Reduce Stress and Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Reduce Stress and Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Gift buying and wrapping, decorating, family obligations, or packing and traveling – let’s face it, the holidays are stressful. And then, of course, this is added to your regular everyday stress.

And who do you know makes great decisions in times of stress? ….. Cue the food and cocktails!

It’s no wonder that Americans gain anywhere from 2-5 pounds during the holidays – which does not just magically disappear after the New Year.

So, how do you manage the stress, along with the holiday food, desserts, and cocktails?

Here are eight stress busters to help you through the holidays:

  1. Be Realistic: The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just as good as “last “year. Families change, and traditions can too. Choose some to hold onto, and create some new ones. Being a little flexible can help take the pressure off.
  2. Stick to a Budget: Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much you can afford to spend. Giving tons of presents or expensive presents does not equate to happiness, or good health. Actually avoiding bills that you’ll be stuck paying off through the next year will mean less stress, which equals better health.
  3. Plan, Prioritize, and Organize: Plan your cookie baking, shopping, decorating, and visiting. Don’t forget to add in extra time – just in case you forget something. Set priorities by making a “To Do” list. Organize the list into two sections: “Must Do” do versus “Nice To Do”, and let go of the “Impossible”. Don’t forget to enlist others to help create and execute your list. This includes help with everyday chores, or bigger holiday projects.
  4. Learn to Say “No”: You don’t have to commit to something that is going to send you over the top. Know that you can’t possibly participate in every project or event. Family and friends will absolutely understand.
  5. Take a Breather: Literally, try some slow breathing. Try breathing relaxation techniques or try centering yourself through prayer, meditation, imagery or progressive muscular relaxation.
  6. Be Positive: Look for the positives. Remember that “Perception is a Product of Perspective”. This might not come easy at first, but if you try to see things from a different angle, you can say goodbye to stress. So what if you didn’t get the Christmas Cards out, or get Grandma’s favorite chocolates this year. Focus on all the positive things that you have done throughout the season, and throughout the year.
  7. Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits: Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to curb your exercise regime, or ruin your diet.
    1. Maintain your exercise routine – maybe shorten your runs, yoga class, or strength training – but don’t abandon exercise completely. Exercise is going to help you blow off some of that stress, and produce those “Feel Good” hormones, called endorphins.
    2. The best appetite suppressants are actually eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Unlike starving yourself in preparation for a holiday party, eating throughout the day will help you maintain your metabolism. Eating regularly will keep you from overeating sweets, drinks, appetizers, or buffet foods at the next holiday event. Don’t forget to drink another glass of water before you reach for a second helping, sweet treat, or drink.
    3. Eat stress reducing foods: Eat foods high in fiber and antioxidants, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, as well as foods high in protein and B vitamins: low fat yogurt, lean meat, chicken and fish. Eat healthy fats, like Omega-3 found in fatty fish, flax and chia seeds, and foods high in vitamin E and magnesium found in seeds, nuts, and avocados. Have a relaxing cup of tea containing ginseng, licorice, chamomile or ashwaghanda.
  8.  Give and Receive: Go through your closets, and kitchen cabinets. Donate to the Vietnam Veterans Association, Boys and Girls Club of America, the Red Cross, or your local Food Pantry. Giving and volunteering makes you feel good all over. It should, it’s linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (released during making love, which can also help with stress, by the way) that produces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection. People on an “oxytocin high” can also trigger another person’s generous behavior. Now spreading a little happiness – that’s what the holiday season is all about!

Armed with eight stress busters to keep you healthy, you no longer have to dread the holidays. First, learn to recognize holiday stress triggers, then combat them by setting realistic goals, sticking to a budget, planning, prioritizing and organizing. It’s okay to say “No”, and to ask for help, and it’s more than okay to take a breather by spending some quiet time to settle your nerves. Try to stay positive, and don’t give up those quality healthy habits you have proudly established, like exercise, eating regularly throughout the day, and eating stress-reducing whole foods. Last of all, have an attitude of gratitude and donate, or volunteer. With a little stress busting, you can stay on track with your diet plans and make wise food choices to keep your metabolism revved up, and weight off.

Keri Sutton - RN, MSN, ANP-C, AGPCNP-BC

Keri is a Nurse Practitioner and founder at Kare Health & Wellness. Keri's pursuit of personal answers to her own health issues landed her in the top of Functional Medicine. As she utilized functional Medicine to get her own health and life back, she made it her life's work to bring this empowering form of healthcare to as many people as she can.

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