Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

Most of you probably have at least one holiday cocktail party or dinner over the next week or two, whether it be with co-workers, friends or family. With the mountains of cookies, boxes of chocolates, and bottomless drinks, the holidays can leave you feeling bloated, fatigued, and ready for a fresh start. And while I love people who get energized about being healthy and active, why wait until January 1st? (Secretly, I get so annoyed with the people who suddenly show up at the gym for the first time in months and crowd my treadmill and pool and yoga classes in early January!). There are a few easy things you can do to stay balanced over the next week or two that will help you enter 2011 feeling great.

If you have a holiday cocktail party or happy hour, enjoy the people more than the food and drink. If you make the people your focus, you will be less likely to continuously snack on cookies and candies and dips, and more likely to leave feeling energized. It may help if you decide ahead of time how many drinks you will consume. Offer to drive a group of friends, as this will automatically limit you to one or two drinks. Or, just give yourself a limit and sip slowly. Alcohol contains not only empty calories but also a lot of sugar, which can lead to increased snacking on those cookies!

For holiday dinners, my best advice is to treat it like a regular meal. Many people like to “starve” themselves all day so they’ll be nice and hungry by the time they get to their dinner, and then they overeat and feel uncomfortable for the remainder of the night, and possibly into the next day. When you cut back on food all morning and afternoon, your blood sugar will be out of whack and your judgment will be impaired due to extreme hunger. In addition, your metabolism will slow because it thinks you are starving. Give your body what it needs: a healthy breakfast that includes protein, complex carbohydrates, and some fruits or vegetables; a well-rounded lunch; and possibly a snack in between of some fresh veggies with hummus or an apple with almond butter. That way, by the time you get to your dinner party, you will comfortably snack on a few appetizers and then enjoy the meal without overdoing it. And, your metabolism will be nice and fast from your consistent eating throughout the day, so you're more likely to burn off those calories and sleep well.

Don’t let exercise get lost in all the commotion of the holidays. No matter how busy you are, I challenge you to find time each day this week to exercise. IT ONLY TAKES 15 MINUTES!! A walk in the snow with your family; playing fetch with the dog in the yard; cross-country or downhill skiing; snowshoeing; or even escaping to the gym for a quick swim or yoga class will really benefit you. Holidays are fun but also can be stressful. Take some time for yourself and enjoy the outdoors, no matter what the weather is. Your body burns extra calories when you exercise in the cold weather, so go for it!

My last piece of advice is simply to enjoy some of the “excess” that comes with the holidays. Even though I’m an advocate of being a conscious eater and taking control of your health, I also believe in enjoying your food and drink. If you come home from a party feeling like you had one too many cookies, brush it off and start fresh the next morning. No need to completely deprive yourself!

Merry Christmas!