20161121_142247Surviving holiday stress eating is always an issue at this time of year because Thanksgiving is here and the holidays are pretty much in full swing.  I am having  conversations with friends who are feeling a little out of sorts and not exactly ecstatic that the holidays are here.  Some are complaining about the election, some are dreading the hectic schedule because they lack energy to get it all done, and others are struggling with food issues.

My best advice is to simplify the holidays and mimic nature as best as you can.  Nature is falling asleep right now as the northern hemisphere points away from the sun.  This is essential to create renewal in the spring.

Instead of bemoaning the lack of light, it might make sense to take some time to go within.  Making time to meditate, take a walk in nature or simply light a candle to help us connect with what the holiday season is all about.  Let’s be grateful for the wisdom late fall/early winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal.

Many of us are being pulled in a million different directions which makes this feel impossible to do.  Just try it as best you can and see what happens.

The holidays provide an amazing array of factors that can create a spiral of unwanted weight gain, moodiness and exhaustion.  The combination of stress, decreased levels of serotonin due to shorter days, and consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates is hard on our bodies. Also, alcohol consumption and reduction in your exercise program is a set-up for disaster if you aren’t prepared for it.

That’s the bad news.   The good news is that there is a lot you can do to control what happens over the holidays.  One of the most proactive moves you can make to keep a handle on the holidays is to simplify—everything you can.  The more you simplify the less stress you will experience.

10 Tips to Help You Through the Holidays

Create the right mindset.

Food is a very important part of celebrating the holidays.  Just don’t make it everything.

Exercise regularly

 If you exercise on a regular basis, maintain your exercise schedule.  You can book it in your schedule and make it a high priority because the effect is profound.  It helps to regulate your appetite, manage your stress, and help improve your energy levels.

If you are not presently exercising, this is a great time to start.  Just start walking and taking nice deep breaths.  Your energy levels can improve quickly and that helps you get more done during this busy time.  Consider it a gift to yourself which you definitely deserve this season.

Decide to maintain your weight instead of losing over the holidays

 Trying to lose weight right now is too difficult.  Avoid setting yourself up for failure by enjoying some of the foods you love and practicing portion control.

Eat mindfully

Pay attention to control holiday stress eating.  If you don’t focus, it is very difficult to really enjoy what you are doing.  Take a break, sit down, relax and let yourself have that goodie with a nice hot cup of tea.  Stay in the present moment by taking a little time to look out the window and connect with what is happening outside and inside.  Be good to yourself because you deserve it.

Don’t resolve to diet after the holidays

 You will only be setting yourself up for more holiday stress eating and binging over the next several weeks.  Start now and take it one day at a time. An ounce of prevention is very smart at this time of years.  Successful weight management is all about lifestyle change not diets.

Get some mid-day sunshine

This will help to increase your melatonin which will improve your sleep so you won’t be making lists and checking them twice between 2 and 4 in the morning.  It also helps with vitamin D production which affects depression.

 Find fun and creative activities for your family and friends that are not food related.

 Rather than planning an elaborate party focused on food, choose to go on a hike in the woods followed by a delicious bowl of nutritious soup served with a simple salad.  Or choose to play a board game with your loved ones followed by a simple satisfying meal.

 Breathe

 Seriously, this one of the best ways possible to calm yourself and decrease your stress levels.  Whenever you feel yourself getting stressed, remember to take a break by taking several deep breaths.

Manage your appetite

 The most powerful appetite suppressant is a healthy diet.  Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with protein rich foods like lean chicken, fish and legumes and nuts/seeds.  The protein helps regulate your insulin and the fiber in veggies, fruits and whole grains helps you feel full and satisfied.

Pre-plan to avoid the pitfalls of holiday stress eating

If you are going to a party make sure you have a plan. Try a snack with a good source of protein before you go.  We eat faster and more when we are hungry.  Take the edge off your appetite before you get exposed to all those food cues.

Or if you are going on a holiday shopping trip for the day, think ahead and plan to have a balanced lunch.  Otherwise you might find yourself, famished, stressed, moody and ready to eat everything in sight at the end of the day.

Be kind to yourself.  This is a time of year to enjoy ourselves with the people we love and care about.  The more you can manage your stress and the holiday madness, the healthier and happier you will be as we turn the calendar into 2016.