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  • Stephanie Duguid

Making holidays happy & healthy

By Guest Columnist Stephanie Duguid


Strive to maintain your well-being this holiday season by making healthier choices.

During this time of year, weight gain and increased stress are almost inevitable Make positive choices to minimize stress, and do your best to stick to healthy practices such as exercise to assure that you and your loved ones get the most out of this joyous time of year.

Many think: ”So what's the harm in a little holiday weight gain, especially if it's just a pound?” According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. On average, Americans add one to five pounds during the holiday season. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain an important contributor to adult obesity. Here are some tips for activity and food consumption to make it through the season:

  • Go with a plan: Make a point to be active 30 minutes a day and focus on your goals.

  • Never arrive hungry: Before a party or large meal, munch on some raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite.

  • Pace yourself: Eat slowly to give your stomach time to tell you it is full.

  • Divert your attention: At holiday parties, stay away from the food table and mingle with others.

  • Outsmart the buffet: Use the smallest plate available and don’t stack your food. Be sure to watch out for sauces and dips that quickly add on the extra calories.

  • Limit alcohol: It’s not just about the calories, it is about the control. Be safe and take control of your choices.

  • Stay active: Even in the hustle and bustle of the season, it is important to stay physically active. Take a walk after the meal.

The holiday season also brings unwelcome guests -- stress and depression -- with a dizzying array of demands: parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

If you let stress get the best of you, it can cause:

  • Heart disease, including heart attacks.

  • Skin conditions, including psoriasis and shingles.

  • Digestive disorder flare-ups, such as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

  • Immune disorders, including flare-ups of multiple sclerosis and lupus.

  • Anxiety and insomnia.

  • Worsening pain, if you already have a pain disorder such as arthritis, back pain, and muscle spasms.

However, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past:

1. Acknowledge your feelings and reach out. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or social events.

2. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.

3. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

4. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name. Give homemade gifts. Start a family gift exchange. Offer others the gift of wellness by giving subscriptions to health magazines, gym memberships, or gift certificates for yoga classes.

5. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.

6. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

7. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

8. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps stay healthy, and prevent stress. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.


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