by Shani K. Collins, Your Black Health
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are upon us. We will enjoy many delicious meals prepared with love. Also, the joy of being in the presence of our family and our friends will be an added highlight to the season. Although the holidays are a time for food, fellowship, and giving thanks, they are not an excuse to take our focus off our health.
Here are 10 quick tips for enjoying the holidays, and remaining sensible while doing so:
1. Start with Self-Love and a Plan. Yes, your family and friends love you, but you have to love yourself also. By making your health a priority this holiday season, you’ll be inclined to stay focused. Write down your health goals for the holidays. List your reasons for wanting to improve your health. Identify a partner to help you stay focused and to support your goals. Keep a reflection journal, and make a schedule.
The holidays will entice you to overindulge. By getting in touch with your feelings about your health and your reasons for desiring to stay healthy this season, you’ll feel empowered and stay the course. Your Mantra: “I am important to me; therefore, I will place my health needs first.”
2. Drink plenty of water: Water helps us to replenish our bodies; it also provides the “full” sensation. Drink a glass of water before eating; you will consume less food this way. Be sure to stay hydrated during the holidays, as sodas, fruit juices, and other beverages will be in excess. Nothing replaces water; it’s great for your body.
3. Establish and/or Maintain Your Fitness Routine: If you already work out, continue to do so. If you desire to start, set small goals that will work for your schedule, and commit to exercising daily. (Ex: walking or jogging 30 minutes a day). If it’s too cold outside, purchase a DVD and/or even tune into Fitness TV, and get your workout on. Whether you are cleaning for visitors, or dancing at the holiday party, there are many ways for you to engage your body and burn fat. Let your exercising continue into the New Year and beyond. However, before you begin an exercise routine, consult with your regular physician.
4. Prepare for outings: Trips to grocery and department stores can actually cause you to snack on free holiday samples. Take light, healthy snacks like strawberries, grapes, carrots, or even peanut butter crackers with you when you are shopping. By doing this, you will be less likely to indulge on too many holiday samples. If you do have a sample, take one or share it with someone.
5. Eat a small meal before you visit family/friends: Food is always in surplus when visiting the homes of family and friends. You can sometimes eat 2 to 3 heavy meals a day during this season. To avoid this, eat a small meal before you visit, and instead of always accepting food when it’s offered, you can politely say: “No, thank you, I’ve already eaten.” Your friends and family will understand.
6. Avoid left-overs: Left-overs are a staple of the holidays, but they can be avoided. Don’t overfill your plate. Eat your food in one setting. Avoid taking carry-out plates. If you do take a carry-out, only take single servings. Don’t take 2 or 3 plates of food home. When the temptation is in your refrigerator, it will be hard to resist.
7. Have sweets in moderation: Sipping on holiday tea, and eating decadent cookies, pies and cakes will stretch your waist line and erode your teeth. Sweets are okay, but they should be eaten in moderation. Remember to brush and floss your teeth each day, especially after meals. Sugar breaks down the tooth enamel. You don’t want dental problems in the New Year; they can be painful and costly.
8. Use portion control: Portion control is the key to remaining sensible during the holidays. Avoid oversized portions. Take your time when eating. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Eat more whole grains. Consume more dairy. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on portion control and on eating sensibly.
9. Track your food intake. Staying within your daily calorie limit is wise. By tracking your food you can know what you are eating. There are many smartphone applications that allow you to track on the go. Before you pop that cheesecake bite into your mouth, ask yourself this question: How many calories are in a single serving? Even bite-sized foods can be filled with high calories. Calories do add up, so be sure to read nutrition labels, and track away.
10. Enjoy yourself. Of course, no one wants to gain weight during the holidays. Although it is unreasonable to expect yourself to be 100% perfect during this season, be reminded that you are the only gatekeeper of your body. Do cut yourself some slack, but don’t settle for complacency with your health.
Overeating during the holidays can lead to overeating during the New Year and beyond. This is a cycle you want to avoid! Therefore, this holiday season, enjoy food, family and friends, but don’t forget to establish and maintain healthy boundaries for yourself.
As the saying goes, a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. If you exercise, and focus on not overindulging on food this holiday season, you will reap the rewards of a peace of mind and a healthy, fit body in the New Year. This will be the greatest gift of all.
Shani K. Collins is a freelance writer completing doctoral studies in social work at the University of Alabama. Her interest is in public health social work and health disparities. You may visit her at www.shanicollins.com