Healthy Habits for the Holiday Season

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By Dr. Katie DiNello, ND

The holiday season is often a time of joy and celebration but can be difficult to navigate when you have specific health goals. Maybe you struggle with metabolic syndrome or diabetes, and don’t know how to enjoy indulgent foods while also maintaining healthy sugar levels. Maybe you struggle with binge eating and feel the need to eat every sugar cookie rather than just one or two. Many of my patients come to clinic looking for help navigating the complexities of the holiday season. They want to enjoy themselves at parties without feeling deprived while still staying healthy.

Longitudinal studies show the average American gains anywhere from one to five pounds from October through March. With colder weather and less sunlight, we tend to eat indulgent foods and drink alcohol more frequently. We’re less active, and fewer fruits and vegetables are in season. We are also prone to seasonal depression, which prevents us from making healthy choices. As a naturopathic doctor who specializes in helping people lose weight, these are my favorite recommendations for staying healthy during a busy holiday season.

1. Make a plan. Creating a healthy lifestyle requires intention. Set specific goals for what you hope to achieve this holiday season.  For example, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to continue to lose weight or pause my weight loss and just maintain through the month of December?
  • How do I want to feel during the holidays?
  • What would it take for me to achieve these goals? Am I capable of this?
  • How committed am I to these goals?

2. Remember that being healthy doesn’t require an overhaul of your diet. A few small dietary changes can make a big difference. Here are a few ideas:

  •  Start your day with protein and fiber. For example, mix collagen or protein powder into your oatmeal or make eggs with veggies and a slice of toast.
  • Avoid “naked” carbohydrates. Eat protein, fat, and fiber before eating your carbohydrates. This will prevent a spike in your blood sugar.
  •  Stop eating when you’re full.
  •  Focus on a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast.

3. Plan your treats.

  •  Choose the holiday foods worth eating and drinking that YOU actually enjoy. Just because there are treats available doesn’t mean you need to have them.
  • If you know you have a holiday party approaching, and you’re going to indulge, focus on your healthy habits earlier in the day. Before the party, drink lots of water, move your body, and focus on healthful, nourishing meals.
  • When you’re at a party, fill up on vegetables and protein before making your way to the alcohol and desserts. Choose one or two desserts or drinks you want, bring them away from the dessert table, and sit down to enjoy them.
  • Once the event or holiday is over, remove the treats from your home so you aren’t tempted to eat more than you planned.

4. Use the scale as a tool through the season.

  • If the scale is triggering for you, then skip this one. However, the scale can be a great tool for reaching your health goals. Weighing yourself daily will help you to learn which foods and lifestyle habits are pushing you toward your goal, rather than away from it. The scale will fluctuate up and down – this is normal! We’re not worried about the actual number from day to day, but rather your general trends from week to week.

5. Be active. There’s no way around physical activity when it comes to maintaining or losing weight.

  •  Choose a form of exercise you enjoy so you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
  • If you’re currently not exercising, don’t overcommit. Start small. For example, start getting 8,000 steps per day or walking for 10 minutes three times per week.

6. Tell a friend about your health goals. Research suggests we are more successful at implementing new habits when others help hold us accountable.

Dr. DiNello will be offering a free webinar on weight loss on Tuesday, January 23rd at 7 PM EST. She will also be starting a 6-week weight loss program for patients starting in January 2024. If you don’t already have a naturopathic physician on your care team, now is a great time to schedule a visit with us! We offer longer and more frequent appointments where we can address insulin resistance, hormone modulation, metabolic health, and lifestyle patterns—all of which can contribute to weight loss resistance. For more information, call Whole Health at (860) 674-0111.

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