For anyone navigating a path for a healthier lifestyle, the holidays can make for difficult maneuvering. The weeks that stretch from Halloween to the beginning of 2018 promise hurdle after hurdle for wellness-minded people. It’s enough to make some want to sit out the race completely this time of year.
“I think a lot of people sort of give up altogether during the holidays,” said Kerri Kempfert Davis, a personal trainer and owner of Fit To You in Wilmington. She suggests her clients instead set realistic exercise and eating goals. “If you can maintain during the holidays, you’re doing good,” she said.
Dr. Tom Mathew, a psychiatrist with Trinity Wellness Center in Wilmington, offers an acronym protocol that can help in a number of stressful situations. It’s DRESS, which stands for diet, reduce (or opting for more minimalist choices), exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. “Doing these things is a good way to manage many challenges,” he said. Here are a few more of their suggestions for dealing with holiday hurdles.
Staying on track at the holiday party
“This is always a big one,” Davis said. To keep post-party regret to a minimum? “Limit alcohol,” she said. For every drink, alternate with a glass of water. “The more you drink, often the more you eat because you lower your inhibitions. Plus, there are the calories in the alcohol.” Other than that, you should plan what you want to eat, within reason. “If it’s a buffet, take a look at everything before you load your plate. If there’s something you really love, have a bit of those,” she said. If there’s an unhealthful dish that you could do without, leave it alone. “Also, eat healthy the rest of the day, so you’re not starving when you get to the party.” Her favorite pre-game snack is an apple with a bit of peanut butter. “It’s got a lot of protein and fiber, but you won’t be stuffed.”
Stop stress while shopping
This is one area where it can really help to manage your expectations, Mathew said. He suggests taking a hard look at your holiday to-do list and seeing if it can be pared down. “You really don’t need to buy all the gifts and send all the cards,” he said. “There really is a tendency to overdo it this time of year. Eat too much, drink too much, spend too much.” He suggests opting for simplicity whenever possible, and to consider spiritual traditions, no matter what your faith, rather than materialistic ones. When you do make your shopping trip, make sure to pack snacks like nuts, bananas and apples to help you avoid succumbing to decadent treats in a fit of stress-inducing eating.
Eating well on the way to Grandma’s house
If your holiday travel plans include a road trip, Davis suggests doing some research prior to departure. “I would look at menus online before you go,” she said. Many roadside chains post extensive health information on their websites, so you can better choose which meals fit into your plan. “In general, I would say that the salad isn’t always the best choice,” she said. Often, they come with high calorie additions and/or dressings with lots of fat or sugar. If you do get a salad, leave off some of the extras and opt for a low-fat dressing, she said. And sometimes a grilled chicken sandwich is a better choice.
Avoiding the family break-down
Mathew said there can be a lot of pressure to have certain kinds of social interactions during the holidays. “I would encourage people to have a broader definition of family,” he said. People should make plans and spend time with the family they choose. “Meaningful friendships can really help you through difficult times,” he said. When you are obligated to attend events with challenging family members, try to avoid talking about politics, religion or other stress-inducing topics. “You can have a reasonable, pleasant conversation with people you don’t agree with,” he said. “Just keep in mind that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind over dinner.”
While in the air
Plane travel, and the long waits and that come before, can bring along a number of health concerns. Some tips to keep these problems at bay? Wear loose and comfortable clothing, get up and walk around frequently, wash your hands often, eat meals with lots of protein and vegetables, and those who tolerate it should take a baby aspirin 30 minutes before take-off, according to Harvard Health. Anytime you’re traveling, by trains, planes or automobiles, Davis suggests bringing snacks and lots of water with you. “It’s important to stay hydrated,” she said. “Often, we think we’re hungry, but we’re just thirsty.” Snacks like almonds or fresh fruit are also good to keep you from eating less healthful options.
Being active with the couch potatoes
If your family is the kind to sit around watching TV when they get together, it can be hard to get in your daily fitness. “But you can be the one to suggest doing something,” Davis said. “Get everyone together for a walk after dinner or initiate doing something else active.” She’s also a big believer in exercise bands. They are light-weight and extremely packable. “They make it easy to exercise anywhere,” she said. Often, when one of her clients is planning a trip, she’ll help them devise a work-out plan using the bands. Mathew said that he makes sure to make exercise a priority during the holidays, and is a part of the men’s fitness group F3 Cape Fear (www.f3capefear.com). There is also a similar women’s group. “We have a commitment to get together every week, no matter what the weather,” he said. “It’s a great way to stay active during the holidays.”