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The holidays are almost here. And while it’s often a time to relax with family and friends, it can also usher in a season of temptation, where we let our healthful habits slip out of control. Before you know it, you’re not just a few pounds heavier, you’re also down in the dumps, overwhelmed and exhausted.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve come up with 11 tips to help you make your holiday season as healthy as possible. Because, as we all know, it’s not a matter of just ignoring sweets. The holidays are rife with triggers for unhealthy habits. But with a little planning ahead and the right knowledge, you can avoid punching another hole in your belt loop and start the New Year with a smile.

1 – Make a plan: Gaining weight over the holidays is not inevitable. Anticipate the situations you may find yourself in, and make a specific plan about what you will do and the choices you will make. Set a goal like: “I will make only ONE trip to the cocktail buffet at the neighborhood party,” or, “I will go for a walk before and after my family’s holiday feast.” Following these useful tips will you help you stick to your plan.

2 – Prep for the hard discussions: If you know your mother will get on your case for not having children yet or Uncle Jethro will embarrass your kids again, plan ahead mentally before you get too emotional and turn to the pumpkin pie for comfort. Take some deep breaths, have an exit plan (another party, an important call, an inspired workout), keep calm, and carry on from the family drama.

Image CC BY SA 3.0 by Natania Barron

3 – Enlist others: When the people around you overdo it, it’s harder to resist temptation. Try to find at least one other person who shares your goals, encourages you to stay on a healthy path, and helps deflect the ridicule you may get for “being good.” Those who don’t respect your healthy choices are typically critical because they don’t make good choices themselves.

4 – Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep stresses your body, decreases your self-control, wears down your immune system, and makes it harder to achieve your holiday goals. Get your ZZZs!

5 – Stay active: Many of us consume far more calories over the holidays, but we can offset that by staying active. Even little things like:

  • Park farther away at the mall
  • Make a couple of laps inside the mall before you spend your hard-earned cash
  • If you exercise regularly, keep your regular routine or even increase it with your extra time away from work
  • Catch up with a relative on a walk rather than on the couch
  • Volunteer at a local charity event

6 – Protect yourself: Nothing kills a holiday party faster than having a bad cold or flu. Family coming together and traveling around the country exposes you to viruses your immune system has trouble fighting. Make sure you get a flu shot, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and wash your hands frequently.

7 – Eat in moderation: Of course you should have a piece of your grandmother’s world-famous pound cake – just not the whole darn thing! In addition to a few holiday indulgences, commit to eating some fruits and vegetables at every meal, using smaller-sized plates for portion control, eating slowly, and drinking plenty of water or other calorie-free beverages.

8 – Drink in moderation:  Just like holiday foods, alcoholic drinks are abundant this time of year! There is no real cure for hangovers, so don’t overdo it. If you enjoy some adult beverages, drink them slowly, have some water or nonalcoholic drinks in between, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, and don’t drive. Also remember that alcohol is loaded with empty calories and is a big contributor to weight gain.

9 – Track your intake: What gets measured gets managed. If you track your food intake with a food diary, a smartphone app, or our Healthy Outcomes website, don’t stop now! The holidays are not a free pass on your health. Keep track over the holidays so you can get the feedback and stay on track.

10 – Take a breather: Holidays take us out of our normal routines and that can be stressful. Take five or 10 minute breaks throughout the day for yourself – breathe deeply, gain some perspective, take a walk, meditate, say a prayer, read a great book, or do whatever brings you peace and relaxation.

11 – Get some help! If you want more ideas and you’re a customer, log on to My Member Services, click the Wellness tab, look at your Health & Productivity Assessment Report, review your risk score, read the recommendations, or sign up for an online health living program or healthy conversation. We’re all about getting you the right resources.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

[Image: Shutterstock]

Brian Caveney

About Brian Caveney

Dr. Caveney is the Chief Medical Officer in the Healthcare Division. He supports our Sales & Marketing teams, works with our customer groups to optimize their plans, oversees our wellness and disease management programs, and the healthcare program developers and managers.

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