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How to stay healthy during the holidays

The average Thanksgiving meal has 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. Other holiday meals will have similar caloric opportunities. Many people start by snacking throughout the day. That, combined with the meal, can lead to a total of more than 4,500 calories.

Not to worry! The holidays can be healthfully enjoyed if they’re taken in moderation and combined with a proper exercise plan.

Below are tips and strategies from Mary Free Bed’s Weight Management team:

Have a game plan

  • Create a day-by-day plan that reflects calorie balancing, physical activity, accountability and environmental engineering.
  • Plan in advance what you are going to eat and what kind of exercise you’ll be doing for the day. Try not to focus on what you can’t eat, but rather what you can. Thinking about what we can’t (or think we shouldn’t) eat can set us up for failure because it leaves us feeling deprived.
  • Your outfit counts. Avoid baggy clothing that more comfortably allows for overindulgence.

Continue your physical activity routine

  • Most Thanksgiving meals do not start until mid-afternoon. That leaves plenty of time to get some activity in before-hand or even later in the afternoon/evening. Check ahead to see if your gym will be open. If not, make a plan for what you can do at home.

Make conscious decisions

  • Have a meal replacement before leaving home or prior to your meal. This will help you feel full and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
  • Make healthy choices; fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables and choose water or other low-calorie beverages to leave less room for calorie-dense items.
  • When you arrive at a party, grab a sparkling water and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. This will give you plenty of time to survey your food choices before getting started.

Make a deliberate decision

  • Set your goal for the season. Is it weight maintenance or weight loss?

Start a new tradition

  • Take the focus off food and suggest a walk after dinner.

Take some time for yourself

  • Get a massage, read a book, take a winter walk, connect with an old friend — any activity that will bring you happiness.

Focus on family and friends

  • Holidays are much more than lavish spreads of traditional foods. They’re a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends. The holiday season also can be a time of gratitude, spirituality and reflection. Focus on enjoying the holidays with the people who are most special to you and making memories.
  • Meeting new people is another good way of refocusing your energies. If you’re shy, simply show off your excellent listening skills!
  • Try to socialize away from the buffet; venture out into the social space.

Be a food snob

  • Don’t waste your calories on foods you can have all year long. Choose your absolute favorites and leave the others behind.

Take a healthy dish to a potluck

  • Bring something you know you’ll feed good about eating, such as salad, fruit, raw vegetables and a healthy dip, or a low-calorie dessert.

Slowly savor

  • Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites and taste each mouthful.

Skip the seconds and be mindful of portions

  • Put a limit on the amount of food you eat for the day. This not only manages the amount of calories you’ll consume, but also helps you to avoid the discomfort and stomach upset that can accompany a large meal.

Go easy on the alcohol

  • Calories from alcohol can quickly add up. Plus, when we drink, our inhibitions are lowered and we are more likely to abandon healthy eating. Enjoy sparkling water with lemon or lime. It will help you stay hydrated and avoid extra calories. If you choose to drink, have a water between beverages.

Coping with Holiday Stress

The busy holiday season can be equally joyful and stressful. Being around family can sometimes be difficult. Meanwhile, there’s much to do, and often we set a goal of creating the “perfect” holiday. Unfortunately, this pressure can put us at increased risk for stress-induced eating as a way to cope.

Here are strategies to help reduce holiday stress:

  • Focus on those things for which you’re most grateful
  • Practice deep breathing whenever you feel overwhelmed
  • Maintain your exercise routine
  • Remind yourself to do just one thing at a time
  • Remember: you cannot do more than your best
  • Be willing to say “no” to some events, tasks or requests. Sometimes, this is the best way we can take care of ourselves.
  • Create a holiday season schedule for yourself. Schedule and prioritize everything you need to get done.
  • Reduce your expectations – aim for “good enough,” not “perfect”
  • If you’re alone during the holidays, pamper yourself and find a way to help others who are less fortunate. This will help you to feel engaged with others.
  • Create fun times for yourself. Having fun and laughing is a great way of reducing stress.

The holidays are such a great time to be with family, reflect, and give thanks. With a plan of action, you can embrace the season, enjoy the festivities and stay true to your wellness goals. Need a helping hand this season, or thinking ahead to your New Year’s resolution?

Mary Free Bed’s Weight Management Program encompasses much more than a number on a scale. Participants develop self-confidence and healthier relationships with food, improve mental health and well-being, and decrease medications. Sign up today using this form or call 616.840.8908.

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