With the festive season upon us, many people will be gathering with family and friends, whether it’s a work party, a friends get-together or a quiet night of watching Christmas movies at home. While enjoyable, these events can disrupt your healthy lifestyle habits.
A recent survey reported that nearly 45 percent of people take a break from exercise during the holidays, with more than half saying they feel more tired and have less time for themselves, and nearly One third of people say they drink alcohol in excess.
My research looks at the benefits of a healthy lifestyle on physical and mental health. And many of these healthy treats can help you travel over the holidays.
proper eating habits
Cakes, chocolate, spicy ham, turkey stuffing, mulled wine and other delights abound at this time of year. Most of these foods are high in fat, sugar and calories. So it’s no surprise that holidays are associated with increased food consumption. And one survey even estimated that people eat about 6,000 calories on Christmas Day. This is two to three times the daily calorie recommendation for most people.
By eating this much, there are many claims that holidays cause weight gain. While there is a persistent rumor that the average weight increases five to 10 pounds (2.25 to 4.5 kg) during the holidays, it may actually be much less. A study published in 2000 reported that it was only around one pound, or about half a kilogram. However, since this was an average amount, there were still some people in the study who gained five or more pounds.
Although indulging on one or two occasions won’t ruin your diet, if you have a cycle of holiday events, you may want to develop a strategy for how to manage your diet. First ask yourself if you need (or want) to go to all of them.
Of the events you go to, pick one or two opportunities that you will attend. These may include the best food, or have your closest family and friends present. For others, try to stay on the healthy side of things.
Before you go, make sure you eat well throughout the day before your event so you don’t go to the event hungry. Also, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can make you more likely to gravitate toward high-energy foods and overeat.
Try assigning a fitness buddy, whether a friend or host, to keep you on track. And be careful about consuming alcohol, which can impair your self-discipline.
When it comes to exercise, most of us are creatures of habit. This is a good thing, because creating a routine is the best way to maintain regular exercise. But the holidays are anything but routine. Gyms, pools and community centers may have reduced hours or be closed. Your trainer or aerobics instructor may have taken leave.
Now, skipping a few exercise sessions won’t affect your fitness and long-term health, but it may affect your mood. Exercise is known to increase energy levels, improve mood and reduce stress. All of these can be helpful during the busy holidays. And missing an exercise session can be like skipping your morning coffee.
But the holidays also provide many opportunities to engage in a variety of activities, from shopping to Christmas markets to walking around your neighborhood and looking at decorations.
You can also get into the holiday spirit by singing Christmas carols (or any other song). Singing can reduce anxiety, potentially increase your lung capacity and increase the number of infection-fighting molecules in your blood. And singing with others is known to create social bonds and release oxytocin, which can improve one’s mood.
Although the quality of your singing doesn’t matter for most of these benefits, the more you sing, the more you’re likely to benefit.
Nearly 90 percent of adults in the United States associate the holiday season with some type of stress. Although the holidays are a period of joy, it is not unusual to feel overwhelmed with shopping, hosting events, expectations from others, and additional financial costs.
This may be one reason why the number of heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths increases during the holiday period. Additionally, it is believed that people delay seeking treatment during the holidays, as emergency department visits increase after the holidays end.
Stress occurs when people feel that they have no control over what is happening to them. Planning holidays can help. Your plan may include a spending budget, which events you will attend and which you will say no to. If you’re hosting a dinner, plan the menu ahead of time, get help from others, or take it out.
Other strategies for managing and preventing stress include getting regular exercise, making sure you get enough sleep, avoiding unrealistic expectations, and scheduling some quiet time to do something just for yourself.
Although we all want things to be perfect, even the best laid plans can go astray. If this happens, it’s okay and take it easy. If you find the holidays challenging, make sure you talk to those around you for their support.
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