By Irazema Garcia - First Mile Care, DPP coach

The holidays are upon us. With that comes chilly weather, happy memories, and joyous get-togethers. What can also come with the holiday season? Stress, guilt, overeating, and more stress. Although, the holiday season can uproot anyone’s life, it is important to not let this time of year derail you from your successes. Instead, brainstorm ways to incorporate the holidays into your new lifestyle.

Here are six things to keep in mind during this time of year:

  1. Organize a non-food get together: Although the festivities this time of year can usually revolve around platters and platters of food, suggest meeting with friends and loved ones to exchange gifts in a non-food setting.  Coordinate a session at a local ice-skating rink or schedule to meet for a holiday-themed play or ballet (hello Nutcracker!). You can enjoy everyone’s company and well wishes just as much while doing an activity than while munching on food. Who knows — a new tradition may even be born.

  2. Stress less, smile more: The holiday season may bring an uptick of stress to many.  Whether it be scheduling multiple parties into an already busy month, or the unusually high traffic that comes with holiday shopping — several situations can make stress levels soar higher than normal in the winter months. The mere fact that you are stressed will elevate glucose levels in the blood (not to mention increase stress eating).

    Therefore, the more time you spend being stressed, the more time your glucose level remains high. Bringing down the stress level as much as possible is crucial to maintaining normal blood sugar. You may not be able to change the situation, but you can change the way you react to it. Try to remember the positives that come with the season, not the negatives – whether it be seeing family members who live far away or participating in once-a-year traditions. Find what you appreciate about them and rejoice in them.

  3. Value what you have accomplished: As the year comes to a close it is not uncommon to look back at the past year and take inventory. Acknowledge the hurdles that have been overcome. Remember to keep harmful thoughts at bay by flipping them to more positive thoughts that will help you reach goals. Rather than saying “I didn’t lose enough weight this year”, remind yourself of (and celebrate) the FIVE pounds that were lost (and remain off). Instead of falling into the gloom and doom mindset of thinking all the extra events will derail your success, carefully map out ways to incorporate the habits you have learned this year into the holiday season. During this time of celebration, celebrate the little things that have happened. Without those little successes, bigger achievement would be nonexistent.

  4. Routine, routine, routine: As tasks and invitations begin to mound, be mindful to keep the routine you have built going strong. Continue to commit to your morning walk or after-work gym session. By staying on top of your physical activity you will have more energy, better endurance and improve your mood — all helpful this time of year.

    Ensure you are giving yourself time for self-care and watching out for your health. There are 168 hours in a week. Finding ways to fit in 30 minutes of movement and eight hours of adequate sleep will still leave most people with enough time to dedicate to holiday activities. Remind yourself of what is important and plan ahead if need be to ensure you stick to your routine.

  5. Savor the friendship: This time of year can get hectic and overwhelming. Do not let it get the best of you. Remind yourself why you are attending all of these social gatherings. The reason there are multiple invitations to holiday parties and various gifts to buy is because you have built a social support system that cares about you. Relish in that  — even when it gets stressful. Be thankful for those people in your life. Being around loved ones can strengthen your desire to make permanent lifestyle changes (you want to be there for them, you want to be able to enjoy them). It may also be a good time to ask for more support (or even offer support) as you implement your lifestyle changes. Every person who celebrates with you, is a potential supportive partner.  Don’t be afraid to share with them what you have learned and how they can support you.

  6. Enjoy and move on: So you indulged in the festivities more than you anticipated (third slice of pie sound familiar?). Now what? Well, move on. You cannot go back in time. So why beat yourself up over a decision you made hours, or even minutes ago? Instead of dwelling on the past focus on what you can do differently next time. Ask yourself what led you to this and what can you do to avoid it in the future? Did you forgo your after-dinner walk because you were enjoying the conversation with your aunt? Invite her to walk the neighborhood with you to see the holiday lights. Were you tempted by the desserts piled in front of you? If you know this will occur, opt to sit somewhere else at the next party or serve yourself a small sliver instead of a complete slice and walk away. Perhaps you loaded your plate with foods you were not expecting to see. Maybe it means bringing a dish or two that you know will make you feel better about eating to the next get together. And do not discount what you can do after the fact either. Concentrate on the rest of the week. It may mean figuring in an extra workout session or foregoing the leftover stuffing tomorrow. The main thing is to chug along and focus on what is ahead of you. One meal does not make or break you. Realistically speaking if you consume three meals a day, one meal is 0.00091324% of your total yearly meals.  Do not let 0.00091324% derail the success you have had thus far. Use it as a learning experience.

Remember to cherish and partake in the spirit of the holidays. If you approach this time of year with the same dedication and zeal as the rest of the year, you and your new habits will be able to get through this unfazed.