Have a Happy Healthy Holiday

November 25, 2009

Imagine this: A holiday season where you gain no weight and you’re not stressed out.

Impossible? Not at all.

We’re not recommending a complete personal overhaul. Save that for the New Year. Instead, consider the following tips and strategies as a starting point—a way to create a happy, healthy December and begin habits you can build on in 2010.

Stress and the holidays

Sometimes there’s so much to do during the holidays that before we know it, the stress begins to build. What’s the easiest way to alleviate a moment of stress?

Breathe.

“So many of our physiological responses to stress can be noticed in, and then changed by, our breath,” says Tracy Weber, yoga instructor and owner of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle. Weber offers Yoga Therapy classes that relieve stress and anxiety. Signs of stress include holding your breath, shallow breathing, and fast breathing.

Why does breathing work? It slows down the chemical processes in the body and lets the parasympathetic nervous system kick in, which is your calming system.

Here is a simple, everyday breathing practice that Weber recommends:

  • Take time during the day to stop and notice your breathing. Notice the quality and where you feel the breath in your body.
  • Start to breathe more slowly. Feel your belly expand on the inhales.
  • Count up to six seconds, breathing in and out. Do this for five minutes.

“If you lengthen the breath for five minutes a day, things begin to shift for the better in a way that you can’t possibly imagine,” Weber says.

The truth about holiday weight gain

Here, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

According to a Wall Street Journal blog, the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day among men and women is just over one pound. One tiny little pound.

But here’s the problem: people don’t usually lose that one pound—ever.

We’re not encouraging anyone to start a weight loss program now, but we have some healthful eating strategies that can keep you from eating out of control this month—and every month to follow.

Don’t save up calories

We all do it. We eat like birdies during the day so we can indulge during the evening party hours. But if you arrive at the party starving, you’re setting yourself up for all the wrong choices.

“When you’re hungry or tired, your body needs carbs and sugars now and it craves a quick fix,” says nutritionist Julie Starkel, a registered dietitian and a nutritional counselor at Green Lake Nutrition in Seattle. “This is why we go for pretzels and cookies rather than fish and vegetables.” So this means that when you take good care of your body, you’ll find it easy to eat healthy food; if you’re tired or don’t eat enough, you naturally will feel like eating unhealthy food.

Try these simple eating strategies for the holidays—and life:

  • Keep yourself well fed throughout the day. Eat five times a day. Make breakfast the biggest meal and eat a protein with every meal. “When the right animal proteins and fats [polyunsaturated and monounsaturated] go into your system, it fills you up,” says Starkel. If you’re a regular Chef by Request customer, you’re already experiencing this.
  • Get enough rest. Diet aside, how much more pleasant is that holiday party at your in-laws when you’re well rested?

Emotional eating

Many of us turn to food when our emotions are charged. The first step to creating new eating habits is to pay attention.

“Take some time to think about why and when you eat mindlessly. Changing that behavior takes time and commitment. The holidays probably aren’t the time to dig into changing yourself,” Starkel says, “but it can be a good time to start. See it, catch it, and get to know it.”

Make your holidays meaningful

Sometimes we forget about what matters to us during the holidays. We get caught up in all the social duties: shopping, parties, decorations, family, friends, relatives, trying to do everything—all of this can add up to overwhelm!

Weber encourages people to reconnect with a symbol or a ritual that brings meaning to the holidays. So, if it’s about peace or connections for you, focus on peaceful activities and personal connections. Let the shopping and party hopping fall to the wayside. Make your family and friends aware of your decision. When you set priorities and intentions that matter to you, you’re setting yourself up for a happier holiday.
And this could be the best holiday gift you give yourself all year.

Get the Mayo Clinic’s 10 tips for coping during the holiday season.
Learn more about Chef by Request healthy meals.
Check out our sample menus.
If you’d like to enroll or talk to someone about getting Chef by Request meals, click here.
Check out our pricing options.

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