By Dr. Marie Steinmetz
How do you approach the holidays?
Is it with dread? How about excitement? Are you exhausted by New Year’s Eve? Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to enjoy a healthy, stress-free holiday season.
START WITH NUTRITION
Practice mindful eating before the holiday season starts. This means eating slowly and appreciating the taste and texture of each bite. Make mindful eating one of your New Year’s resolutions.
As you practice mindful eating, start making vegetables the first part of every meal. If you’re headed out for a bite to eat, read the menu before leaving home and check for healthy vegetable choices.
At a buffet, fill half of your plate with vegetables before moving on to the heavier choices. Take only small portions of high-carbohydrate foods like potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Don’t load up on gravy — just a spoonful will do — and try to avoid the bread with butter.
There is a saying in Japan: hara hachi bu. It means eat until you are 80-percent full.
GET YOUR REST
Give yourself a few days off. Don’t schedule activities — like shopping — for every free minute of the day. Set aside a day when you can sleep late, watch a movie and relax.
Despite all the holiday revelry, try to go to bed by 10 p.m. most nights and get a solid eight hours of sleep.
DECREASE YOUR STRESS
Get to know the early signs of stress. Do you tense up? Does your heart race? Do you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach?
Pinpoint what’s causing the stress. If it’s family-related, remember to love them for their eccentricities. Be kind and gentle with them, and even the grumpiest uncle or cousin will flash you a smile. And be grateful for having family to share the holidays with.
Are you worried about that perfect gift? Shoot for a useful present that everyone will enjoy. For example, a gift of good, healthy food, like fresh Florida oranges or great salsas, always will be appreciated. Or maybe give a gift certificate for a favorite restaurant or theater. Or even offer your skills — helping to paint a room or baking a cake for a special occasion.
In the meantime, deal with stress by using Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper-front teeth.
• Exhale completely through your mouth.
• Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
• Hold your breath to the count of seven.
• Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.
If you do this four times twice a day, soon relaxing will be easy.
GET YOUR EXERCISE
Break out your calendar and pencil in your workout schedule. This will force you to work other activities around that regular dose of exercise.
For example, mark “walk 30 minutes” on Saturday. On Wednesday night, mark “weights at the gym.”
If you set this holiday season up to be the beginning of healthy habits, you will greet the new year on the road to
The writer is a medical doctor who specializes in holistic medicine at Steinmetz Medical Associates in Alexandria.