By: Gerri French
Think of last year’s holiday season. What do you remember most about it?
Although traditional holiday foods are special tous, the actual foods we eat are not usually longremembered. Sharing those foods with family andfriends, however, often creates lifelong memories.
Holiday menus can pose some challenges to optimalblood glucose control and weight managementfor many reasons. Problems arise when we don’tknow the calorie and carbohydrate content of thoseseasonal dishes. The Internet offers many resourcesthat can help you identify the nutritional value offoods that don’t have a label. Some reliable sites arewww.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search,www.calorieking.com and www.nutritiondata.com.
Stress plays a part
The big Thanksgiving meal is not the main cause ofweight gain and out-of-control blood glucose levels.It’s the stressful days before and after that are the culprits. Understanding what causes you stress andhow to minimize your stress response is important tomaintaining good control.
Challenges to blood glucose andweight management
Some things that can make your blood glucose gocrazy or cause weight gain especially during theholiday season are:
- Added anxiety about finances, gift shopping, housework, family visits, traveling and entertaining
- Decisions about menu planning, grocery shopping, decorating
- Crowded shops and traffic congestion
- Less time to exercise, prepare meals and eat well because of added obligations
- Less time for outdoor activities and exercise because of the time change
- Less sleep, leading to increased insulin resistance and hunger
- Many changes to daily routines and feeling “out of control”
Strategies for Facing the Holidays
The holidays do not have to cause you undue stress. Your expectations of the holiday season can help make it a positive time, or not. Since you have no control over things like crowds and traffic, focus on the things you can control and enjoy all that the season has to offer. Consider these suggestions:
1. Stay active.
Especially now, don’t stop exercising, although you may have a bit less time than usual to spend on each exercise session. Exercise is one area of your life where you can feel “in control.” It gives you the extra energy that you need, and many people feel that exercise increases their ability to focus, to think clearly and to make decisions. If you are planning to join a gym “after the holidays,” consider doing it now instead. If you were thinking of buying yourself a gift of some exercise equipment, wouldn’t it be great to be able to use it now?
2. Don’t skip meals. Continue to eat every three tofour hours.
It’s fine to use more convenience foods, such as frozen vegetables, canned soups and chili, pre-cut fruit, and precooked chicken. A delicatessen might offer more healthful choices than fast foods.
3. Get at least six hours of quality sleep each night.
By continuing to eat well and exercise you’ll be more productive during your long, busy day.
4. Develop a budget and set limits to spending.
Decide what you can comfortably afford to spend on gifts and holiday“extras” to lessen your worries about paying the bills that will come later.
5. Know your limits and take time for yourself.
Holiday cocktail parties, brunches and office parties can take their toll. Too much socializing can be tiring and often goes along with overindulging in high-calorie party foods and alcohol. Remember that you don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation. Make sure you schedule enough “down time” for yourself and your family during this hectic season.