For most people the holiday season provides feeling of happiness, tranquility, and generosity. For others, it causes anxiety and stress. These are the type of people like me, who worry about how they are going to get everything done in time for Christmas; think gift-buying while working 70 hour weeks. How are we going to keep our houses clean, keep up our gym regimens, and make a dish for every Christmas party we are invited to – my husband and I have already been to six!? As you can see, the holidays can be quite stressful.
When our bodies are under stress, we go into fight-or-flight mode. During fight-or-flight, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which can be related to weight gain, especially if the stress is chronic and the hormone is never turned off. To make matters worse, stress usually affects our eating patterns. Some people forego eating because they think they’re too busy, which puts added stress on our bodies and can cause overeating later on. Others may be so stressed about their situation, they eat mindlessly. Both of these scenarios can happen even more ferociously over the holidays, because of the plethora of holiday parties and buffet tables.
As a dietitian, one thing I stress (pun intended) to family, friends, and clients is the importance of NOT stressing out about holiday eating. Here are some tips to help decrease stress during the holidays and avoid continued food overindulgences– hey, once in a while is okay!
• Lay off the caffeine – if you have trouble falling asleep at night, but caffeinate yourself all day long to stay awake, you are putting your body under large amounts of unnecessary stress. Wean off caffeine slowly by allowing yourself 1-2 cups in the morning; but no more after 1:00 p.m.
• Eat a good breakfast – I know you hear it all the time: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. While I don’t necessarily agree with that, you should definitely start your day off with your normal eating pattern – this will help lessen overeating at the party later on.
• Move your body – resume your normal activity the day of a holiday party. I hear so many clients say “Well I knew I was going to eat bad at the party, so I didn’t bother going to the gym”. Don’t blow your entire day just because you have a party to attend. You should still go to the gym, walk your dog, do your basement workout, or whatever it is that gets your heart pumping.
• Say no when you need to – if you are invited to another event and are feeling extra stressed, saying no is okay! Know your limits and understand that saying no may help you in the long run.
• Get back on track when/if you do overdo it – we all overindulge –we are human! If you have a night of too much eating, drinking, or all of the above; get right back on track the next day. Start with a healthy breakfast and hit the gym for a brisk walk. Getting back to your routine will help you feel normal in no time!
The most important thing is to enjoy the holidays with your loved ones! If you do feel overstressed, take some time for yourself, even if that means stepping into a vacant room by yourself for 15 minutes. Just remember to enjoy every moment of this special season! Happy Holidays!
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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