Holidays: Challenging or not?

Staying healthy during the Holidays.

The anticipation of the fast approaching holiday season creates an excitement in the air for people. According to Michigan State University Extension this time can also create anxiety. The holidays bring celebrations with friends and family, lights, baking, shopping, traditions, and healthy eating and physical activity. Yes, eating healthy and getting physical activity during the holiday season is possible and should be a part of your holiday plan. Most people find it difficult to make healthy choices during this time, but with a little planning you can have a fun holiday without crashing down on your healthy lifestyle.

Take a few minutes to think about some of your past holidays. What was most enjoyable about those times and what was not so enjoyable? Social eating can be a challenge for maintaining or losing weight and there may be social situations where healthy choices are almost nonexistent. Family and friends can play a part in what you eat and how you eat. Is it really possible to go through the holidays making healthy choices and getting physically active? It is if you have a plan. Some things to think about when special occasions arise:

  1. Anticipate the event – Think about the food and drink that will be served. Can you ask for dressing on the side, lean meat and maybe club soda with lime in place of pop or alcohol? If it is buffet style, figure out how you want to use your fat calories for the day. Can you eat a small meal before going and snack on fruit and vegetables?
  2. Plan healthy additions to your special occasion – Plan food which includes low fat versions of your favorite dishes as well as extra fruit, vegetables and healthy snacks. Plan a morning walk before the festivities or swim laps to get in your physical activity. Talk to your family about their healthy ideas and create a plan to do them.
  3. Set reasonable expectations – Don’t plan to lose weight over the holidays or during your vacation. Instead, work to maintain your weight by being cautious of your food choices and continuing to be physically active. Allow yourself to enjoy some of those special foods, but keeping control to not over-indulge.
  4. Avoid or reduce stress during special events and holidays – Do not try to please others more than yourself. Plan daily times to relax.
  5. Build in ways to be active – add activity in wherever you have extra time. Park farther away from buildings so that you have to walk a distance. Look for seasonal ways to include activity such as walking the malls at a brisk pace, sledding, snow shoeing and walking around a park to view the lights.
  6. Plan for fun things after the holidays – Sometimes after the holidays people lose momentum to continue to make healthy choices. Plan something to look forward to like a family trip in February.

Despite challenges, healthy eating and physical activity are possible during festive times. The key is to plan ahead and be prepared for surprises that may make those plans difficult to accomplish. MSU Extension has more information on eating healthy and incorporating physical activity into you lifestyle.

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