We’ve all done it: We’ve overindulged, over-committed, and underslept through the holidays. We’ve been exhausted and testy and have snapped at loved ones, adding stress on top of stress. We’ve gone into the New Year with fierce resolutions for taking better care of ourselves, but first we’ve had to detox and recover physically and emotionally from what is purported to be the happiest time of the year, but what can be the most stressful, exhausting or lonely time for some.
It is possible to enjoy the holidays without stress or overindulgence getting the best of you? Don’t think that the period from Thanksgiving to the day after New Year’s is a lost cause. Balance and moderation are the key. “When you eat and exercise thoughtfully 80 to 90 percent of the time, it’s fine to really enjoy yourself the other 10 percent,” says interventional cardiologist Thomas Quinn, M.D..
It’s also unwise to adopt too strict a routine, according to Dr. Quinn. “If you feel deprived, no plan will stick,” says Quinn, who helps his patients figure out what is healthy for them and what they will actually do.
Here are a few tips for a more balanced approach:
1. Stress Less
“You can’t control external factors, but you can control your reactions,” Quinn says.
For example, when stuck in mall traffic, you can sit on your horn and weave from lane to lane, or you can choose to accept that there’s nothing you can do about the situation and turn on your favorite tunes.
For emotional reactions sometimes triggered in relationships, try not to interpret what you hear; just listen to the other person’s words instead. “Just hear the words. Don’t interpret them,” Quinn says. “Ninety percent of human communication is non-verbal, so try to be in the moment and to resist the tendency to interpret the intent.”
2. Exercise. No Excuses.
“People don’t find excuses for not brushing their teeth or not taking a shower or not cleaning their clothes. You can treat exercise the same way,” Dr. Quinn advises. Choose an activity you like, start with five minutes each day and make a habit of it. If first thing in the morning is the best time for you to exercise, get up a bit earlier. Exercising just before dinner may help you to shake off workday stress and enjoy your personal time more fully in the evening.
3. Enjoy Real Food
Eat a healthful daily diet, but choose foods that you enjoy. Enjoyment is key to sustaining good eating habits, he says. And when you indulge, quickly return to the routine you love.
Here are a few tips for navigating holiday celebrations without having to unfasten that top button on your pants:
- Go easy on the toppings. Limit nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter, and whipped cream added to foods. Cut calories where you can.
- Chew gum. When you don’t want to eat, pop a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth. This works well when you’re cooking or when you’re trying not to dive into the buffet.
- Don’t skip meals the day of a party. If you do, you’ll just get overly hungry and overeat once you see all that scrumptious display of food.
- Skip the appetizers, which usually make you too full to enjoy the main course, anyway. If you must have a bite before the meal, go for the veggies, fruit, salsa, or a small handful of nuts.
- Alternate alcohol with nonalcoholic beverages, such as water or seltzer. Alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories — especially holiday favorites like eggnog.
For more suggestions on how to avoid overindulging at the buffet, the dinner table or the kitchen counter, see http://www.webmd.com/diet/top-10-holiday-diet-tips-of-all-time.
4.Last but not least, get your beauty sleep
Sleep is critical to good health and is no less so during the holidays. Lack of sleep is linked to chronic disease, including cancer and Alzheimer’s, as well as overeating and obesity. Besides, transitioning to better sleeping habits may not be easy once you have to return to your normal work or school routine.
If you follow these tips, you’ll feel better about yourself, both mentally and physically, after the holidays. And the benefits will stick with you long after the memory of that second piece of spice cake would have faded.