event, a second or third glass of prosecco or a few cookies from the cookie platter. Check in with yourself regularly and ask yourself if another event, cocktail or helping of food is at the expense of your own wellbeing. If overstuffing yourself leaves you feeling awful or if a certain type of food doesnt sit well with you, its not offensive to say "no, thank you".

Setting food aside, you may also want to apply this thinking to your social schedule. If youre overscheduled to the point of overwhelm, its likely that your health is suffering. RSVPing "no" to a party might open up some space to stay more consistent with physical activity or participate in other healthy practices that may have fallen by the wayside.

Skipping spin because youre heading to your fourth event of the week? Its totally normal to feel like you dont have time to exercise or cook healthfully or participate in any number of self-care practices that keep you in tip top shape. But the truth is, theres a huge space in between having all the time and energy and having none of it so find that magic in the middle. Sure, you might not have the time to devote to your usual spin class, but maybe you have time to take a 15-minute walk during your lunch break. A weeks worth of meal prep might be out, but you might find some shortcuts, like pre-washed veggies, to help you reach a happier veggie target. If the holidays throw a curveball in your usual yoga or meditation practice, a one-minute meditation practice or some deep breathing is better than none at all. Studies repeatedly show that some attempt at staying healthy is better than ditching it altogether so instead of letting everything slide, do whatever you can whenever you can and aim to be healthier (or healthy-ish) this season.

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10 tips to avoid letting healthy habits slip during the holidays - NBC News

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December 17th, 2019 at 2:51 am

Posted in Self-Help