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  • Writer's pictureAshley Cummins, RN, INHC

How to Avoid Overindulging this Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of family and friends, celebrating and traditions, food and FOOD!!!! For me, the holidays ALWAYS means delicious, home prepared, rich meals. A feast fit for a king they say.

But I have noticed over the years that all the overindulging doesn’t make my stomach, or my body, feel all that good. The holidays end with a “holiday hangover” and as I grow older, I am starting to appreciate that part less and less. I have come up with some ways to help people enjoy their holidays while hopefully minimizing the severity of your “holiday hangover”. See if any of these sparks your interest and maybe give one a try this year.

1. Reduce Your Stress

Stress seems to go hand in hand with the holidays, but does it have to? It’s normal for the holidays to come with a little bit of stress because our routines are off, but when is it too much? When our bodies are under stress, it throws our hormones out of whack (particularly the ones that control appetite). Cortisol levels rise, then stimulate appetite. You see where this is going? Now, I recommend you take time to figure out where your biggest stressors are for the holidays and work on them.

Maybe you can relate to some of these:

  • You are stressed because the holiday costs you a lot of money (money you don’t really have). Is it related to the cost of hosting and purchasing all the food? Try asking people to bring a dish and be specific!

  • The holidays stress you out because you are always traveling. How about traveling every other year?

  • Stressed because you have to see that one person who you don’t get along with? First, discuss the issue with your significant other to make sure you don’t both actually agree, then suggest ways to maybe change it up. Do you have to see that person? Can you change your mindset?

  • Stressed because of all the work? Delegate or have some of the family come over early to help cook. Some of my favorite times have been in the kitchen with my favorite people.

2. Get Your Sleep

Make sure you are getting to bed on time and have good sleep hygiene to stay clear headed for the holidays! Lack of sleep or poor sleep causes changes to the hormone cycle responsible for regulating hunger and appetite. If you aren’t getting the shut eye your body requires, you’re setting yourself up for poor food making decisions (and illness) later!

3. Stay Hydrated

Water is vital for your body’s survival. It's also super important in the digestive process. When our body is dehydrated, it sends a signal to the brain. Our brain interprets it as hunger since our body hasn’t figured out how to differentiate between hunger and thirst yet. When you have a hunger pang, try 12 ounces of water first, then reassess your “hunger”. Who knows? Maybe you were just thirsty ;) I recommend you consume ½ your body weight in ounces every day for proper hydration.

4. Never Show Up Hangry

Have you seen those snickers commercials? Hangry is no way to show up for a party. By showing up starving to a holiday party, you are setting yourself up for binge eating. Do you have a tendency to fast all day and then make up for it plus at the party? Eat breakfast (light if need be) and take a snack (I recommend nuts).

5. Bring Something Healthy

This rings true for those people whom have been on a health journey up until the holidays but then fall off the wagon at the first sniff of holiday ham. Want to stay on track but you know there won’t be a single thing at the party that is healthy? Bring your own healthy dish. That way you have no excuses.

6. Veggies First and Veggies Most

Vegetables are loaded with nutrients but low on calories. I recommend you take up most of your stomach’s space with veggies to minimize the amount of "rich" foods you eat. You still get to enjoy the foods you love, but less because your stomach is already full. I recommend starting with a large salad or hitting up the veggie tray first. The foods you choose next should be your favorites! Don't waste space eating mediocre food. Go straight for the satisfiers!

7. Use a Small Plate

If you just can't be trusted not to fill your plate to the brim with all the things, I recommend you play a little mind trick and use a smaller plate.

This way you still have the satisfaction of a full plate, without all the extra food. Just ask the host for a small one or use the dessert size one. Bring your own if you have to.

8. Sit Down and Eat

The holidays are known for mindless snacking all day long. I recommend you only eat when you are sitting at the dinner table to avoid munching all day. Another great way to avoid snacking all day is to put away the food as soon as the holiday meal is over. If someone really wants to eat more food, they have to take the time to get it back out and reheat it.

9. Minimize the Holiday Drinks

Egg Nog, Holiday Punch, Cranberry Juice, Mulled Wine, Sangria, Oh MY! These drinks are LOADED with calories plus they require no effort in consuming them. No chewing, just throwback and swallow. The calories add up quickly! I call these empty calories because they have no nutritional value, just sugar and sometimes alcohol. The interesting thing about these carb heavy drinks is the effect they have on your glucose levels. Your sugar spikes after consumption and your body sends out an equally high level of insulin to try and normalize the glucose in your system. When the insulin is done doing its job, your glucose levels are low and you have a strong craving for all things carbs. Remember those college partying days? They always ended with food. I recommend minimizing how many of these drinks you consume throughout the day. Postpone your first drink as long as you can and make smaller sized drink.

10. Move Your Body

Try a 5k fun run, hike, scavenger hunt, and make a fun outside tradition. When I was growing up, we used to have a large scavenger hunt through my Uncle’s 40 acre property. He would number a bunch of ornaments and then hide them in the woods. After the holiday meal, the whole family went outside to collect. The one with the most ornaments wins! Remember the stress thing earlier? Exercise helps reduce stress and improve mood PLUS it burns calories and we all know we consume way more of them during the holidays.

I've given you several options for a healthier holiday and hopefully, one of them is a game-changer for you! You have all the tools you need for success, now go get-em tiger! Cheers to lots of laughs and memories that last this holiday season for you and your family from Totality Wellness!

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