The inaugural Thanksgiving gathering generally kicks off our overcommitment to holiday festivities. The one-day event unfolds after weeks of fastidious attention paid to planning, organizing, cooking, eating and cleaning. Our family ritual is engrained through decades of practice: eat too much, lay around watching football or take a nap, eat too much again.
Black Friday shopping requires focused premeditation: the mall route is mapped out based on large discounts of desirable merchandise in key locations. Strategic planning maximizes merchandise coups amongst heavily discounted treasure. Retail sales are even more tantalizing if they require waiting in the dark morning hours and promise savings to only a select few, those first in the door.
Segue to December, rife with unspoken expectations of additional obligations such as parties, programs, travel, eating out, shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, visitors and little sleep. Too much of a good thing adds to holiday stress. But here’s the conundrum: how does one maintain nutritional, physical and mental balance without having to add more “to dos” to an already overextended agenda?
Goal: Have a plan and stick to it.
Plan your meals in advance. Life runs smoother if you have a set meal plan with approximate times to eat. Skipping or going too long between meals usually backfires and contributes to overeating, says Michelle Fundingsland, RDN, LRD, at Trinity Health outpatient services.
Goal: Set a timer to avoid overeating.
Slow down. Nerve receptors in our stomach are activated 15-20 minutes after we begin eating, sending signals to our brain telling us we are getting full. To slow yourself down, Fundingsland suggests eating with your opposite hand, using chopsticks or watching yourself eat using the video camera on your phone. “Aim to be halfway done eating 10 minutes into your meal,” she adds.
Goal: Limit sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams) a day.
Eat more whole vegetables and whole fruits. If vegetables are part of the main entre, serve a pile of greens on the side. If you think fruit is only good for an occasional snack, then serve it at the end of each meal for dessert, such as a nice pear or cooked apple with cinnamon.
Goal: 10 minutes, twice a day will get you closer to your goal.
Stay Active. Exercise usually takes a back burner during the holidays. The goal is 150 minutes each week, or 30 minutes five days a week, says Tanya Gillen, exercise physiologist. “If you are tight for time, break it down even further. Take a 10-minute walk around the mall before you start shopping. Move during commercials. Set a timer and leave your desk to move around the office.”
Goal: Redefine what counts as exercise.
Try a new activity with your family. “Do something with the kids,” advises Gillen. “Go snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating or choose games that incorporate movement.” Maybe it’s time to dust off the Twister game.
Goal: As the Nike commercials suggest: Just Do It.
Begin your New Year’s Resolution early. Gillen stresses that it is not necessary to wait until January to get fit. She suggests setting small goals during the week, even if that means parking further away from the door at work, or dancing to Christmas music while you clean.
Goal: Get at least 7 hours of sleep at night.
Sleep well. Most Americans are sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep is associated with increased hunger, high blood sugar, poor concentration, impaired problem solving and more illness. Sleeping at least 7 hours per night protects you from fatigue and illness.
Goal: Take note of special moments.
Count your blessings. Make time for reflection every day and focus on things that brought you joy and happiness. Special times and memories are the most treasured gifts and will linger in our hearts and memory.