With the upcoming holiday season filled with lots of fun moments ahead, you may be feeling a mixture of emotions. October through December is a fun time! 

There is excitement in the air, a chance to make fun memories with loved ones, the fun of practicing family traditions and… all the yummy food! 

Amidst the anticipated fun there are also the added stressors of meeting expectations, challenges of family dynamics, the impact of lack of routines and the idea that you may derail your efforts to maintain your weight wellness and healthy lifestyle habits. Right?

Well… it is important to acknowledge that this time of year can be challenging. 

It is also a good time to remind ourselves that we do have control over some things that can help us enjoy the holiday season and not compromise our health in the long run. 

Particularly for those people with health conditions like obesity, prediabetes, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, to name a few, maintaining health habits is essential!  

These conditions don’t take a holiday during this time of year and your daily decisions and habits affect how well controlled they are.

Here are 5 ways to maintain your health habits to help you stay balanced and healthy during the upcoming holiday season:

1. Maintain your sleep habits

  • Sleep deprivation not only affects your energy levels, but increases hunger hormones and creates stress on the body that can negatively affect blood sugar control and can increase blood pressure.
  • Aim for 7-8 hours and prioritize it as much as possible while still enjoying time with family and friends.
  • A note on alcohol intake- alcohol use interferes with sleep quality so consider the impact of alcohol and consider having water and other non-alcoholic drinks in between alcohol containing beverages.

2. Move to stay strong: 

  • When your typical exercise routines that you are used to get disrupted, it is easy to put all movement on the back burner. 
  • Expect at this time of year, you may not make it to the gym or class as often but you can find other ways to stay active.
  • Exercise is about more than calories burned! (Although that may be helpful during this time of year too!). 
  • Think of exercise as money in the bank when it comes to helping you live longer, improve blood pressure and blood sugar control, and can help you reduce stress. 
  • Focus on ways to maintain strength, endurance and flexibility. There is nothing worse than being off all routines and then going back to the gym in January and feel like you are starting from scratch!
  • Consider taking walks by yourself as a break from everything or take a walk with the family
  • Focus on small bouts of resistance training by doing lunges or squats throughout the day
  • Be okay with shorter workouts if that’s all you can do. 10-20 mins is better than nothing.
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3. Focus on including healthful foods: 

  • Yes, there will be more indulgence and temptations this time of year. 
  • Focus on the ADDITION of nutrient dense foods that fill up your plate, help you stay full, help lower blood pressure and blood sugar AND take up some place on your plate. Include foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and food with protein and fiber during meals. 
  • Don’t focus so much on “restriction” of indulgent foods, but more on “abundance” of these foods WITH the indulgent foods. 

4. Cope with stress: 

  • Work on healthy ways to cope with stress- recognize you can’t change all the stressors, but you can change your response.
  • Stress increases blood pressure, worsens blood sugar control and can affect our decisions 
  • Breaking the food reward cycle and its link to emotions is essential if this is playing a role in your food decisions. 
  • Reward yourself in other ways besides food
  • Pause to breathe, walk away, and consider movement and talking to a friend as helpful strategies to deal with stress

5. Don’t starve to earn the indulgent meal:

  • Going long periods of time without eating to “save up” for an indulgent meal can affect your eating behaviors.
  • Avoid “saving up” calories when you have an upcoming holiday engagement later in the day. You end up showing up to the event starving, surrounded by indulgent foods and you set up the cycle of deprivation and potential binging on foods you have categorized as “bad”. You don’t have to “earn” the indulgence. Sound familiar?
  • Instead, focus on eating nourishing meals throughout the day, focusing on including foods that help with fullness- fruits, vegetables, foods with fiber and protein so you do not make up for all that hunger later in the day.
  • At the event, take a little of everything and enjoy yourself. You are less likely to over-do it when you have not set yourself up by starving and by allowing yourself to indulge!

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