Let’s face it, the holidays are not always ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ In this busy season, we are affected by many stressors including, dealing with family dysfunction, handling our food restrictions, and achieving our weight loss goals. These stress factors, if not managed well, can not only ruin your holiday cheer, but can also have a negative effect on your health. Here are a few tips to keep your holiday spirit up, and your stress levels down.
We all have them: the overly critical aunts, the food-forcing grandmothers, or the uncle that drinks too much. When it comes to dealing with family stress, it’s all about preparation.
Before the event actually takes place, plan how much time you want to spend with the family. If you do not want to stay up late with the night owls, plan a bedtime. If 8 hours a day 5 days in a row is too much, plan to occupy yourself away from the family for periods of time. This will decrease stress and lower any tension between you and other members of your family.
Choose someone to be your ‘wingman,’ so that if you are stuck in a corner with drunken uncle Carl, they will come pull you away, and vice versa. You can also support each other by taking walks together, or simply being there emotionally for each other. Knowing glances across the dinner table can lessen the tension easily.
While holiday expenses seem to add up fast, if you are traveling to see family this holiday season, I highly recommend staying at a hotel and renting your own car. It adds to the expenses, but in the end is worth it. If things get ugly with the relatives, you have an escape, and can hop in the car and drive around to see the neighborhood Christmas lights. If you need a break from all the ‘family togetherness,’ you can easily go back to your hotel and enjoy a book or nap.
Hosting… with Help
If you are hosting this year, don’t be shy about encouraging your guests to stay at nearby hotels and letting them know how they can be most helpful to you during their stay. Do not be afraid to ask them to pick something up at the grocery store, or to help in the kitchen. If certain individuals do not get along well, have the kids make place cards and seat them far away from each other.
This may be the best kept secret to surviving holiday stress: Keep up your exercise regimen. Make your exercise routine a priority, even when traveling. This will give you some alone time, if needed, as well as raising those feel good endorphins to help with any family dysfunction.
If you need motivation to exercise, sign up for a turkey trot. These are always family friendly events, so you can bring the family or leave them at home. Many people bring little ones, and walk rather than run the race, so don’t let that be an excuse!
Holiday Treats & Weight Loss
It’s in the back of everyone’s mind this time of year: How will I keep up with my weight loss goals with all these yummy treats around? On average, Americans gain about a pound per holiday season. To avoid gaining weight, I strongly encourage pre-planning. Here are the top ways you can pre-plan:
- Have a list of what you will eat each day, and do not stray from the list. Avoid eating what you want in the moment, and stick to your list of what is healthy for you.
- NEVER arrive at a holiday event hungry. You will have little control over what time the meal will be served, or on what type of appetizers may be laying around tempting you. It is best to have a healthy, protein packed meal or snack before you go, so you are not terribly tempted by treats. I also recommend always bringing a protein bar with you.
- Bring a weight loss friendly dish to share with the family. Offer to bring a veggie tray, or get creative and make a post bariatric friendly casserole. Use the Blossom blog, or the websites www.sparkpeople.com, and www.bariatriceating.com as references for post surgery meals and snack ideas. With all the treats and temptations, your family will thank you for bringing something healthy.
- Seat yourself strategically far away from stressful people, the buffet, and the kitchen. If you are sitting by grandma, who pushes food on you, you will be much more likely to eat things that you otherwise wouldn’t. Plan to sit by people that are supportive in your weight loss journey. Hanging around the buffet may be too enticing. Rather than being in close proximity to the food, take a seat in the living room, or wherever the food is not.
Being grateful is proven to make a person happier. If your family, food choices and achieving your weight loss goals are stressing you out this season, take a moment to be grateful for all the good in your life. Focus on the good aspects of your family members. Celebrate how far you have come on your weight loss journey and all the temptations you have overcome to get here. Amid all the chaos and bustle of the season, being grateful will allow you to slow down, remember the true meanings behind the holidays, and make this season more magical. Happy Holidays!