A Healthy Approach to the Holidays

Scrumptious treats. Rich meals. Special beverages. Plus, parents, siblings, neighbors and friends! For many, the joys of the holidays are a source of stress … and weight gain. With some thoughtful planning and attitude adjustment, you can keep stress to a minimum—and maintain your weight come January!

  • Keep your appetite in check. With a sumptuous dinner party ahead, it’s tempting to skip meals or eat less before you go. Instead, eat as you typically do, so you arrive at the festivities with your usual appetite. Then, munch on a plate of vegetables or salad as an appetizer. Vegetables are low in calories, and filling up on them at the beginning of a meal will keep you from overdoing it with higher-calorie options later on.
  • Limit yourself to one plate with small portions. This will still allow you to get a taste of everything while not overdoing it. It takes about 20 minutes for our stomachs to realize we’re full, so wait at least 20 minutes after your first plate before deciding if you want seconds.
  • Are desserts your nemesis? Love salty snacks? If you know the desserts will be calling your name, make a deal with yourself before the event to have just your favorite one. If salty snacks are your Achilles’ heel, choose to skip any chips or crackers. These snacks are available throughout the year—so why waste calories on them when there are bacon-wrapped scallops to be eaten!

Our outlook and expectations may have as much to do with how we manage the holidays as our resources. As you get into the full swing of the holidays, try these three stress-busters:

  • Think about your expectations. Be honest about what you want, and be realistic about what is possible. Then, try these two rules: Keep it simple. Don’t over-commit. If you need to, scale back your plans. Remember, you’re not Superman or Superwoman.
  • Accept people as they are. Don’t expect others to behave as you would like them to. This is a recipe for disappointment, if not misery. Recognize that the people in your life will celebrate the holidays as they want to and not the way you want them to. So don’t try to change or control them.
  • Remember, even the best-laid plans can go awry. This goes back to expectations. Expect that some problems are possible or even likely—inclement weather, delayed guests, an overcooked dinner. Try to approach unexpected challenges with an open mind, patience, creativity or a sense of humor.

A final idea, for both stress and healthy eating: get everyone outdoors, walking, jumping puddles or kicking a ball around. Exercise is good for your emotional state and your waistline! Remember, the holidays are short, as is life. Make the most of them!

The dietitians at PacMed help patients support good health through better eating habits. The PacMed behavioral medicine team offers a variety of therapy to help patients cope with a wide range of problems.