Health & Wellness Articles

Putting the Cheer Back Into the Holidays

Have No Fear! Holiday Strategies are Here!

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Trick-or-Treat!!!!
Over the river and through the woods….
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah or Kwanzaa – the Holidays have a way of triggering terror in the minds of anyone trying to diet. It seems the only ones who look forward to the joys of the season are the four-footed creatures that relish belly rubs from guests and Holiday leftovers. How do you stay sane (and slim), whether you’re stuffing trick-or-treat bags, turkey, or oversized stockings? Remember how CHEERful the holidays are meant to be!

Commit to yourself first
Don’t be afraid to break from tradition, self-imposed or otherwise!
  • If you’ve solely prepared the dinner for your twenty closest relatives for the last ten years, try to share the responsibility or split the cost of a catering service. If you really want a break, don’t be afraid to say "No" this year.
Have it Your Way
  • Buy only one bag of candy for for trick-or-treaters, and turn out the lights when you it’s gone– no guilt allowed.
  • If you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner, enjoy your meal and refuse the leftovers.
  • Release some of the Christmas family gift-giving stress by drawing names, giving to charities instead of each other, or investing in a telephone conference for the whole family. What could be a better gift than giving the ability to stay in touch year round?
Eat Moderately
  • Buy Halloween candy you despise to avoid eating it yourself. Or, give out boxed raisins, bagged pretzels, nuts or pennies. If you lose popularity with the kids, you’ll be spared next year.
  • Ask yourself, "Does all the traditional Holiday food really feel ‘comforting,’ the day after?" Create your own healthy meal tradition—think more vegetables, less grease, and lower-fat desserts. Small substitutions can make your favorite foods healthier. Try vegetable broth instead of chicken/beef stock, egg substitutes, and fat free whipped topping for your pie.
  • Choose your battles. If you want a glass of eggnog, savor it; but realize (and remember) that you just drank your allotment of Christmas cookies.
Exercise Snippets
  • While sewing those Halloween costumes, keep your abs tight by pulling your navel back to your spine and softly wrapping your ribcage around your upper abs. This is your natural abdominal girdle. Make yourself a costume and join in on the fun!
  • Take a stroll before and after your Thanksgiving meal. Soak in brisk autumn air, enjoy the vibrant color that surrounds you, and ponder the three things you are most grateful for in your life.
  • Before you slip into that little black party dress, utilize some of your "home gym equipment." Run up and down your stairs a few times, do triceps dips on a dining room chair, march in place, or do wall squats. Add your favorite tunes, and, time permitting, repeat.
Rest and Relaxation
  • Forget shortcuts…opt for a "long cut." Instead of working on your to-do list, cooking dinner, or watching TV, take time out to relax. Curl up with a book and a cup of hot cocoa, and wrap yourself in a cozy blanket before the ghosts and goblins ring your doorbell. Relish in your childhood memories and truly experience their joy as you "treat" them.
  • Before the guests arrive, practice conscious breathing. A study from the Harvard Mind-Body Institute has shown that breathing can change your mental and physical state. Inhale for four counts, hold for two, and exhale while counting to six. You’ll be calmer, relaxed, and less stressed.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep puts stress on the body, causing the release of cortisol, which promotes fat storage. Fatigue can trigger overeating of simple sugar, high-calorie, and low-nutrient foods. So, make sure you keep your regular sleep schedule, even during holiday vacations.
Commit to yourself by planning the Holidays your way, eating moderately, exercising for energy and taking the time to relax and enjoy them. Happiest Holidays and Cheers to Your Good Health!
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About The Author

Mare Petras Mare Petras
A speaker, author, and spokesperson, Mare Petras, is a fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience. Her book, Fitness Simply, reflects her fitness philosophy: "Enjoy your life; enjoy your body, every minute, every day."

Member Comments

  • Gotta be bluntly honest here - since I haven't had *paid time off* for ANY "holiday" since '08, I've made it my personal policy to eschew any of this stuff 'n nonsense! :(

    Bah humbug! :( - 10/17/2013 7:26:01 AM
  • I've embraced the saying "it's a holiDAY not a holiWEEK" - one day won't kill me. The day after Hallowe'en, every last piece of remaining candy went into the trash. It's less wasted there than on my hips. For Thanksgiving, the leftovers went to the freezer - except for the stuffing and mashed potatoes and pie - you guessed it, they went into the garbage. Christmas is going to be a toned down affair - no baking, no boxes of chocolates, no candy - the big day will be a big day - I epect to be stuffed. Maybe on Boxing Day this year I'll celebrate by going for a run.

    Great article! - 11/18/2009 9:05:59 PM
  • In Europe the kids I know get oranges and peanuts in their stockings for St. Nicholas Day, with just a few pieces of candy. I'm a grown adult and still get a stocking every year! It has things like shampoo, stamps, a first aid kit. Last year it had a pedometer in it! - 11/18/2009 11:51:28 AM
  • I do my best to keep the stress levels down, including buying small things for my girls earlier in the year, sometimes beginning as early as July - Lip Glosses, Hair Accessory Sets, Mini Bubble Bath Bottles, etc. These things make great stocking stuffers and reduce the amount of candy in the stockings.

    Speaking of candy in the stockings...when I was a child, we would get oranges, apples and nuts in our stockings with only one or two nice things like a watch or earrings. When did this healthy food get switched to candy? - 11/18/2009 7:45:37 AM
  • I never have stress during the Holidays, as I am NOT a shopper. My children have always gotten things IMMEDIATELY, rather than waiting like I had to do when I was a child, so Christmas has never been a BIG DEAL for us. When a new computer game comes out, they are at the Mall to get it, and never wait, so we just give them MONEY and they go shopping for what they want. - 11/6/2008 1:56:45 AM
  • I was a single parent with 2 very strong willed children with the oldest being handicapped and our holiday traditions changed drastically to help me stay more sane and not as stressed out. I did not allow myself to feel guilty since I could feel my body doing so much better with cutting back on the stress of what was expected of you for the holidays. Great article. Thanks!!! - 9/26/2008 9:32:11 AM
  • I was a single parent with 2 very strong willed children with the oldest being handicapped and our holiday traditions changed drastically to help me stay more sane and not as stressed out. I did not allow myself to feel guilty since I could feel my body doing so much better with cutting back on the stress of what was expected of you for the holidays. Great article. Thanks!!! - 9/26/2008 9:31:42 AM

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