Look around you. Wherever you are, your environment influences what you do, including what you eat or drink or how active you may be. All these things can impact your weight and your health. In a previous blog, Tips for Keeping the Holidays Healthy, I shared a few tips for preventing holiday weight gain including getting enough sleep, managing stress, and planning. Whether you are staying home or traveling to visit family, below are additional strategies to keep your holidays healthy.
Writing down your food and/or activity can be helpful to keep your health goals in focus. There are many ways to approach tracking food and activity. You can find a variety of fitness and nutrition tracking apps to choose from, such as MyFitnessPal or Calorie Counter by Lose It! If you are better on paper, use a traditional notebook and pen. Either method is a great strategy to keep your nutrition and activity in check. In a study by Turner-McGrievy, et al., tracking at least two meals or snacks a day was a predictor of successful weight loss (2019), and for the holidays, it is a great way to help you maintain.
Make it Social
Recruit a friend or family member! Let them know what your health goals are for the next few months and ask for their support. Finding a formal or informal social support facilitates “successful weight management” (Ee, et al., 2022). You can find “social” support through community organizations or online, such as a Facebook group. “Social connections might help protect health and lengthen life”(National Institutes of Health, 2021).
Your friend or family member can provide one layer of support to keep you focused; however, immediate rewards have been shown to help keep you stay on track (Woolley and Fishbach, 2017) towards your holiday health goals. Think of them of mini rewards or gifts for each mini success. You walked 5 days this week and met your weekly goal? Woohoo! Mini reward earned. You used a small plate at the holiday gathering? Celebrate your success with a mini reward. You get the idea. Of course, your gifts do not have to be monetary. It could be giving yourself the gift of a quiet moment alone, a hot bath, extra time reading, or the time to call your best friend. You choose. Take a moment and write down 3-4 mini rewards that you find exciting. Use this list to cover your rewards through the new year.
Be consistent with your daily exercise. Holidays are an especially busy time; however, choose to keep your momentum going. Remember this is a gift of health you are giving to yourself. Even if your workout is 5 minutes, keep it going – every – single – day. If you are planning to take a road trip this season, be prepared. Check to see if the hotel gym is available and if the hours work for your schedule. Add portable exercise equipment like a fitness band to your bags. They are easy to pack, lightweight, and are effective for sneaking in a quick workout. You can always use a fitness app on your phone or even try an online video when you travel. Don’t forget to pack your workout clothes and shoes, too! Staying home? Stage your workout clothes and shoes the night before. Put them in a place where you normally get dressed. Let this be a positive cue or trigger for being active the next day. You can even fill and chill your water bottle the night before. Put a sticky note on the door reminding you your water bottle is in the refrigerator. Set yourself up for a win!
All the Fixings
Traditional foods, holiday treats, your favorite cookies….temptation is everywhere. All the nibbles, sips, and bites add up. This is where planning and tracking are helpful. Other strategies to keep the temptations at bay are to:
- Drink a glass of water and wait to see if the craving passes.
- Brush your teeth – this clears your palette and often deters you from nibbling when you are not hungry. Sugar-free gum and mints may work if your toothbrush is not handy.
- When cooking, avoid taste testing as much as possible. These calories still count.
- If you decide to indulge, go for it – just keep portions in mind or limit yourself to just a spoonful.
During the holiday, keep your health in mind while enjoying the season. Use tracking tools, social support, establish rewards for your mini successes, maintain movement, keep moderation in the forefront, and most of all enjoy all the things you love during the holidays!
Healthy Holiday Challenge: Choose one healthy holiday strategy or tip and apply it this week.
“Create healthy habits, not restrictions” – Unknown
Adapted from an original post, Wellness with Wendy e-news (12.9.2020). Author: Wendy W. Lynch
Image Credit: Canva.com/Education