The key to handling the holidays healthfully lies in balancing your lifestyle during this particularly busy and potentially stressful month. Balance means “to bring into harmony”. Let harmony be your guide this month: whenever you don’t feel right, stop for a moment and assess your actions and thoughts over the last few hours or minutes. Tune into what wasn’t in harmony with your goals, what threw you out of alignment with your plan…..
Our goal is to balance diet and exercise and our mental, emotional and spiritual state. To do this, we need to have a clear idea about what will support us in each of these areas and what won’t. Here are some suggestions for each critical area that effects our sense of well-being.
(1) Forget about losing weight between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Be realistic: few of us are “nutrition saints” during the holidays. And let’s face it, those sleek new party dresses won’t look so great with any extra padding! Make maintaining your present weight your dietary goal for now. Concentrate on the following tips which will empower you to feel your best during the holidays….and make weight loss much easier to implement in January!
(2) Never skip a meal, especially during the holidays. This may induce hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and set up uncontrollable food cravings. Eat something every 3 hours. Small, frequent meals are best for managing hypoglycemia. Focus on high fiber foods which release their energy over several hours instead of just minutes.
(3) Fill up on complex carbohydrates. These are the fiber-rich foods which keep you full longer and take more energy to digest (and therefore burn more calories). High fiber foods are fresh veggies, whole grains and beans, and whole fruits (rather than juices, which have had their fibrous pulp removed, leaving only the sugary juice).
(4) Bring the host or hostess a food gift that will support your health,when attending a party. Feel free to check with the hostess first if it seems like a more formal party where this may be inappropriate. If you suspect there will be no “healthy” options there, then eat before you go.
(5) Survey the table of food and quickly rate each dish on a scale of 1-10. “10”s are low in fat and high in fiber, “1”s are the high sugar, high
fat foods that are the curse of your holiday health plan.
(6) Give yourself “elf portions” when filling your plate. You can always go back for more.
(7) Eat slowly! Remember, it takes 20 minutes for enough food to fill
your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. No wolfing your food!
(8) Chew your food well. It’s lousy for digestion to have partially chewed food entering the stomach and it’s no fun being at a party with a stomach-ache. Right? Besides, it’s totally unattractive to be shoveling food while carrying on a conversation!
(9) After you’ve filled your plate, move away from the food table. It
is too easy to continue to snack you’re when lingering around the food.
(10) Keep a diet diary for one week of the holidays. Record
everything that enters your mouth. Check it over (objectively), to see that
it’s really supporting your plan.
(11) Reduce caffeine intake! Caffeine is a drug that is a central nervous system stimulant. It causes release of adrenaline, preparing us for an emergency. When it’s used on a regular basis, it causes nervousness, irritability and anxiety (and potentially other, more serious diseases). So, when it’s already a time of year when stresses mount, why aggravate the situation by having extra coffee, tea, cappuccino, colas and chocolates? Limit yourself to no more than one serving per day of one of the above.
(12) About alcohol…..
* Never drink it on an empty stomach. Alcohol on an empty stomach
goes right to your head, decreasing your will-power and common-sense. Grab a bottled water as soon as you get to the party and then look over the food and drink.
* Be sure to count each drink. Keep a little alcohol calorie count going in your mind. They really add up to trouble when over-consumed.
* Space your drinks. Having only one drink per hour will keep it from building up in your blood.
* Have a designated driver who limits his or her alcohol intake
or avoids it altogether.
Taking brisk walks during the holiday season is one of the single, most important things you can do for yourself. Getting out in the crisp air renews the spirit and calms the mind. It strengthens muscles all over your body, including your heart. And it increases the rate of calcium deposition into the bones, thus decreasing your risk of osteoporosis, now epidemic in older women.
If you are in the habit of more vigorous aerobic exercise, then by all means, do continue it as much as possible. However, if you don’t exercise regularly, this is not the best time to enter into a new, strenuous program. A 20 to 30 minute walk each day will provide numerous benefits now and prepare you to begin a more vigorous exercise program geared towards establishing your ideal weight in January. Here is the formula for calculating your Target HeartRate and tips on exercise during the holidays:
220 (baseline number)
– your age ( ie. 40 yrs.)
= Maximum heart rate (180 beats per minute)
X (multiplied) 60% and 80%= Target Heart Rate (T .H.R.)
60% T.H. R. = 108 b.p.m. 80% T.H.R.= 144 b.p.m.
So, 60% of your maximum heart rate is the lowest heart rate you can exercise at to be in an aerobic range, while 80% should be the fastest your heart should beat during aerobic exercise. Your heart rate should never exceed 80% of its maximum. And if it is at less than 60% of its maximum, you are probably getting very little aerobic benefit out of your exercise. Be sure to sustain this target heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes.
(1) Take a walk every day during December.
(2) Exercise before you go out to socialize. It will increase your
feelings of well-being and decrease your appetite for an hour or two. Drink
two glasses of pure water after exercising.
(3) Taking a walk within two hours after overeating.
Almost everyone experiences a sense of total frustration at one point during the holiday season. However, an increasing number of people suffer from an actual, recognized syndrome called “holiday depression”. This depression stems from our having unrealistic expectations of what this season will provide for us. These expectations are based on childhood fantasies of Christmas’ or Hannukas when we were young. Remember back to those early years with lots of presents and surprises. We spent time with Mom in the kitchen making and eating lots of candy and sweets. There was time off from school with little responsibility. In essence, we were totally taken care of during this time of year.
Things are different today. We are the care-givers. We are the ones spending endless hours and countless dollars trying to fulfil our own fantasies and the fantasies of others. We’ve fallen victim to advertising promoting almost blind consumerism, leaving us exhausted, broke and wondering what is missing.
What’s missing from the holiday season is the Spirit of the holidays.What we’re all looking for now is the energy, enthusiasm and unconditional love that we felt as children; something our current model can’t give us. In essence, we’ve forgotten who we are as spiritual beings, one with our Source. And we’re feeling a sense of separation, which inevitably leads to depression.
The remedy is simple: spend some time reconnecting to your spiritual side. Remember that we are all vibrant, whole, complete and perfect, when we tune into God as our Life-Source.
Here are some simple things to do to renew yourself on a mental, emotional and spiritual level:
(1) Pace yourself. At the beginning of each week, look over your schedule and eliminate anything to which you are not really committed. Take care of yourself by not over-extending your time and energy. Limit your commitments. Be willing to say no.
(2) Take “quiet time” daily. Plan at least 20 minutes each day for time for yourself. Make this a time of quiet meditation, without interruption or anything to do.
(3) Think about love. Who do you love, how do you express it and how could you express it even more on a non-material basis? How about writing a few love notes?
(4) Give of yourself. Give a smile to someone you don’t know, someone in need of your love and support. Give a little change every time you pass the Salvation Army bell-ringer on the street corner. Give a listen to someone in pain. Share your love.
(4) Tonight when you go home, take a few minutes to think about this holiday season. What is it that you want to get out of it? What do you want to give to others? Get really clear about how you will accomplish making this the most love-filled, healthy and happy holiday season ever!…..
Dr. Sally LaMont practices in Marin County, California and can be reached at (415) 267-7679