If the 2020 holiday season was the year to cancel everything, 2021 is the year to have fun again. Even so, holiday parties can trigger stress if you’re trying to stick to your health goals. But don’t throw up your hands in defeat before the long-awaited festivities begin because here are some tips to cope with the cocktail parties, Christmas cookies, and COVID.

Six Tips to Survive the Holidays in 2021

1. Make Room to Mingle — If you’re the host, create an environment where guests can spread out. 

  • If you have an indoor party, open some windows to cross ventilate. Keep fresh air flowing, and set out plenty of hand sanitizer for guests to feel comfortable.
  • Arrange some accessible outdoor space, so guests can get some fresh air.
  • Set up a fire pit outside or outdoor heaters. If you have an outdoor party, be sure to include a fun activity. If you have a fire pit, skewer some pineapple, mini sandwiches, scallop or shrimp kebabs for guests to roast over the fire. 
Have guests prepare their own kebabs, sandwiches, or fruit to grill over the fire.

2.  Maintain Your Weight — Studies show that the “average American” gains five to seven pounds in the winter, starting with the holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

This is what 5 pounds of fat looks like.

Data suggest that holiday weight gain is not reversed during the spring or summer. So weight accumulates every fall/winter.

3.  Curb Stress Eating — Holiday time is an emotional time. While food fuels your muscles, it also feeds your feelings. 

  • When eating is triggered by an emotion rather than physical hunger, it’s known as “emotional eating” and it comes at a cost to your health if you don’t control it. 
  • Emotional eating strikes suddenly and you crave a specific food, such as a “comfort food”, which is generally very sweet or high in fat.
  • To make matters worse, when you eat emotionally, you continue to eat beyond the point of feeling full.

4. Balance Your “Have-To-Do” List with a “Want-To-Do” List — Reduce your stress and feelings of deprivation, resentment, or anger, which drive emotional eating behaviors.

  • Instead of rewarding yourself with something you want to do after you get through your long “Have to Do” list, start your day doing things on your “Want to Do” list.
  • Practice self-care. Often times the “Have to Do” list is endless and continues to grow that there’s never time to do something that fuels your body, mind, and spirit.

5.  Manage Social Stressors — Being social shouldn’t mean accepting every party invitation. 

  • Parties can be fun, but they can also induce stress — no matter how socially deprived you may feel.
  • Parties can be a stressful obligation if it means finding something to wear (that fits), preparing food to share, trying to stay on your ‘diet’, and all the other reasons that you might find unsettling. 
  • Before the party season even begins, plan out your calendar to avoid excessive social commitments. 
  • Set aside what days, nights and weekends you want to keep open for things you want or need to do… and stick to it. 
  • If a party cuts into your scheduled time, then you already “have plans”. 
  • Exercise tends to be one of the first things to be knocked off a list when things get busy, so be sure to schedule in your workouts.

6.  Say No to Food Pushers — Be ready with a “prepared script” if you know the food pusher is typically very insistent.

Practice saying no to food pushers
  • When faced with feeling obligated to taste or have “one more bite” of something you’d rather not eat, kindly decline with a smile and firm “no, thank you” without any explanation. 
  • You can also say you’d love to try it later as it looks delicious then quickly change the subject.
  • If that doesn’t work after several times, grab some other guests and enthusiastically suggest they try it, then slip away.
  • When people try to push food, drink, or their bad habits on you during the holiday season, consider their motivation for doing so.
  • Sometimes friends or family members express their love through food that they’ve prepared and/or want to shower you with attention. Be appreciative rather than annoyed.

Karen’s Fit Tip: ’Tis the season for cookies, fudge, and eggnog, but focus on healthy, whole food that will keep your weight down and your immune system up.

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