Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Raise your hand if you overindulged over Thanksgiving.
Does that mean you're throwing in the towel, figuring that the next few weeks leading up to Christmas are a lost cause and you'll get back on track with some serious New Year's resolutions?
OK, hands down. It's time to take back your health and stay on track with these healthy holiday habits.
- Don't give up on exercise. With all of the holiday activities, plan ahead and make sure you allocate time in your busy schedule for "me" time. Note: Walking from the parking garage to the mall does not count as a workout. However, if that's the only exercise you can manage, at least park far away, and instead of taking the elevator or escalator, take the stairs.
- Keep the healthy leftovers and give the cakes, cookies and other fattening foods away. Simply put, out of sight, out of mind.
- Don't leave the house hungry. If you're heading for a party, eat something small before you go so you don't end up grabbing whatever (unhealthy) food is within reach. A cup of nonfat yogurt with a banana, some peanut butter spread on whole-grain crackers or bread or a low-fat cheese stick should do the trick. Or snack on some popcorn, a healthy whole-grain snack that boasts zero trans fat and low calories. Popcorn Indiana (https://www.popcornindiana.com/) makes some great varieties, including Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan & Herb, Onion Dijon and Real Butter.
MORE: 5 Foods You Thought Were Unhealthy—But Aren't
- Avoid food temptations at the mall. We're all out shopping this time of year—and eventually we're going to get hungry. That food court is only a step away—quick and convenient. Research it ahead of time; if no healthy options are available, pack your own.
- Don't be too kind to yourself. You may be out running around and think, "I walked all day; I deserve a treat!" But be aware that most of the time, we overestimate the amount of calories we burn. (Check out https://www.myfitnesspal.com/exercise/lookup to calculate calories burned). Remember, to lose one pound you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in as food.
MORE: How to Stay Healthy During the Hectic Holidays
- Watch your alcohol intake. It not only contains lots of calories, which can add up fast, but it also lowers your inhibitions, making it easier to eat whatever tempts you without a second thought. Make up your mind ahead of time to limit yourself to two drinks. Alternating them with glasses of water will: a) Slow your alcohol drinking; b) Give you something to hold in your hand and sip; and c) Help you avoid the dreaded next-day hangover.
- Organize a walk before or after a festive holiday meal. It'll get you off the couch, get you moving and breathing in some fresh air and help you digest your food. And it's a great way to continue the conversations you may have started inside.
- Pack more than just clothing. If you're flying to visit friends or family, pack some snacks. Airport and airplane food is notoriously unhealthy and loaded with salt and fat. Packing healthy snacks will make it easier to fight temptation. Healthy packable snacks include an apple, banana, granola bar, cheese stick, whole-wheat pita stuffed with turkey and a packet of instant oatmeal.
- Drink plenty of water. It helps to keep you full and satiated. And many times, people mistake thirst for hunger.
- Get enough sleep. Besides helping to keep you healthy (a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept at least eight hours per night were nearly three times less likely to catch a cold than those who slept less than seven), sleeping will also help moderate the hunger hormone grehlin, which is associated with short sleep duration.