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The 6 Habits of Healthy Holidays

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The holidays are a joyous but challenging time, especially if you are new to the Habits of Health. Christmas and New Year’s bring with them dozens of obligations—work parties, family gatherings, impromptu get-to-togethers with old friends. For many, celebrating life and family is synonymous with extra rounds of drinks and heaping servings of delicious but unhealthy food. When your goal is to reach and maintain optimal health, the pressure to overeat and overdrink can be immense.

I want you to enter the holidays prepared to maintain your Habits of Health, so I’ve assembled a few tips and strategies that have helped me in the hopes that they will help you as well. Before we start, however, you should have a complete understanding of the holiday challenge. That will make it easier for you to plan and act accordingly.

First of all, understand that eating as a form of celebration is another form of emotional eating. Though we often equate think of emotional eating as a response to sadness, it can actually be tethered to a range of emotions. Happiness and sadness are powerful emotions, which is why unweaving the Habits of Disease tied to these feelings can be so difficult. We talked about emotional eating at length last week, but we did not thoroughly explore the connection between food and happiness.

Think about it: How do we celebrate a birthday? How do we celebrate a new job? What do we do when family comes into town? We eat, and we eat a lot.

The real joy in these events is in the people we share them with not in the food that is on the table. It can be difficult to disassociate food from happiness during the holidays or any other happy occasion, but recognizing the real source of your happiness is a good place to start.

As we go into the holidays, try to focus on the people that bring you joy, and remember that you are building your Habits of Health so that you can ultimately have more time to spend with them.

With that mindset, here are 6 tips for having a happy and healthy holiday season.

1. Plan ahead. Write down in your journal how you plan to handle a night out. Note the portions you plan to eat, how many drinks you plan to have, and what other extras you will allow yourself. At the same time, consider some of the challenges you might face and visualize yourself responding to them appropriately.

2. Ask for help. Talk to someone you trust about your goals and your concerns, and ask that individual to hold you accountable for your actions. Sometimes making a promise to someone else can make it easier to choose health. If possible, make this person someone who is likely to be there with you.

3. Drink water. If you feel a strong craving coming, drink a tall glass of water. This slight pause combined with filling liquid can help the craving to pass.

4. Eat slowly. Take your time. When you serve yourself, try to use a smaller plate, and resist the temptation to pile up the food. Instead, take smaller servings and chew slowly, savoring the food and giving yourself time to feel full.

5. Pack meals. If you are on the Take Shape For Life program, packing some Habits of Health approved meals and snacks can help you to stay on the program and feel full at the same time.

6. Bring inspiration. When you are feeling particularly optimistic about your progress, write a note to your future self (perhaps on the back of your “before” photo). Tell yourself how much your goals mean to you and offer some words of encouragement.

These tips should get you started. If you are looking for more support and ideas for the holidays, visit the Optimal Health Community. We started talking about healthy holidays yesterday, and many of our members offered insightful and practical tips that could help you too. Read them now.

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