Have a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season

Have a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season

Debra Gargiulo


By Debra Gargiulo, MD

Akron General Family Physician

With Thanksgiving under our belts, the holiday season is in full swing. Most of us are juggling family gatherings, holiday shopping and work events, all while trying to manage our normal, daily routines. Don’t worry, though, there are some easy steps that everyone can take to have a healthy, stress-free holiday season.

Eating well during the holidays

With holiday parties and busy schedules, it’s easy to let our healthy eating habits fall to the wayside. You can still eat well during the holidays by thinking ahead and being mindful of your choices.

  • Don’t go to holiday parties hungry. Eat a small, healthy snack before heading to holiday parties. Try an apple, low-fat yogurt or a handful of almonds. You’ll be more likely to stick with healthier options at the party and you’ll be less likely to overindulge since you don’t feel hungry.
  • Load your plate with healthy items first. Fill most of your plate with the healthy offerings first. Go for the veggie tray, salad or fruit.
  • Focus on the company, not the food. Remember why you’re there – to enjoy the company of others. Focus on conversation and activities, not the food.
  • Drink water. This may seem like a no-brainer, but drinking water before a meal can help you feel full and will keep you hydrated. Sugary drinks, like soda, and alcoholic beverages are filled with calories that can sideline your healthy eating choices.
  • Remember, all good things in moderation. The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without “eat, drink and be merry.” In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with indulging here and there.
Get moving!
  • Set aside time to exercise. Just as you set aside time for running errands or writing holiday cards, set aside time for exercising. Even if you only have 20 or 30 minutes at a time, you can still fit in a quick workout or brisk walk.  
  • Be flexible. You don’t have to visit the gym to get a workout and, chances are, you’ll have even less time to make it to the gym during the busy holiday season. There are plenty of exercises you can do at home, including crunches, push-ups and jumping rope.
  • Make it fun. Exercise doesn’t have to feel like exercise. Go sled riding with the kids or take a walk to check out the neighborhood decorations. There are plenty of activities you can enjoy while getting a little exercise in.
Don’t let it stress you

Sometimes, life during the holidays feels more like a balancing act than the “happiest time of the year.” In fact, more than 80 percent of American adults reported feeling stressed during the holidays during a recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association. Because chronic stress and poor stress management can have damaging effects on overall health, it’s important to take steps to reduce holiday stress.

  • Set expectations. It’s important to set expectations before you get swept up in the holiday rush. Setting expectations with family and friends ahead of time can avoid unnecessary headaches down the road. This holds especially true when it comes to gift-giving, as the chaos of endless shopping and spending (sometimes into debt) often lead to added stress.
  • Identify your priorities. Many of us try to pack in as many holiday activities as possible during a fairly short amount of time. If you feel overwhelmed by all that you “need” to do, then cut down your to-do list. Identify which traditions or activities are most important and eliminate those that you can do without.
  • Agree on a holiday schedule. Put holiday events, shopping trips, card writing, cooking, gift wrapping, whatever else you need to do on your calendar. It may seem odd, but you’ll have a visual representation of everywhere you need to be and when. When everyone agrees on a schedule, you’ll feel more prepared for what you need to do and where you need to be. Also, you may realize that you’re overdoing it and need to pull back – again, think of your priorities.
  • Take time to relax and breathe. With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be difficult to find time to relax. Take time each day (even if it’s only for a few minutes) to breathe deeply and reflect on all that you’ve accomplished. Deep breathing and positive thoughts can reduce your stress level and leave you feeling more relaxed.

Remember to Hand Hygiene
It’s easy to get swept away with the hustle and bustle of the season. With (possible frequent) trips to the grocery store, mall and holiday gatherings, remember to keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hand to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs and keep you healthy to enjoy the spirit of the season. When you do have access to soap and water, it’s important to rub your hands together vigorously and to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you wash between fingers, the back of hands, wrists and underneath fingernails where germs can sometimes hide.

Take time this holiday season to enjoy the company of loved ones and to celebrate all of life’s blessings. 

* This information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be considered specific medical advice.
**Physician is a member of Akron General Partners Physician Group    

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