Holiday wellness: Staying (mostly) on top of your health

For many across the country, the day after Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. Besides the much colder weather, you can expect dozens of pumpkin-flavored treats, pies galore, and plenty of meals that leave you craving a nap. Rather than letting the sugar-laden holiday shake you from your normal, healthy habits, think about changing your expectations of the holidays. If you frequently have the same New Year’s resolutions that consist of losing a few pounds or hitting the gym more, this one’s for you.

One of the most important tools to keep in mind during the holiday is mindful eating. While that doesn’t mean withdrawing from holiday treats and feasts completely, thinking about your hunger level before sitting down to the table will leave you more satisfied after a meal. Paying a little attention to first how hungry you really are and then engaging your senses by noticing all the tastes, smells, and flavors will allow for much greater enjoyment. This may be more easily said than done in the midst of parties and festivities; however, mindful eating is the secret to appreciating holiday food while also keeping gluttony in check.

If staying healthy during the holidays just seems too overwhelming, simply step back and remember to be compassionate towards yourself. It would be pretty impossible—and fairly sad—to take your diet and exercise plan too seriously during this festive time. You really have to pick your battles. This means deciding which occasions are times to splurge. If pecan pie is your favorite dessert in the world and grandma makes it once a year, then go for it, guilt-free. However, you might not need to grab a full slice of cheesecake and pumpkin pie as well. Take a full look at every food, drink, and appetizer available, and make choices based on what you really want to eat. Everything is probably not the best option, but a single vegetable side dish is probably not going to satisfy you.

Food is just one aspect of the holidays; it might even be what you look forward to, but that doesn’t mean it has to overwhelm activities and spending time with loved ones. Being healthy isn’t really about willpower when it comes down to it. A healthy lifestyle is being realistic: what choices can you make today that help you feel better tomorrow? This means embracing challenges, accepting shortcomings, and move on feeling capable of improvement.

Another challenging, sometimes frustrating, aspect of the holidays is family time. Spending time with family for some people means incredible wear on their mental and emotional health. One thing you can do to make yourself more at ease around family is to not hold unreasonably expectations that everything will go smoothly.

If dysfunction or loud yelling is something your family is known for, all you can do is prepare yourself. Wishing your family, or a certain member of your family, would behave differently is something to acknowledge and then let go of. Relinquish the want to control others around you. You will find yourself much happier and maybe even be pleasantly surprised when you decide to accept your family for who they are.

If you simply cannot tolerate one-on-one time with an aunt or sibling, try setting boundaries for yourself in terms of time spent together, setting and intimacy of conversation.

Finally, remember to listen more than you speak, learn from mistakes, and enjoy the time off from work, school, and friends.

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