It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It can also be overwhelming and stressful, making it a challenge to stay happy and healthy. As always, it’s important to do what you can to take care of yourself so you can be your best.
Here are 10 things to do to help you stay healthy and happy through the holiday season:
1. Get moving
Do what you can to get your body moving. If you track your steps, shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day. Or get outdoors and go for a walk or run. Get active by going for a bike ride, Or ski, bowl, hike, golf, Frisbee, Frisbee golf, dance, go to a workout class – whatever.
Some of the benefits of exercise – helps relieve stress by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, and increasing endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Equalizes hormone levels.
2. Take 3 minutes
Start your day with at least 3 minutes of quiet time. Yes, you’re busy, but investing at least 3 minutes every morning will help put you in a positive state of mind and set the course for your day. Use the time for light stretching, deep breathing, positive encouragement, silent prayer, or just silence.
You’ve probably heard the phrase: Fake it ’til you make it. What’s really cool about fake smiling is that your brain doesn’t know you’re faking your smile. You’re smiling. That’s it. The action sends a signal to your brain that you’re okay – guess what? – you feel okay, maybe even a little happier. It’s like magic. So especially when you don’t really feel like it, smile.
Fake laughing follows the same principal as fake smiling in helping you feel happy. Laughing is a little less convenient because for some reason it’s not normal to just bust out laughing for no reason.
Our bodies are such amazing creations and the mind-body connection is real. You may have heard of studies that use laughter yoga for pain management. It works. So when you feel a little stressed, laugh like Santa Claus “ho ho ho” and then throw in a “ha ha ha”. Repeat. Get a friend to join you for double the laughs.
Drinking water is so important to keep you feeling your best. Busy holiday schedules tend to disrupt healthy habits so keep a glass of water at hand and drink up. How much water should you be drinking? What’s usually recommended is half your body weight in ounces, more if you’re sweating.
6. Limit Alcohol
While water helps hydrate, alcohol dehydrates. Studies released in the past few years make headlines when they shout, “Hey, doctors say wine’s good for you!” Those same studies recommend limiting alcohol to one serving a day for women, two servings a day for men. One serving is of wine is 4 – 5 ounces. To put it in perspective, that’s slightly more that half a cup.
7. Eat healthy
Keep it as simple as you can. Eat more vegetables, limit sugar, and control portions. Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day so you don’t get over-hungry and you’re able to be more mindful of your food choices. Read more suggestions about making good food choices at Take Care of Your Body.
It’s a hectic time, but sleep is the time when you’re body re-charges and rejuvenates. Schedule your sleep time and do your best to stick with it. Try shutting down electronic devices, including phones, tablets, televisions, an hour before your scheduled bedtime. The blue light in electronics is thought to inhibit the sleep hormone, melatonin, making it harder for you to get to sleep.
9. Give up on perfection
Those Christmas specials and holiday commercials don’t seem real – the ones where homes are perfect, the holiday table looks beautiful, the turkey is roasted to golden perfection, and there’s a brand new luxury car in the driveway. If it works out that way, excellent! But if it works out like the dinner in A Christmas Story where the turkey winds up on the floor and the family ends up going out for Chinese food, that’s okay too.
10. Have a heart of gratitude
As always, and especially when life gets hectic, have a heart of gratitude. When you consciously recognize the people and things you’re grateful for, it helps take the edge off and so you don’t sweat the small stuff.
Those are the 10 things to do to help keep you happy and healthy through the holidays:
Take 3 minutes
Give up on perfection
Have a heart of gratitude
Keep your health and happiness on your list of things to do this holiday season. Finish 2016 strong and be ready to welcome a new year feeling strong and happy.
Millions of Americans struggle with obesity and the numbers continue to rise. Weight-related illnesses come at a high cost to a person’s health and add up to billions of dollars a year in health care. Many people know they should, but it’s so difficult to get motivated to lose weight.
The struggle is real.
Lose weight. It’s a common New Year’s resolution, but it stays on the list year after year, so that it becomes better suited for a “Wish List”.
Why is it so hard to get motivated to lose weight? What’s that trigger point when we know it’s time to get serious about weight loss, exercise, and healthy lifestyle?
The “Aha moment”. That moment of clarity, when the motivation, belief, and decision to make a change happen all at once.
The motivation to lose weight is different for everyone.
It could be:
Something the doctor says
Something a loved one says
Threat of being on medication and don’t want to be on medication
Threat of being on medication and can’t afford medication
Worrying about breaking chairs because of weight
Worrying about not fitting in chairs
Not recognizing yourself in pictures
Being scared straight by life-threatening emergency
Not being able to find clothes that fit
Seeing relatives suffer from weight-related illnesses and knowing that’s the path you’re on and deciding you want to get off that path
Sometimes it’s enough to get started.
What makes it last?
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
When I first started my career in education, I observed teachers in the classroom. I visited public high school classrooms and it was immediately apparent that some students weren’t into school. (I know. Shocking!)
They were often unmotivated to complete assignments, participate in discussions, stay awake in class, or even show up.
I visited a Senior English class that was reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – not an easy read by any means, but interesting and entertaining if you can de-code it.
They didn’t want anything to do with Chaucer or his tales.
How do you get people to do something they don’t really want to do? How do you keep them motivated?
The discussion in my education classes and amongst my future teacher friends often centered around the best ways to motivate students.
Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s motivation/movement/action that comes from the simple desire to do something, to reach a personal goal or expectation. It’s the understanding and desire to do well and meet or exceed expectations or goals.
For those high school seniors struggling to de-code Chaucer, few students were intrinsically motivated to make an effort.
Extrinsic motivation means motivation from outside of self, such as for a reward.
Extrinsic motivation is more of a “What’s in it for me?” type of motivation. Getting a homework pass for getting a perfect attendance in class for example. Store rewards and frequent customer programs motivate customers to buy more by offering free merchandise/shipping if you spend a set amount.
The million dollar question for me as a teacher was how do I get students to want to learn? How can I motivate students to learn?
The reality is you can’t make some one do something they don’t want to do.
It’s always a choice.
Those kids reading Canterbury Tales had to muster the motivation to pay attention and de-code the work, not just the language, but the historical context and social norms of the time that make it true, entertaining and still worth a read hundreds of years later.
Reading Chaucer is not easy. Neither is losing weight.
When it comes to our health, we have to be just like those kids in school. We have to want to do it. We have to get motivated to lose weight. Our reasons will differ, but ultimately, we have to see a benefit and decide that it’s worth the effort.
What are some motivators?
Extrinsic motivation alone doesn’t have long-lasting results. Rewards programs for exercising and losing weight are marginally successful.
Many companies offer employees incentives for exercising, tracking steps, reaching 10,000 steps a day, and monitor their activity. Some participants cheated in a major way with these programs. One guy put his step tracker on a ceiling fan.
Some step trackers have an accountability opportunity by creating a community in which you compete with others to get steps, track food, etc. If you’re a competitive person, this may work well for you. Keep it going.
Remember intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. A weight loss challenge or contest can be great motivation to get started. To keep it going for life, it’s got to be something deeper.
When you’re ready, take action.
Success is the accumulation of the daily habits that may seem insignificant by themselves, but over time these small actions add up to results. And then:
Set a goal.
1 pound a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but slow and steady over time tends to lead to more successful weight maintenance.
Believe you can.
Believe you’re worth it.
Be patient. You didn’t get to where you are overnight. You won’t get to where you want to be overnight either. A quick fix doesn’t last. Most of the time it doesn’t work either.
You’re not a child and no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You may be subject to consequences for inaction/actions, but ultimately, you still have a choice, even if you choose to do nothing.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most important thing is that you feel strong, positive, and well, so you’re able to live your best life.
If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin because of your weight, weight-related health issues, or fitness level, then it’s time for a change.
You can do it!
What do you think? What affects your motivation to lose weight? Positive or negative?
November is here! Leaves are changing, mornings are brisk (for some), and Thanksgiving is only weeks away. It’s a great time to commit (or re-commit) to a healthy lifestyle, to choose nutritious food and be active every day.
“What?!” You may be thinking to yourself. “The holidays are coming up and that means lots of food, parties and crazy schedules! Commit to a healthy lifestyle? No way! It’s a terrible time to start. I’ll start right after the holidays!”
Nope. Do it now. Carpe diem. Every day’s a great day to do something good for your health.
A healthy lifestyle is something you strive for every day. It isn’t temporary. Even if you have a long way to go, start small and build up to where you want to be. Small steps make a big difference in your mental and physical well-being. And remember, no one’s perfect and you don’t need to be perfect either.
Not sure what to do? Need directions to the Starting Line?
Here are some suggestions in the area of nutrition and exercise you can do to start your healthy lifestyle now.
Make good nutrition choices
Cook at home. If holiday schedules mean meals on the run, plan ahead and be prepared with frozen vegetables, jar sauces, quick cook grains, etc. Choose minimum ingredient foods when possible. (Read “How to Read a Food Label” for more information.) Even a little bit of meal prep will go a long way to get dinner on the table faster, healthier, and less expensive than going through the drive through.
Eat healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are excellent choices. This can help prevent you from getting over-hungry which can keep you from making good food choices.
Practice portion control. Rather than completely cutting out your favorite not-so-healthy foods, serve yourself a small amount and enjoy it. This will keep you from feeling deprived of the foods you love.
Avoid “saving yourself” for the big meal. You may think it’s a good idea to “save yourself” for the big office potluck or holiday buffet. You’d be better off eating nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day so that you’re in a better frame of mind to continue to make good choices.
Be mindful of your beverage choices. Sugary drinks, juices, and ciders are high in calories. Drink water throughout the day. Try flavoring water with lemon, mint, lime, or other fruit.
Make it a lifestyle. Do it for you and those you love.
Recent research confirms that lack of physical activity increases risk of chronic illness like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
“Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and fitness, and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases.”
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Take the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator.
Track your steps and set a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Most smart phones have a built in step tracker. There are many wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, or pedometer. Work up to your goal by starting small and gradually increasing your steps. Do what you can, even if it’s walking for 10 minutes a day. Remember, something is better than nothing
If you sit a lot during the day, stand up and stretch and/or walk for a few minutes every hour. Set a reminder on your phone or watch. There are exercise and stretch reminder apps for mobile devices for free or for a minimal fee.
Park in the farthest parking space and walk to your destination.
Get a work buddy and walk before or after work. During the fall and winter months, daylight hours are short so be safe and walk in a well-lit and busy area. If you work in a building, try walking the halls and staircases.
Join an exercise group. When you find an activity you enjoy and join others who like it as much as you do, you’re more likely to stay committed to it. Read here for benefits of joining a group.
Get an accountability partner. Share your goals with a trusted friend who’ll hold you accountable and encourage you to keep at it. Select some one who understands your challenges, but won’t let you off the hook.
Get started now.
There’s no time like the present to take that first step. Commit to doing one thing at a time and then build from there.
If you already exercise, keep it up. Be flexible and stay as consistent as you can. Remember, something is better than nothing.
Yes, it will soon be the holiday season and it’s as good a time as any to taking steps toward a healthier you. It’s always a great time to take care of yourself so you can do the work you need to do – so you can take care of who and what you need to take care of.
Do you have any strategies to help you stay on track through the holiday season? Please share in the comments below.
It’s the holiday season and another year comes racing to a close with plenty of sweets, food, and drink to go with it. If you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthy weight, the availability of holiday treats and trimmings can make getting to January without any extra pounds a real challenge.
Here are a few tips to help you ring in the new year without any extra weight.
1. Eat more veggies. Make a conscious effort to eat 2-3 more servings of vegetables than you’re eating right now. Raw or cooked, it doesn’t matter. Try vegetable soup, steamed vegetables, stir-fried, sautéed, roasted. Vegetables are high fiber and nutritious. Buy seasonal if you can and try something new to mix up your routine.
2. Stash snacks. Have low glycemic snacks ready to eat before a party, buffet, or formal dinner. Snacking keeps you from being over-hungry and sets you up for making more thoughtful food choices. Some of my favorites are apple with raw almonds, apple slices with peanut butter (no added sugar), carrots and hummus, and Greek yogurt with grapes and pecan pieces.
3. Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water (8-12 glasses a day) will help keep everything flowing like it’s supposed to and will help you feel satisfied when eating low-glycemic, high fiber foods. Flavor your water with fruit like lemon or lime juice, orange slices, or other fruit for a little variety.
4. Survey the buffet. Buffets are common for holiday parties because they’re easy and give you so much variety. If possible, before picking up your plate, look over the buffet and do your best to make good choices. Avoid the fried stuff and stick with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and protein.
5. Be selective. If you decide you want dessert, no problem. Serve a little, enjoy it, and be done with it. Just don’t go crazy and act like you’ll never be able to eat dessert again in your life. I speak from experience when I say the weight you gain can end up staying with you way past that moment of deliciousness and it’s probably not worth it.
6. Stay focused on your goal. Even though it may be tough to pass up rich and decadent food when it’s right in front of you, going crazy with mindless eating and drinking that results in extra pounds on the scale or not being able to button your pants can be discouraging and even depressing. Keep your mental image of success clear and at the forefront of your mind.
Food is an important part of many celebrations but keep food in perspective. Be mindful about the many things that make this time of year so special: time with family and friends, giving generously, helping those in need, spiritual renewing, and much more. Enjoy those things and make your good health another thing to celebrate.
Summer is long gone and October is here. For many of us, that means the season for regularly having easy access to lots of sugary snacks. If you have a sweet tooth, it can be really challenging to stay on track and resist the sweets because once you start it can be really hard to stop.
Here are some tips to avoid the sugary snacks.
Be prepared. Have healthy snacks handy like sliced vegetables and fruit. Try a healthy alternative, like apples slices with no-sugar-added peanut/almond butter and honey or grapes with almonds.
Eat every 2 – 3 hours. Make sure you’re eating low-glycemic meals with healthy snacks in between so that you’re eating every 2 – 3 hours to allow your blood sugar levels to stay steady. If your blood sugar drops too low, sometimes called being “hangry”, your body will need quick energy and that’s when good food choices go out the window.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to help you feel satisfied and give your body what it needs, so you don’t crave stuff you don’t.
Use your mental muscle.
Out of sight, out of mind. If you think you might be tempted to dig in, store the sweet stuff away in a bin or other area out of sight and then get busy doing something else. Occupy yourself with something that’ll help you forget about your craving: play your favorite high-energy playlist, listen to an engrossing podcast, call your best friend…you get the idea.
Visualize success. Picture yourself absolutely, perfectly fine with your healthy snacks and strong posture. Or picture yourself eating a small amount of whatever it is you crave, enjoying it, eating it mindfully, and being done.
Exercise. Stay active during this time of year. Studies show that even a 15-minute walk can help curb sugar cravings, so get moving. Find an activity you enjoy. Some suggestions: dance (alone or with a partner; with or without music), walk, run, swim, fence, practice yoga, calisthenics, etc.
De-stress. Stress can trigger all kinds of negative stuff. Sugar cravings are one of them. Recognize the stress trigger and take a few deep breaths, stretch, take a walk – something besides a sugar fix to calm you down and get you out of that high stress state.
Stay strong and well through the season and enjoy all the great things it brings without letting sugar get the best of you.