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Filtering by Tag: Wellness Practices

7 Tips on Staying Healthy Over the Holidays

Fay Johnson

The holidays are a time of joy for some, stress for others, and lots of food for most. But with a little planning and keeping moderation in mind, the holiday season can be a healthy season too. Here are 7 tips for managing your wellness and weight over the holidays, from Dietician Allison Evanson:

1: Moderation, moderation, moderation – From the Thanksgiving table to office parties, unhealthy foods are likely to surround you this holiday season.  When you decide to indulge, keep the portion small and really enjoy it – remember, one cookie will not add the pounds, but the same can’t be said for frequent treats throughout the holiday season.

2: Save Splurges for the Best – Avoid eating foods that don’t make the grade – if something indulgent isn’t great, put it down and save those calories for something that you can really savor.

3: Be Alcohol Aware – Not only does alcohol contain calories, but the more you drink the less likely you are to make good eating decisions.  Try alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic sugar-free beverages (water, unsweetened tea, etc).

4: Be Buffet Smart – Holiday buffets can be dangerous because of the number of high-fat and high-sugar items available.  Try to fill ½ of your plate with fruits and/or veggies, ¼ with lean protein, and the remaining ¼ with a starchy side.  Decide what you want before filling your plate, so you don’t end up with a scoop of everything!

5: Breakfast is Still the Most Important Part of the Day – It is ok to eat a little lighter during the day if you know you are going to have a big meal in the evening.  However, try not to skip eating altogether, which is likely to cause overeating later in the day.

6: Keep Goals Realistic – If you have been working to lose weight, realize that a good goal for the holidays may be to maintain your weight.

7: Keep Exercising – Exercise can help work off those special treats as well as keep stress at bay.  From walking with family to making time for your regular exercise routine, regular physical activity is good for mind and body.

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Allison Evanson, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian who works with patients to improve their lifestyle habits for disease prevention, weight loss, and health improvement. Allison helps patients find realistic and sustainable ways to incorporate healthy eating into everyday life. Have questions? Feel free to reach out to her here.

Expectations and Finding Happiness in the Holidays

Fay Johnson

By Fay Johnson | Editor-in-Chief

For the majority of my life, Ive struggled with realistic expectations. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a hopeless romantic and a dreamer. While these can be beneficial traits, they also have serious down-sides. My struggle to set and manage expectations usually comes to a head around the holidays.

When I was a child, I would pour over Victoria Magazine (what a gem that thing was!) looking at all the vintage dresses – dreaming of walking down the street in full length velvet, with a fur muff to keep my hands warm, as I went caroling in the snow. Mind you, I was born in South Africa where we celebrate Christmas in 85 degree weather, usually poolside. My second home, California, didn't offer anything closer to a white Christmas. But it didn't matter – I was an optimistic old-soul of a child, nostalgic for a world that didn't exist. I wanted to climb into the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Painting and be the family seen through the window in the closing scene of It's a Wonderful Life.

The holidays were a time when I wanted the world to be picture perfect – warm, cozy and safe.

If youre like me, and happen to live in the real world, its easy to see how having these types of expectations can lead to disappointment. I was often in tears by the end of Christmas day, because no matter how lovely the day had been, it lacked the magic of an old-world movie. Oh, how this broke my mother's heart. (It was a bit much to expect her to produce snow-clad roofs, prince charming, and a horse-drawn sleigh). Years of wonderful holidays remained in the shadow of what could have been, instead of appreciated for what they were.

As science continues to make advances (and I continue to mature), a lot has been learned about what affects happiness. A study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the relationship between happiness and reward, and the neural processes that lead to feelings that are central to our conscious experience, such as happiness.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Robb Rutledge (UCL Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and the new Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing), said: “We expected to see that recent rewards would affect moment-to-moment happiness but were surprised to find just how important expectations are in determining happiness. In real-world situations, the rewards associated with life decisions such as starting a new job or getting married are often not realized for a long time, and our results suggest expectations related to these decisions, good and bad, have a big effect on happiness."

“Life is full of expectations - it would be difficult to make good decisions without knowing, for example, which restaurant you like better. It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower. We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness. However, expectations also affect happiness even before we learn the outcome of a decision. If you have plans to meet a friend at your favorite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan."

The neuroscience of decision making would not have likely changed the dreamy idealism of my youth, but as I consider it now, it reminds me that we have a fair amount of power over how we feel. I can choose to take a realistic view of the holidays, make peace with the fact that there won't be snow or a picture-perfect family, and then set my expectations based on all the good things in my life. I am allowing myself the happiness that comes with being expectant about seeing family and friends. My expectation is that we will share a meal, be present with one another, and enjoy the beauty that is human interaction. Regardless of how Non-Rockwell it ends up being.

Scribbled on my kitchen chalkboard wall is the saying: Gratitude Makes What You Have Enough. This year, I’m taking my own advice, setting my expectations and choosing gratitude amidst the holiday hubbub.