By Anna Paksy
The holiday season is upon us! As our schedules and minds fill with plans for various dinner parties, family gatherings, and celebrations there’s plenty to look forward to, but the intense stress that often accompanies the holiday season is lurking around the corner. Many of us suffer from the pressure of these hectic, overscheduled, and expensive times. It is easy to lose sight of the joy and excitement of the season, as we drown in the pressure of expectations, not to mention the frustrating way all of our clothes seem to suddenly shrink, after weeks of overeating. We have put together a few helpful tips to help you avoid a sudden holiday weight gain and reduce some stress in the upcoming months!
- DON’T shop aimlessly. You will end up spending far more time and money than anticipated. All those extra hours in a crowded mall can be quite frustrating especially when you arrive home without everything you need, having spent more than you intended.
- DO make gift lists. Before you set out to buy presents, write up a list of who you are shopping for with an idea of what you would like to get them. Make sure to add realistic estimations for how much you will spend, keeping your total budget in mind while you plan.
- DON’T swear off desserts completely. While spending the holidays stoically glaring at sweet treats while you nervously nibble on a carrot, you are bound reach a breaking point and overindulge. Even if you manage to restrain yourself at certain events, or perhaps the entire holiday season, if this is a huge struggle, your focus may shift from enjoying the time and meals spent with loved ones, leaving you frustrated instead.
- DO try the three bite rule. Rather than polishing off a large plate of pie at every special meal, limit yourself to three bites of dessert per occasion. This way you get to savor your favorite winter treats, and the only thing you will miss out on is feeling the strain around your waistband as the kilos pack on.
- DON’T skip meals during the day, or “save up” your calories for an evening feast. The lack of energy can leave you cranky and weak all day. Once you begin eating, it may be difficult not to let your pent up cravings from the entire day overtake you. You will soon discover that your daytime suffering was wasted.
- DO have a healthy snack before a big party. We can all agree that showing up famished does nothing to keep you from unnecessary snacking. It only makes sense that your chances of overeating will be much lower if you have a small healthy snack, like a small yogurt, some nuts, or an apple before you show up to a party.
- DON’T consider holidays as “cheat days” from your regular healthy eating regiment. Thinking this way may lead to overindulging, and completely suspending your healthy approach to diet and exercise.
- DO enjoy special foods, and even feel free to splurge on truly special treats that are honestly worth it. It is important, however, to stay picky! Only eat what you really want to eat, and only when you are truly hungry. Fight the temptation to nosh on anything simply because it is available and “looks alright.”
- DON’T eat too many “low calorie, diet” foods. The misleadingly guilt-free thought of eating sugar-free or low-fat foods may end up causing you to eat larger portions with more frequency. Not to mention, often low-fat foods contain more sugar than regular food, and sugar-free treats tend to have a higher fat content. Talk about defeating the purpose!
- DO eat smaller portions of rich, high calorie foods and enjoy them for that they are. You are far more likely to feel satisfied and more appreciative of something that openly contains lots of calories, and will most likely eat less of it because you know what it contains. Have you ever noticed you tend to feel like you can eat more than average when you think something is a “diet” food?
- DON’T drink too much (alcohol). Not only is alcohol extremely fattening, but it is also a depressant. Having a lot of it in your system makes it harder to maintain a reasonable state of mind in stressful situations, and to manage your emotions overall. Besides, who wants to spend any of their precious days off nursing a hangover?
- DO stick to 1-2 drinks per day, if you choose to drink. After every alcoholic beverage,drink a glass of water. This will help you stay hydrated, and will also keep you from eating or drinking too much. Instead of drinking hard liquor, try this tasty, low calorie holiday beverage: simmer a deciliter or two of dry, red wine with 3 cloves and a thin orange slice.
- DON’T obsess over, or ignore the scale all month. Whether you check your weight several times a day, or choose to forget about it all together until well into the spring, these self-defeating approaches can cause you to be anxious and frustrated.
- DO try weighing yourself twice a week. To get the most accurate results, always measure yourself in the morning, before eating. Try to do so on the same scale each time, and make sure your clothes are not throwing off the numbers on the scale.
- DON’T stretch yourself too thin by overbooking. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays when there is much to do. With all the shopping and cooking that simply cannot wait, or parties and dinners that must be attended, it is easy to temporarily brush aside important elements of a healthy daily routine like sleep or exercise.
- DO make sure you have enough time to take care of yourself. Sleep and exercise are two things you should definitely not skimp on. They refill your depleted energy resources, allowing you to stay on top of your game during the busy holidays. Ensure that you will get some fitness in by exercising in the morning; even fifteen minutes is enough to boost your system. Go for a quick jog, do some yoga, or a few reps of sit-ups. Studies have shown that exercising in the morning increases the chances of being more active during the day, decreasing your tendency to make bad dietary choices. Don’t forget to take a few minutes to unwind before bed; have a nice mug of peppermint or chamomile tea.
- DON’T sweat the small stuff. Surely plenty of effort has gone into planning, cooking, and preparing for the holidays. As a result you may have high expectations, but try not to get overly invested in the thought of “perfection”. Thinking that way is bound to place too much pressure on you and those around you; a real recipe for disaster.
- DO keep your expectations realistic. We are all familiar with the elevated chances of the unique friction and tension between reunited family members over the holidays, and a striving to keep appearances magical, but no person should take the happiness of others upon themselves. Feel free to delegate tasks and responsibilities, and most importantly don’t forget to relax. Once you have done your part, take pleasure in the environment, the delicious food, and the good company. Make a conscious decision to enjoy yourself, and go with the flow. If you are in Budapest during the holidays, make sure you take advantage of this beautiful city at its finest: bundle up and head for the seasonal specials! Browse the outdoor winter market in the city center, visit the picturesque ice skating rinks, and enjoy a cup of mulled wine with friends. Make the most of every day spent with loved ones, and stay happy and healthy through the new year.