Liz Weber is a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Today’s “On the Menu” segment provides you with a helpful guide to nurturing a healthy mindset throughout the holiday season.
We have all heard the statistics about unwanted weight gain during the holiday season and how we often struggle to lose this weight over the course of the rest of the year. Luckily, there are many easy, healthy swaps to help reduce excess calories and fat in holiday cooking.
In addition, we also know that stress plays a role in unwanted weight gain. According to a study conducted by the CDC, higher perceived stress was associated with lower levels of physical activity, less mindful eating behaviors, and more energy-dense food choices. Therefore, even if you are using healthier techniques in your holiday baking this year, your weight may still continue to climb if you are bombarded with stress.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, it's important to start preparing your mindset in order to promote good health before, during and after the holidays. Follow this guide to help formulate a strong and healthy holiday mindset.
- Identify what part of the holidays makes you happy. Is it catching up with friends or family, giving back to the community, making food for family, or even eating all the yummy traditional holiday foods? Make these things a priority. Even if enjoying all the yummy food is something you really look forward to, then do so without feeling guilty. But be sure to remember moderation and portion sizes. After all, it is not the select couple holidays that will cause significant weight gain. It is the lack of a consistent healthy lifestyle before, during and after the holidays that makes the biggest impact long-term.
- Identify areas of your diet or fitness that need improving NOW…not the day after Thanksgiving when the guilt sets in—or on January 1st when you decide to start a crash diet. Focus on 2 SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals for your fitness level and diet now. Make these goals as realistic as possible so that it will be feasible to maintain throughout and after the holiday season.
- De-glorify certain "off-limit" foods. When we put pumpkin pie in a category of "should never eat" and salad in a category of "eat often," which one do we tend to want more? That slice of pumpkin pie. When we stop hyper-focusing on foods that we can't eat and focus on all foods in moderation, you start to form a positive relationship to food and your body.
- Find your zen time. Whether that's taking more time for yourself or just feeling ok with saying "no" to parties or extra tasks. Allowing your mind to decompress will help facilitate a healthier mindset during the holidays. Try some of these relaxation tips:
- Read a book for 15 minutes every day.
- Meditate or yoga for 15-20 minutes daily.
- Journal in the morning or evenings before bed to remind yourself things you are grateful for.
- Go tech-free for an hour or two during the day. Don't be afraid to unplug from the electronics for a while.
By following some of these easy tips to decompress your mind, you may find you will enjoy your holidays even more than previous years. The mind plays a large part in your health and it's important to treat it as an equal to diet and exercise in your healthy lifestyle. Happy Holidays!