Tips for keeping an eye on health this holiday season

healthy-holiday-gift

As an expat living in Egypt, the holiday season isn’t all that much different than it is back in Canada.  Besides the relatively balmy weather we still experience many of the same things we do back home (albeit admittedly it’s a little more subdued), including workplace gift exchanges, holiday-themed decorations in malls and stores, Christmas trees for sale on the street, and of course parties.  This week alone I had 3 different holiday parties to attend.  And with all the celebrations going on, it can be pretty easy to let your health slide.

Here are a few tips that will allow you to keep your health at the forefront this holiday season, whether you’re at home, abroad or even on the road…

1. Refocus on fitness. Don’t wait until the New Year to make this resolution.  Life during the holidays can get busy for us all but that doesn’t mean your exercise schedule should fall by the wayside.  Make a plan to continue being active during the break, and most importantly, make it non-negotiable.

2. And don’t use your exercise as an excuse to overindulge later in the day. We tend to give ourselves permission to overindulge with food after a big workout.  I get it, I’ve done it myself.  The problem with this logic is that unfortunately most people overestimate the amount of calories they burn during exercise and underestimate the calories the consume.  This is a recipe for disaster and can really sabotage your health goals, particularly if weight is a concern.

3.  Avoid mindless eating.  Don’t park yourself next to the appetizer platter at a party or get-together.  Try carrying a glass/bottle of water around to keep your hands busy and less likely to grab food that just happens to be in close proximity.  It only natural to eat food that’s sitting right in front of us, so don’t put yourself in a situation where that’s likely to occur.

4.  Don’t treat the buffet like a buffet.  Buffet meals are plentiful during this time of year, and don’t get me wrong, they can be great.  But just because you encounter a buffet doesn’t mean you need to eat like you’re breaking a fast.  Sample only the dishes you really love or want to try and keep the portions reasonable.  Piling your plate so that the food is as high as the plate is wide or going up for seconds is one of the surest ways to pack on the pounds.

5.  Be moderate with your alcohol intake.  It can be easy to overlook but alcoholic beverages have calories too.  And over the course of a day/evening, they can really start to add up if you’re not careful.  Alcohol also has the potential to lower your self control regarding other dietary choices.  It’s a good idea to limit yourself to no more than a couple of drinks per day.  If nothing else you may want to try alternating an alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

6.  Pre-eat for parties.  One of the most important ways to prevent overeating is to make sure you’re never feeling really hungry.  The worst thing you can do is show up to a party feeling ravenous, where food (usually mostly unhealthy options) is virtually unlimited.  Instead, have a small meal or snack before you show up and chances are you won’t be as tempted to eat everything in front of you the moment you arrive.

BUT with all that said,

7.  There’s no need to be a Nazi about it.  After all, the holidays are a time of traditions with family and friends.  A big part of those traditions is often food and drink.  Rather than avoiding, what you need to do is find a balance between being able to indulge at times without going overboard.   It can be a tough thing to do.  Doing so takes a degree of honesty and awareness with oneself that most people aren’t able to consistently demonstrate.  I suggest that when you’re faced with an unhealthy choice, whether it be skipping a workout or going for second helpings of grandma’s famous candied yams, ask yourself if it’s worth it.  Often it won’t be, but sometimes it will.  And that’s okay too.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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