Guest blogger Paige Johnson shares her guide to staying healthy over the holidays.  As a single parent it’s a priority for her, but we can all follow her advice.

holiday tablePhoto courtesy of Unsplash by Mel Turner

“I need to take better care of myself.” Be honest,  how many times have you had the exact same thought? This time of year means balancing your parental responsibilities with budgeting money for gifts and time for shopping. In addition, you probably have commitments with your family, friends and co-workers at various holiday events.

It’s no wonder why so many people become overwhelmed or even tempted to overindulge around the holidays. How can you stay healthy while still enjoying your holiday season? Luckily, it’s possible to find the time, energy, and money to stay healthy and in shape throughout the holidays.

Here’s what to do – and not do…

What to do:

Meal Prep

Preparing your meals ahead of time can help you avoid temptation so you can stay on the healthy track. Pick a specific day and time (such as a Sunday evening) when you know that you’ll be at home and will have time to devote to meal preparation. This is a great strategy for avoiding overeating at holiday parties. Of course, it can certainly be something you do each week in order to stay on track.

Combat Food Cravings

Of course, if you’re too busy to prep your meals, there are still plenty of ways you can be more mindful of your holiday eating habits. To avoid slipping into unhealthy food and beverage choices this holiday, Harvard’s School of Public Health recommends avoiding salt and sugar, especially in processed foods.

When food cravings kick in, especially if you’re an emotional eater, try replacing candy with fruits and try replacing salty foods with low-sodium options like unsalted nuts. If you’re stressed, try going for a walk or doing some mindful breathing rather than reaching for food to calm your nerves.

Practice Self-Care

Recent studies have linked stress eating, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and mood changes to weight gain during the holiday season. In each of these situations, proper self-care can help you resist the urge to overeat. As mentioned above, mindful activities such as breath work, meditation, a walk in nature, or doing yoga can all help you care for yourself, in turn reducing stress without adding extra calories, salt, or sugar.

Schedule Workouts

Block off a time slot on your busy schedule for exercise and fitness – and don’t allow yourself to schedule any other appointments during this time. For instance, you might work out first thing in the morning while your little ones are still asleep – or during the afternoon while they are still at daycare. Having trouble staying motivated? Find a workout buddy or partner with a co-worker (preferably another parent) for a monthly weight loss challenge.

What to avoid:

Drugs and Alcohol

It can be difficult to resist temptations during the holidays. Many people feel stressed and triggered during this time of year. It doesn’t help that alcohol plays a prominent role in so many holiday parties.  Enjoy in moderation, unless you’re in a recovery program.  In that case,  continue to stay focused and remain on track, including attending AA meetings, throughout the holidays. If you feel triggered, soothe yourself using coping methods such as yoga, meditation, taking a hot bath, or even spending some time in nature (weather permitting). These proven methods will help you resist cravings and overcome triggers so you can have a safe, healthy and sober holiday.

Food FOMO

As strength coach, Molly Galbraith, says, “Eating past full is not fun.” Although it can be tempting to feast upon all of the delicious seasonal or holiday-themed foods and beverages that you can only consume this time of the year, avoid overeating. Instead of getting caught in the trap of food FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), try to limit yourself. Eat slowly so you can savor each bite.

Your health should be a priority year-round. By following the advice listed above, we can all make healthier choices this holiday season – and every day of the year.

For more fitness and healthy lifestyle tips from Paige Johnson check out her website at: learnfit.org  

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