Who doesn’t love the holidays? So many things make this one of our favorite times of year: Presents, lights, family, decorations, presents, music, food, cheer… presents.
There’s so much going on. Much of it’s exciting, but the flutter of activity also contains its pitfalls. With so much vying for your attention, your health can easily find its way to the back burner.
That’s why we’re pointing out 9 of the most common obstacles to maintaining your health during the holidays. Whether you’re looking to stay on top of menopause, or just trying to have a healthier holiday, this list will keep you aware of the danger spots.
#1. Holiday Parties
The average woman attends three Christmas/holiday parties each year. Some of these gatherings are filled with people you’re looking forward to being with. Others are populated by people that you don’t know well, or that you know in a limited, impersonal way.
So where do we gravitate during the parties that are less organically fun? The food. There’s less pressure to engage uncomfortably if you’re working on one of those little hot dogs in a crescent roll.
To avoid eating out of discomfort, come to the party with a game plan. Think about who you would like to talk to and what might make good conversation fodder. If you’re at a loss for common conversational ground, music is always a good subject. People like music universally, and differences in taste don’t grind things to a halt. Unless you find out that person’s favorite band is Nickelback. If it’s Nickelback, you should just walk away.
#2. Gift Pressure
Christmas has become quite the commercial holiday. We’re sure you’ve noticed. But the extent to which this is true is surprising. When you compare average income to average expense, you find that people are spending an average of about 1.5% of their annual income on presents.
What’s even more surprising is that there isn’t a direct correlation between money spent, and satisfaction during Christmas. In fact, after a certain level of expense, satisfaction tends to go down.
So keep that in mind as you're making your purchases. Get the people that you care most about some things that you know they will like, but take the stress and pressure off as much as possible. It’s not what really matters anyway.
#3. Family Stress
For many people, the most stressful part of the holidays is being with family for an extended period. We all have our quirks, and personalities naturally clash. The severity of this friction can escalate quickly when you add in the openness and history that comes with family ties.
The resulting stress is harmful to us, and has the potential to drive us toward behaviors that are more overtly harmful to our health.
We don’t do ourselves any favors when we blindly anticipate that our entire holiday will be a Norman Rockwell painting. Give yourself a hedge against family stress by anticipating some natural friction. Be prepared to have patience and understanding with the people that you love, even if they chew their food with their mouth open.
Why does alcohol follow family stress on this list? No reason. No reason at all.
There are several factors that drive alcohol consumption up during the holidays: Social drinking, stress relief, just having an extended break from work obligations all play a part.
And the dangers of over-indulging aren’t limited embarrassing faux pas. For instance, the calories from alcohol can add up quickly. And as the count rises, inhibitions and dietary willpower fall.
Alcohol can also be a hot flash trigger for menopausal women. So know your limit, and how drinking affects you, to avoid unwanted frustrations.
#5. Holiday Dislocation
Travel is a big barrier to keeping your health and fitness plans on track. Quality habits and patterns bolster our health routines, but they’re harder to maintain when we’re away from home.
“Can I use the oven to bake this chicken?”
“Where do you keep the pans?”
“Forget it, let’s order a pizza.”
To avoid complete derailment set expectations accurately when you’re away from home. Your healthy routine, and diet, in particular will take a bit of a hit. And that’s okay. Just make simple changes to mitigate the damage by staying active when possible, and moderating food intake.
#6. Santa Stealing Sleep
Sleep disruption is common during the holidays. Maybe you’re sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, with a pillow that feels like it’s stuffed with modeling clay. Maybe the kids wake up 30 minutes after Santa finished wrapping presents and went to bed. Perhaps you’ve just enjoyed catching up with family, and lost track of how late it is.
Whatever the reason, sleep tends to suffer during the holidays. Adequate rest is really one of the cornerstones of great health. Try to prioritize sleep this holiday season. By planning ahead, and breaking away, you can carve out the time.
You’re on your own with that pillow though. We hate that pillow.
#7. Stocking Stuffers
Unless you’re deep on the naughty list, you won’t find carrots and green beans in your Christmas stocking. If you’re like most people, you’ll find a bunch of sugar-laden temptation there.
Even if the contents of your stocking aren’t problematic, there’s likely to be a sizable assortment of goodies laying around this season. The key to avoiding these diet destroyers isn’t to fool yourself into thinking you’ll completely abstain. That just ends with a lot of crying, while you wipe away the chocolate from around your mouth.
Instead, plan your dietary indiscretions. When you choose the items that you want the most, and plan a few occasions to enjoy them, you’re less likely to indulge at random, and you limit the damage.
#8. Being Immobile
This one’s a killer. We have the time off, and family is in town, gathered together, so what are we doing? Well… eating and sitting mostly. Maybe we give our eyeballs a bit of a workout by watching a The Charlie Brown Christmas Special.
Relaxing with family is good. But extended periods of inactivity can throw you off your game. Get your blood pumping and keep your body active. You don’t need to run a yuletide marathon; just take some time to go for a walk. You’ll feel much better, and your body will thank you.
The average American consumes over 7,000 calories on Christmas day. That’s over three times the recommend daily intake. Large family meals are a big part of getting to that number.
This Christmas try thinking about these meals a little differently. Instead of viewing the meal as primarily about consumption, think about it as a time to enjoy your family. Let the food be secondary. It also helps to take your time while eating. Eating slow gives your stomach the time it needs to tell you that you’re satisfied, helping you avoid overindulging.
So there it is, 9 health hurdles that are likely to be coming your way this time of year. With a little preparation and determination, you can make it through the holidays in great shape.