All that advice about how to keep weight off, how to reduce stress and how to stay on your fitness program during the holidays — well, good luck with that.
For years, I’ve been giving advice of my own. Moderation, I’ve always said. “Just take a little taste of everything.”
Exercise on holiday mornings. Huh? Well, I’m throwing up my hands this year, kind of.
I’m not going to tell you to just take a little taste of pie when you really want to eat the whole piece or to bypass that great stuffing that you only eat once a year. Life is short, and this behavior is not the culprit anyway.
The fact is that holidays are a time to embrace life, be social and enjoy activities bordering on the excessive. And when you come right down to it, it’s not what you do during the holidays. It’s what you do during the rest of the year.
But if you really need to hear about holiday moderation, here it goes.
If you are the one cooking, you are more in control of what is going to be placed on the table, so you can choose equally delicious, lighter recipes. The internet is flush with them this time of year.
But if you’re visiting friends and family, all bets are off, and your radar needs to be on. Know that every pound equals about 3,500 calories, and all calories are not created equal. Some are more nutritious than others, and some are downright empty.
Try to make healthy food choices and watch your portion size.
This is your insurance policy. If you don’t exercise regularly, this is definitely the time to start. If you do, make time for it. You don’t have to do extra, but don’t make the excuse you’re too busy at this time of year.
Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Cardio exercise is a great calorie burner. It also tends to suppress your appetite. Strength training about a half hour every other day also raises your metabolism and keeps it up for hours after you’ve finished exercising. You see where I’m going here? The amount of calories burned depends on the type of exercise and how much you weigh. So regular exercise can set you up for being able to indulge in those holiday meals.
When I think of the holiday season, as joyous as it is, I can’t help thinking about stress. Feeling the stress of the season? Me too!
Stress has been around since the beginning of time. It started as the flight-or-fight reflex when early humans confronted life-threatening situations, and now stress itself has become a life-threatening situation.
If we can’t eliminate all causes of stress, which is the way to go if you can do it (but good luck with that), what can we do about it?
No, really, conscious relaxation is a form of yoga or meditation. Sometimes you only need a few seconds and you feel a lot better. Sit down and close your eyes. Let your muscles relax.
Concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in and hold your breath for one second — one-hundred-thousand. Breathe out. Breathe in again a little deeper and hold for two seconds — one one-hundred-thousand, two one-hundred-thousand. Breathe out. Breathe in deeper and hold for three, then four, then five seconds.
When you get to around three seconds of breath-holding your stress level should start to drop and your mind should begin to clear itself of thoughts. After five, you should feel pretty good. This actually works and can relieve holiday stress, or any kind of stress.
So during this holiday season, eat what you love, drink in moderation, be merry and don’t stress about it. Lighten up. Enjoy. The holidays come but once a year. Chill out with family and friends, guilt-free.