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Published on November 18, 2018

Family of four sledding

Tips and tricks for a healthy holiday season

By Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, LMH Health

The holiday season is here. For many of us, it is a joyful time spent with family and friends.

But it seems a bit easier during this time of year to take a step – or two or three – off the path of leading a healthy lifestyle. You know what I’m talking about. Many things conspire to get us off track and hijack our best intentions to remain true to our wellness routine.

Get-togethers with calorie-infused dishes. Late nights resulting in lost sleep. Seemingly no time for exercise or other “me” time. Increased exposure to cold or influenza germs while shopping or attending holiday events.

But it’s not impossible to stay on track. It often requires some planning. For example, Sylvia Ellis of Baldwin City tries to do her best with her wellness routine even during the holidays.

“Eating healthy and exercising has been my passion for the last several years,” Ellis said. “But I also know that occasional indulgences during the holiday season or at other times are OK as long as I stick to my healthy routine as much as possible.”

We at LMH Health have some tips to help you have a healthy holiday season.

Healthy eating and your weight

It’s a myth that the average weight gain during the holidays is five pounds. In fact, most research has shown that a one- to two-pound gain is the average. However, a significant number of adults never drop this added pound or two. An extra pound each year can add up to significant weight gain over several years and potentially increase your risk of developing obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and even several cancers.

Here are some ideas for you to try:

  • Pick a couple of special events such as the office party or a family get-together and eat and drink whatever you want guilt-free. On other days, stick with your usual healthy eating routine.
  • When preparing holiday meals, serve new recipes or remake old favorites into healthier versions. For example, mix mashed cauliflower into mashed potatoes, serve steamed green beans instead of green bean casserole, or substitute wine spritzers for egg nog.
  • Before going to a party where there might be lots of unhealthy choices, eat something healthy at home. This may help curb your desire to eat too much.
  • Get moving and stay active.

Sleep

  • Try to maintain your normal routine. Even if you stay up late, get up at your usual time.
  • Avoid caffeine and heavy meals at least four hours before bedtime.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, but once your body metabolizes it, alcohol can disrupt your sleep.
  • Remove devices that emit blue light, such as cell phones and tablets, from your sleep area.

Exercise

One of the best ways to sleep better, combat additional calories and manage stress is to exercise. It may be hard to find - time to attend a yoga class or - go for a walk but do your best. The Centers for Disease Control just updated physical activity guidelines that encourage adults to move more and sit less. They note that even small amounts of movement can be credited toward the minimum goal of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise and at least two sessions of strength training that target major muscle groups.

  • When shopping, park as far from the door as possible. Walk the perimeter of the store once or twice before shopping.
  • After a big holiday meal, plan activities that involve movement, such as a walk in a park or through the neighborhood.

Staying healthy

Holiday gatherings often involve close contact with many people. Some of them may have colds or other illnesses.

  • Wash your hands frequently. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
  • Encourage everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Above all, make sure you get a flu shot.

Managing stress

Almost everyone feels some degree of “festive stress” during the holiday season. One study found that 31 percent of respondents reported feeling “frantic” at times, while another study found that 62 percent of respondents cited their stress levels as elevated.

  • Ask for help and don’t try to create the perfect holiday.
  • Do try to gift yourself with some “me” time each day. You may have to schedule this on your calendar.
  • Meet a friend for lunch after shopping.
  • Take a book to a coffee shop and just sit, relax and read for 30 minutes.
  • Go for a walk in the woods where it is quiet.
  • Have some device-free time each day. Sit and be still, even for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • For more holiday stress management tips, go to lmh.org/wellness/health-library.

With the joy and fellowship that many of us experience during this season, it is often easy to lose sight that others may not be feeling the same. Reach out to people who have lost a family member or friend. Invite them to lunch or even to attend your holiday gathering if they feel up to it. One of the greatest gifts to yourself and to provide an example to your children is to give your time or resources to others.


Aynsley Anderson Sosinski is a wellness specialist at LMH Health. She is board certified by the Mayo Clinic and the National Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches as a wellness coach. She can be reached at aynsley.anderson@lmh.org.

A holiday challenge

One way to encourage yourself to practice healthy habits during the holidays (and beyond) is to enroll in a wellness challenge program. “Wellness challenges hold me accountable, both physically and mentally, in a positive way,” said Loretta Verhaeghe of rural Douglas County. From December 3 through December 23, LMH Health is offering The 12 Days of Wellness. Participants pick from a list of 50 wellness challenges or opportunities. Most should take no more than 15 to 30 minutes. On 12 separate days during the challenge, participants must complete one (or more) challenge. Successful participants will receive a small reward. Enroll at lmh.org/events and search for 12 Days of Wellness or call 785-505-3066. Enrollment closes December 2.

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At LMH Health, we are committed to helping you stay healthy for life, and our goals are the same as yours: healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy future for everyone. Join our email list to receive information about events and educational resources.

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