Balancing Health During the Holidays

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

It's the holiday season, and Santa Claus is coming back, the Christmas snow is white on the ground and...... nutrition talk is everywhere.

This is the time of year when marketing peaks in efforts to get people thinking they need to enroll in a diet program after the holidays or use a trendy product to "blast fat," insert other magic bullet headline here.  There will be other messages telling us which foods to avoid during the holidays to not gain holiday weight, and more.

If you think about it, why would you START valuing eating "healthy" during a season with an abundance of food? Logistically, timing makes no sense. And in the grand scheme, it really makes no sense to focus on your weight when the reason for the season is much more. 

When we embrace balance in our everyday lives, the holidays are not some day out of the ordinary when it comes to our wellness behaviors. Yes, there are seasonal drinks and dishes that we may not normally have, or we may eat a higher volume than a routine work day. But this is also normal part of balance. Some days we eat more than others due to higher levels of hunger, availability of food, or many other factors. At the same time, being in tune with this hunger often helps us be aware of our fullness. The day is not used as a binge when we listen to when we are comfortably full. Being mindful of both our hunger and fullness helps us achieve balance at holiday dinner tables, parties, and events.

But balance around the holidays (and all days of the year) is about much more. Are you balancing all aspects of your wellness? You can ask yourselves questions to answer this such as: Are you staying hydrated? Getting rest? Moving your body in the ways you normally enjoy? Paying attention to your mental health? Spending time with your social support? These are all just as important pieces to the pumpkin pie of your holiday health. 

Below are 10 tips taken from Beth Israel Lahey Health's behavioral services that really encompass the pieces of whole body health and nourishment specific to the holidays that tend to be neglected:

"1. Say ‘yes’ to your health:  Create a list between now and New Years of healthy and joyful things that you will do for yourself.   Practice saying a polite “no” if you are asked to participate in events that are beyond your comfort zone or not included on that healthy to-do list that you have created. 

2. Breathe and be present:  Practice a simple breathing, meditation or centering technique to help you keep a sense of calm.  As you join the flurry of pre-holiday shopping or parties (or not), make sure you are truly present for each person and event and place.

3. Plan ahead for the workplace holiday party: Nervous about the workplace holiday bash? Prepare ahead of time for how you will feel, how much you will drink, when you will arrive and leave, and how you will get home safely. Newly in recovery from problem drinking or alcoholism? Pre-planning for the workplace party is even more crucial. Or, better yet, bring along a non-drinking friend or support person. Don’t go it alone. 

4. When is it more than holiday blues?  Learn and recognize the signs of depression. Ask for professional help. Speak to your doctor about the many resources that will help you to cope with depression, grief or loss before or during the holidays.

5. Get exercise: Find time in your days to walk outdoors. In the winter, when light is low, our systems slow down and outdoor light can help to lift our spirits.  

6. Role models for your kids:  Children and teens need to see a consistent policy around drinking and other drug use in your home. If you need to, create new family memories with healthy meals and alcohol-free celebrations with your children.

7. Sleep: It’s not uncommon to lose sleep as our holiday activities increase. Have fun while maintaining your regular sleep patterns.      

8. Trust your values: Test your friends’ and loved ones’ requirements or expectations against your own values. Be clear about those values and why they mean so much to you. For example, if you would rather donate to charity than purchase or receive gifts, be clear about your preference and invite them to join in activities which will bring you both together in joy.

9. Be a good host: If you’re hosting that party or holiday dinner, you are responsible for all your guests’ safety. Serve a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Use standard, measured drinks. Never serve anyone under 21, and ensure that all guests have a safe and sober ride home.

10. Ask for help:  If the holidays bring you more stress than joy, or if they evoke unhappy feelings or memories, local newspapers often have health-event calendars and updates on local support groups."

Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday!