'Tis the Season to Protect Your Health
Holiday Health Survival Guide
Presents! Treats! Family and friends! The holidays can be a time of happiness and celebration as well as a time of stress. You might feel pressure to act a certain way around your family, to spend a lot of money or to eat a lot of food. Nearly 40% of people surveyed1 reported that their stress levels went up during the holiday season. While you can't always avoid holiday stress, you can develop strategies to help yourself cope and make it through the season in one piece.
Tip 1: Choose a Treat Day
If you're interested in minimizing weight gain around the holidays, you don't have to completely avoid treats. Instead, create boundaries for yourself when it comes to what you eat. Choose a treat day, such as Friday or Saturday, and let yourself enjoy candies, cookies, and whatever else you fancy on that day of the week, and that day of the week only. The rest of the week, stick to your usual, balanced diet. Along with helping you control how much you eat around the holiday season, designating a day as "treat day" can help you avoid any feelings of guilt around holiday snacks and goodies.
Tip 2: Create a Budget
Whether it's nabbing more great deals than expected on Black Friday or showering your kids and loved ones with gifts galore, it's easy to go overboard with holiday spending. More than half of Americans polled2 said that they often overspend on holiday gifts. Creating a budget, before you look at sales flyers, create gift lifts or step foot in a store, will help you keep your spending in check during the holidays. Knowing what you have to spend and sticking to your budget will also minimize any financial stress or anxiety.
Tip 3: Simplify
If you're tired of feeling over-extended every holiday season, it might be time to simplify. You don't have to feel like you're being a Grinch or a Grump by a saying no to party invitations or by suggesting that the adults in your family try something other than a gift exchange this year. The odds are likely that many of your family and friends are feeling the same way and would love the chance to enjoy a more relaxed holiday time.
There are a few things you can do to simplify your holidays. If you exchange gifts with the members of your family, see if you can try a Pollyanna instead of everyone buying everyone else a present. You might also choose a charity to support and each agree to donate to it, instead of buying gifts. Instead of having an elaborate, multi-course holiday meal with dozens of desserts, have a smaller meal with fewer selections.
Tip 4: Stick to Your Schedule (As Much As Possible)
Holiday travel can throw a wrench in your schedule, causing you to potentially get off track with your exercise or other goals. While you might be far from home for a few days or weeks, that doesn't mean you can't keep up your routine. For example, if you usually get up and go for a run in the morning, pack your sneakers and set your alarm when you're traveling so that you can still squeeze your run in. If you journal every morning or in the evening, bring your journal with you. Let your family or friends know what you're up to and explain that it's important that you keep up your routine. You never know, they might be interested in joining you.
Tip 5: Practice Portion Control During Holiday Meals
Big holiday meals can make you feel full and a bit uncomfortable afterward. They can also play a role in holiday weight gain. The average person puts on a little less than one pound3 during the holidays, which might not seem like that much. As time goes on, one pound per year can add up. One way to keep yourself in check is to limit your portion sizes and reduce how much you eat during meals. Filling up a bit before a meal will help you eat less during. Right when you sit down to eat, drink a glass of water. The water will take up space in your stomach so that you get full faster. Since it has no calories, you don't have to worry about it contributing to long-lasting weight gain. Another way to practice portion control is to eat off of smaller plates at each meal. If you're hosting, try using salad or dessert plates for a main course, rather than larger dinner plates. The less room you have on a plate, the less food you can pile on. Skip going back for seconds and you'll find that it's easy to control how much you eat during holiday dinners. Enjoy the holiday season and remember that if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, your family doctor is there to support you and help you out.
1. "Why Are the Holidays So Stressful?," US News and World Report,
2. "Why You May Overspend on the Holidays and How to Stop," NerdWallet,
3. "A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain," New England Journal of Medicine,