How to Make Healthier Choices While Enjoying the Holidays
For most, the holiday season begins at Thanksgiving and ends in the New Year. The season is a time of joy, nostalgia and social events that include festive foods and treats.
Learn more about how to make healthier choices while still enjoying the spoils of the holidays.
Making Healthier Choices While Enjoying the Holidays
In addition to the many foods and treats we eat, stress from the holidays can be brought on by unwanted guests like depression, family tension or loneliness. Adding activities outside of your regular schedule such as baking, cleaning or irregular eating patterns may become additional stressors to you.
To combat this and still have an enjoyable holiday season, it is important to make overall healthy choices to have energy and maintain the stamina to care for others.
How Stress Affects Us During the Holiday Season
Stress becomes unhealthy when our bodies do not return to normal and instead believe that they are always under attack (also known as sympathetic nervous system dominance). During this time we can gain an imbalance in our body’s hormone release when, through a series of steps, our body will begin to release more adrenaline and cortisol, causing high blood pressure and weight gain.
Stress also puts you at risk for:
This chronic stress can contribute to many harmful physiological events by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, whose function is to mobilize and regulate energy to different areas in the body. When chronically stressed, the fat can be mobilized to the abdomen. Research has shown that fat cells in the abdominal area have a higher level of the enzymes needed to convert cortisol into its active form, thus producing weight gain around the abdominal area.
Ways to Minimize Stress Over the Holidays
Fortunately, there are many coping strategies you can utilize to help identify and minimize your stress triggers:
- Be realistic about your expectations. Family and friends may also be feeling stressed, so try to set aside differences and be understanding.
- Eat healthy and nutrient dense foods instead of completely abandoning your diet. Overindulging in fatty foods will leave you tired, feeling irritable and weighed-down.
- Make connections within your community, and talk to family and friends to avoid feeling isolated and withdrawn.
- Recognize that this time of year may have additional burdens on finances and relationships, and may physically burden your body in ways you may not realize. Acknowledge and honor your feelings. The holidays have a different meaning for everyone so allow yourself to express your emotions, even though it is the holidays, that does not mean you have to be happy and smiling all of the time.
- If everything accumulates and you become overwhelmed, take time to go outside for at least a 15 minute walk and regain your center.
- Try to plan ahead and set aside a budget to help relieve the guilt and stress related to finances. Planning ahead takes time, but the payoff is exponential. Creating a plan will allow you the time to enjoy baking, cleaning and shopping without the chaos and confusion.
Choosing the Healthier Option
You can also make your holiday indulgences count by avoiding mindless eating. Choose traditional foods you love and that bring back good memories and savor them. Before eating these chosen treats, fill up on healthy foods to provide your body the needed nutrients it needs. Try to eat fresh, organic food whenever possible. Your food should be delicious and have a combination of smells that are irresistible.
You should also eat in the right mindset and focus on the meal. Eating while being emotional or rushed does not create the proper environment for digestion. Good digestion is one less stress your body has to overcome and it is so important for a caregiver to have, in order to have more energy and stamina.
Caring for oneself should be a priority, so here are some ways you can make healthy holiday choices:
- Enjoy holiday eating on the day of the holiday! Avoid extending this behavior.
- Forget nibbling and use a small plate. This makes you aware of how much you are eating.
- Make healthy substitutions when baking and cooking. For example, use applesauce in baking instead of oil to retain moisture.
- Order smaller sizes or portions. For example, order a tall eggnog latte instead of venti.
- Pick your favorite or traditional goodies and enjoy those. Forget the rest.
Healthy eating is good for the body, mind and spirit. Taking care of yourself is as important as tending to the one you care for. We hope that you can better enjoy your holiday season with these tips.
About the Author
Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born is a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) in California and co-owner of Born Naturopathic Associates, Inc. BNA is the premier location in the East Bay for integrative medical care for patients of all ages and genders, for both acute and chronic conditions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.bornnaturopathic.com or call 510-550-4023.
How do you make healthier choices during the holidays? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
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