Written by Mary Battista, Prairie Health Companion

The holiday season is once again upon us and for many of us that means challenging situations they may throw us off our game.  Not only will there be lots of indulgent drinking and eating, but we start to get sleep deprived from staying out late or staying up late just getting everything accomplished.  This only makes things worse as lack of sleep can make us feel tired, therefore craving energy in the form of sugar/caffeine, and the body’s hormones that regulate satiety get thrown off leading to increased snacking and indulging during the day.  On top of all of this is the stress that comes with unrealistic expectations and overwhelm!   What’s a healthy person to do?!

A few simple strategies can keep you on track and feeling in charge of your health and happiness. 

  1. Begin with the end in mind.  Visualize the outcome and how good you will feel when you stick to your healthy choices and guidelines.  Imagine how good your clothes will feel the next day when you put them on.   Mentally walk through the event making choices exactly as you want them to be.  See yourself saying, “no thanks”  and still having a great time!  Practice this is your mind several times before you go.  This is a key step!
  2. Decide on guidelines for alcoholic beverages and treats when you go to a party or holiday event.  By setting guidelines you will pace yourself differently. Use water to stay hydrated and to pace yourself alternating water in between sips of wine. Keep treats small and eat them slowly and mindfully.
  3. Don’t go to holiday events ravenous!  Have something healthy before you go so you are satisfied but not totally full.  A cup of soup, some veggies/hummus, a piece of whole grain toast with hummus or nut butter, a cup of yogurt or a small salad.  If you are too hungry, you may have difficulty controlling portions especially at buffets which are very tantalizing.
  4. Look over the holiday buffet before making your choices and use a small plate. Look for fresh fruits, veggies, shrimp, hummus, salsas, chicken, turkey etc over high-fat/high-salt appetizers and entrees.  Foods with fiber fill you up with fewer calories.
  5. Stick to your exercise/sleep routine to help manage stress and overwhelm.  Exercise is a great stress buster so be sure to schedule it in your busy day which might mean starting your day with it. Perhaps you could squeeze a walk in over your lunch hour?  The more you diffuse stress during the day, the better you will be as the day progresses.  If you don’t get to bed at a reasonable time, you aren’t going to get up to exercise, so be sure to pre-determine your bed time and stick to it!

By thinking through how you want the holiday season to go, you can anticipate triggers and have skills ready to head them off.  The main strategy is to plan your work by thinking it through and having guidelines that you are committed to. As my Dad would say,”Plan your work,  then work your plan”.