Happy and healthy – 8 tips to stay on track during the holidays

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The holidays can be a nightmare for anyone trying to lose weight or are conscious of their health. It is a minefield of high sugar, high-calorie snacks, beverages and meals. We are encouraged to eat often and eat plenty! From giant, indulgent dinners to specialty coffees and treats in the mall, it seems the odds are stacked against you this season.

But wait … You decide what goes into your body and you have the strength to stay on track. Of course, the temptation is out there, but as you follow these tips, you can indulge a little without going overboard.

And why would you want to avoid going overboard? Because you and I both know how you feel when you do it … you feel uncomfortably full, your mood and the energy tank, you gain weight and you feel guilty. None of it is fun or sexy!

So let’s make sure this vacation is one where you practice healthy habits so you can keep your mood and energy high so you can indulge sensibly and so you actually enjoy the holidays this year and have a good time with yourself .

Sounds good?

OK, here’s how to do it:

1. Make a stash of healthy food options – keep quick, portable snacks at your fingertips so you always have something to pull out of the fridge when you walk in the door starving or tossing your purse before heading out. Good options include: raw veggies and hummus, Kashi brand (or other low sugar) granola bars, nuts, seeds & dried fruit, low sugar yogurt or cottage cheese containers and peanut butter and an apple.

2. Fill up with Veggies & Lean Proteins – these will fill you up with fewer calories and will keep your blood sugar stable so you don’t get a mood and energy crash later. A good strategy for homes, restaurants and holiday dinners is to fill your plate with half vegetables, a quarter of lean protein, and the remaining quarter is for your leftovers.

3. Drink lots of water – even light dehydration can make us feel tired and cranky along with giving you a headache and making you feel hungry. Many people eat when they are actually thirsty. Dry indoor air does not help anyone either. Make sure you sip parties all day. You know you drink enough if you have to pee at least every two hours, and it’s pale yellow.

4. Look at sugar! – sugar is everywhere these days … from your candy cane to the sugar cookies your employee brought, it seems there is more sugar in the forecast than snow! Sugar gives your body a quick boost of energy, but then you go down, feeling tired, groggy, cranky and looking for the next sugar fix that will pick you up again. It’s a terrible cycle! Minimize these effects by choosing only one or two sugary treats a day, MAX!

5. Some are better than none – with extra commitments around the holidays (parties, shopping, etc.) many people end up skipping workouts or taking a break from training together. But now is when you need to exercise the most – to deal with stress, beat the blues and counteract all the excess food you eat. If you can’t fit into your regular routine (or you don’t have a regular routine), at least do some. Even 10 minutes a day can increase your health and fitness level. You can even get the full amount of recommended activity each day by doing 10 minutes in the morning, 10 at lunch and 10 after work – just make sure this is 10 minutes of uninterrupted activity that will make your heart beat faster (no, shopping doesn’t count!)

6. Plan, Plan, Plan – Make a list and check it twice. Planning ahead sets you up for success, reduces stress and makes sure you don’t cringe at the last minute. List all your holiday parties and get-togethers, and list all the people you need to get presents. Mark these in your calendar and review daily and weekly. Plan your meals and workouts around your parties, and do the same for your shopping trips. Things go much smoother when you have a plan (and you become less tempted to reach for another sugar fix!)

7. Remember the reason for the season – for me the holidays are about getting in touch with family, friends and loved ones. When I remember, it’s easier to let go of stress (like trying to find the ‘perfect gift’ or worrying about whether the house is clean enough or whether the dessert looks ‘just right’. When I focus on what’s important for me, that’s when I really feel happy and healthy (and less stressed!)

8. Stay present – focus on the present moment. Live in the here and now instead of worrying about the future or living in the past. Stay in the moment using all your senses – really listen to the other person as you hold a conversation, notice the colors of the lights and decorations, notice the smell and baking of the trees and really notice the taste and feel of the food you are eating. When you stay present and eat thoughtfully, you eat less food and feel more fulfilled.

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