Now that Halloween is behind us, we move on to the “most wonderful
time of the year.” As Andy Williams sings in his iconic holiday
song, “There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting
. . . when friends come to call. It’s the hap-happiest season of
all.” Or is it?
For many, the holidays can be the most stressful time of year leading to
increased smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, over (and under)
eating, tiredness and procrastination, all of which can perpetuate the
cycle of stress. People can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle
of the holiday season, they often don’t recognize the physical and
mental signs of stress.
“Making everything perfect for the holidays is what we all strive
for, but perfection doesn’t exist,” notes Cassie DeFeo, M.Ed.,
LPC, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager, Morrison Healthcare, Southeast
Georgia Health System. “To cope, many fall into the stress eating
trap because they are not mindful of how the little things can add up,
from the pumpkin spice lattes, the extra cocktail or not wanting to leave
the last cookie on the plate.”
DeFeo admits that food is central to family, traditions, cultural customs
and holiday gatherings. To survive the holiday smorgasbord you have to
plan ahead, eat right, learn to say no, and most importantly, focus on
the reason for the season.
“Keep it simple, set priorities and plan ahead,” DeFeo recommends.
“Avoid overindulgence not just in what you eat, but in giving of
yourself. Take time to exercise, rest and reflect each day. This will
set the foundation for healthy merry making.”
According to DeFeo, you can make food work for you this holiday season:
- Never arrive at a holiday gathering hungry. Know what is being served so
you can hydrate and fuel up in advance so you aren’t running on empty.
- Offer to bring a dish offering a healthy alternative. Not only will you
be certain there will be something healthy for you to eat, you’ll
also know exactly what it is made of.
- Pace yourself or use a smaller plate. If small plates are not available,
remember that you don’t have to fill your plate.
- Save your calories for a treat you really want. We all have our holiday
favorites; remember to indulge in moderation.
- Watch your liquid calories.
- Take charge and say “no” politely.
- Don’t forget to move. Remember, you don’t have to get in your
30 to 60 minutes of exercise all at
- once. You can do multiple 10 or 15 minute blocks of time over the course
of the day. Doing so helps you be mindful, better manage stress and increase
It really is possible to avoid the holiday “waist” line and
still enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year.”