by Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB & Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, CDE
“Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.” –Orison Sweet Marden—
“Tis the season to be jolly!” Thanksgiving through New Years is a 6 week period of festivities, decorating, partying, gathering with family and friends, a time of love, connection and remembrances.
It can also be a time of high expectations, tempting foods, over-consumption, excess alcohol, intense emotions, stressful traveling, and challenging time demands.
Our intention is to help you make positive food and lifestyle choices this holiday season so that you:
Emerge into 2012: positive and healthy– instead of feeling depleted and in “recovery mode.”
Planning ahead is crucial–in order for this season to be a rewarding and satisfying time of year.
The most important PLANNING STEP is to:
IMAGINE, in detail, the various events going smoothly.
- Visualize managing challenging situations in skillful ways.
- Imagine saying YES when you mean it and a positive NO when NO is how you feel inside.
If you visualize and make intentions with strong FEELING, your intentions will radiate out and pre-pave the way for a more positive experience this season.
***Begin NOW to spend a few minutes each day, visualizing your choices and actions. You will create new brain circuits by regularly thinking in new ways and practicing new behaviors.***
Second STEP: Decide that you will BE STRESS-HARDY this holiday season! Simple practices and techniques can have a profound effect on your health and well-being.
**Take steps to manage stress….. so that you can deal better with unexpected emotions and “snafus”, “must attend” events, and surprise weather issues.***.
THIRD: Remember 2 Simple Golden Rules:
- Everything in moderation.
- Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.
Simple kindnesses go a long way, including being kind to yourself.
What other steps can you do this season to make it more rewarding and less stressful?
- Keep your expectations basic and simple.
- Pay attention to your breathing EACH DAY. Take deep CALMING breaths…rather than short shallow breaths (which are typical when stressed.) For simple breathing techniques– see Dr. Andrew Weil’s recommendations at: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html#.Trp71agXa2Y.email
- Remember—you may have to compromise and negotiate re: time demands.
Even on a time crunched day, you can still fit in a 20 minute walk. If you are at an event where you are feeling overwhelmed or smothered, take a break and walk around the block!
- If you are hosting an event: mindfully focus on the creative, enjoyable, festive aspects of your gathering; e.g. candles, music, kids’ activities, room décor, and table theme.
- Eat regular meals. Don’t skip!
- Choose combination foods/meals of proteins (for ex: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, dairy, tofu, edamame) AND high fiber carbohydrates (fruit or whole grains) to keep your energy balanced and even. Low-fat “diet foods” like puffed rice and skim milk, salad with diet dressing, diet chewing gum, or diet soda may actually leave you feeling more hungry.
- Decrease intake of “carb triggers”: i.e., limit glucose and fructose sugars in desserts, candy, syrups, fruit juice, even excess fruit servings. Limit starchy vegetables like white potatoes and processed starches (for ex: white rice and crackers) that turn quickly into sugar.
NOTE: “Humans can certainly live without sugar (and, in fact without any kind of carbohydrates) as long as some fat and protein are available.”—from the Harvard HEALTHbeat e-newsletter, 11-8-11.
- Remember that food cravings last ~4-12 minutes. So, if you can distract yourself, the craving may pass.
- If there is something special you really want to eat, plan it in to your celebration—-as long as it doesn’t interfere with health issues.
- Stay well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water and natural teas. (6-8 glasses/day).
- Sleep Pointers: Get enough sleep! Not less than 7 hours per 24 hours!
***ADEQUATE SLEEP is one of your BEST SUPPORTS in staying STRESS HARDY. ***
NOTE: A recent study out of Harvard shows if you miss an hour or more of sleep– you are more likely to give in to “junk food” the next day. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain (part of the brain responsible for self-control) is compromised with inadequate sleep.
—Sleeping less than 5 hours per night may cause weight gain to settle around the mid-section. Cortisol secretion is at its lowest at night but it is boosted the day after a night of poor sleep. (Cortisol secretion supports fat deposition.)
—A deficiency of calcium (found in dairy products, kale, broccoli) may make it difficult to fall asleep. Too little magnesium (found in nuts and whole grains) can make it difficult to stay asleep.
—Limit Alcohol. Because alcohol has a sedative effect, one call fall asleep more easily after a drink; but the problem is staying asleep. Just one drink for women, or 2 drinks for men can result in interrupted sleep.
***1 drink (alcohol equivalents) = 12 oz beer or 5 oz wine or 1.5 oz. (1 shot) liquor.***
Recommendations: no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. (Women metabolize alcohol at about 50% the rate that men do.)
—Turn off lights from computers and Smart phone screens; and don’t keep phones or computers near where you sleep.
- Pay attention to your posture. If you are slouching or swaying to one side or the other, your body is telling you it needs a break, and maybe more sleep.
- New shoes can be fun and funky, however: this may not be the a time of the year to wear new or tight shoes and get painful blisters. If dancing or walking, wear sensible shoes.
- Raise your oxytocin (the bonding hormone) levels. Examples of activities that increase oxytocin release include: worship, yoga, meditation, voluntary generosity, appropriate hugs, affectionate touch and pleasant smells.
- Keep moving!! If you’ve been sitting too long, get up and walk around. Dance at parties!
- Plan “Time Outs”, even if just 15 minutes of alone time in the shower! Or take some deep breaths in the bathroom and remember to look in the mirror and smile at yourself!
- Log your daily successes. Keep a small “appreciation journal” going.
- Be mindful of what needs tending. For example: Is there enough gas in the car?
- Are you attending parties where alcohol is served? Who is the designated driver for this event? Can they fulfill their obligation?
- What about spending money? Have you set a financial limit for the MAX you will spend? Try putting your credit card in the freezer. Literally…. put a FREEZE on your spending…..
- Wear medical alerts if you have diabetes or other medical issues like severe food or environmental allergies or drug reactions.
- If you are on any medications, you should speak with your medical provider or pharmacist before taking OTC cough and cold remedies.
WHAT TO DO!!! ……if you have “pigged out “ and find yourself “de-railed” and “off track?”
Yes, your intentions were good ones; but somehow 5-6 days of parties can turn into day-after-day of overdoing. Too much sugar, high fat rich foods and too much alcohol– TOGETHER with inadequate sleep–are a potent recipe for getting derailed. (And can become “a vicious cycle.” i.e., eating too much sugar and alcohol disturbs normal insulin release and contributes to poor quality of sleep.)
How do you RECOVER and get your chemistry back into balance?
- First of all, don’t focus on the behaviors that were not part of your intentions. Decide to move on and get back in charge. Re-GROUP!
- Resume self-care, nurturing practices. Take a short inventory re: what your body is saying to you. Your body will tell you. Do you need more sleep? Do you need more water? Is it time to say NO to sugar? Are you overbooked with social events and need more ‘time outs’?
- Decide to be prepared for the unexpected in the food department. Have healthy food options available. For ex: buy already prepared raw vegetable platters, if you are time-crunched and hosting a party. OR– bring a plate of cut-up veggies and healthy dip to a party for everyone to enjoy. Make a batch of low sodium, non starchy vegetable soup to have on hand at home.
- Pick no more than two self-help techniques at a time. Choose 2 of the following;
—Place no more than 2 items on your plate at any trip to the snack table.
—Start with bulky, low-calorie snacks vs sweets.
—Use a plate no larger than 10 inch diameter.
—Choose water instead of sweetened drinks.
—Don’t add sugar or salt to anything you are eating.
—Decide to have some soup or a protein snack before you go to an event
—Sit or stand at least 6 feet away from snacks and food tables. (distance helps you think before you grab another bite.)
- Keep a picture available of someone you want to stay healthy for.
- If you are really feeling overwhelmed, reach out and ask for help if you need it. Remember, people like to be helpful.
- KEEP YOUR SENSE of HUMOR HANDY at all times!!!!
- Call on Patience and Moderation, Include a dash of Hope and Love, And ENJOY!
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Wishing you happiness.”
Best wishes for a rewarding and fulfilling holiday season,
Deb and Wendy,
The Wellness Shifter Ladies
- Eating Well (magazine) November/December 2011. Article on SLEEP, pp. 49-55
- Harvard HEALTHbeat e-newsletter, 11-8-11. www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/