Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Healthy Tips for Your Best Holiday Season Yet!

Keep your healthy habits through the holidays
'Tis the season for overeating and inactivity, but it doesn't have to be. You've worked hard all year to change unhealthy habits and now it's time to run the gauntlet of holiday parties and coworkers bringing cookies and treats to work. If you can make it through the holidays unscathed while practicing your healthy habits, you are truly a new person. Here are five tips to keep you focused on having a happy and healthy holiday season.

1. Be positive. Positive emotion is necessary for behavior change. To flourish, we should exhibit three positive emotions for every negative emotion. Flourishing is like navigating a sail boat. Negative emotion is your rudder and positive emotion is the sail that soars high into the air. Your sail should be three times as high as your rudder to keep you on course. Of course, you need both a sail and a rudder to navigate. The trick is to have enough positive emotion to balance the negative. We typically focus too much on negative feelings, so lighten up and be positive. You can track your emotions at positivityratio.com. Emotions change daily, so track yours often. It might help you focus a little more on the positive aspects of your life.

2. Catch up on your ZZZ's. During the holidays, most people overstuff their days and weekends with activity and short change sleep. Adequate sleep is vital for health. Lack of sleep is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, accidents and it lowers your immunity. You may have to resist the urge to be a party animal, but getting enough sleep will ensure that you enjoy your celebrations to the fullest. Allow at least one day a week to catch up on your sleep. You might have to delegate some holiday shopping or cooking, leave a party early once in a while, and resist the urge to stay up late watching TV, playing video games, etc.

3. Keep moving. The best way to avoid weight gain over the holidays is to move daily. Face it, we are made to move and without movement we couldn't survive. Preserve your regular exercise routines as much as possible. If you notice that you can't exercise as much as you used to, wear a pedometer and track your activity as daily steps. The goal is to log at least 10,000 steps a day which is equivalent to walking about five miles. I did this last year between Thanksgiving and New Year's. It was a great way to keep moving. When I noticed that I was short of my goal, I would take the dogs for another walk (god for the dogs as well as me) or take an extra lap in the mall while shopping. Taking a walk after a larger meal is also helpful. The artery clogging effects of one high fat meal can literally be visualized. Fortunately, so can the health promoting effects of one bout of activity. So get up after your meal and take a walk!

4. Maintain your weight. Most people only gain about one pound over the holidays, but that one pound hangs around long after the holidays are over and is often joined by more pounds the next year, and the next, and the next... Setting your sights on weight loss may be too difficult at this time. The goal should be to maintain what you've already lost. You have to measure this somehow. I encourage my clients to weigh themselves daily. You will notice small changes in your weight that you can equate to your eating and exercise habits. If you notice a weight increase in one day, examine what you ate earlier. If you ate a meal in a restaurant, chances are the meal was excessive in calories, fat, and sodium. You can make corrections in your eating and activity and work to bring your weight back to where it was. If you don't measure, you won't know to correct. Before you know it that one pound will be sitting on your hips or mid-section and will be hard to lose.

5. Be thankful.  There is so much flurry around the holidays that is is easy to forget what they are about. Enjoy the time that you are allowed to be with your family, friends, colleagues and coworkers. Humans are social beings and having a supportive community around us is one of the best ways that I can think of to be happy and healthy. We bring the burden of the season upon ourselves. It is within our power to lighten that burden with humor, love, kindness, thoughtfulness, friendship and thankfulness.

I wish you the best holiday season yet!

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