The Jekyll and Hyde Holiday Dilemma: How to Prevent Unhealthy Habits


holiday eating

The holidays are a time of year to gather round the table, spend time with family — and potentially break every promise you’ve made to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Who doesn’t love an extra helping? A little more eggnog? You’ll be sure to burn all those calories off during January, right? The truth is, you probably won’t. When you fall out of your good habits, it’s not just the extra calories that get to you; it’s the fatigue and the procrastination that set in from a period of overindulgence.

Half the battle of defeating poor decision-making comes down to identifying your own behavioral tendencies. If you don’t take the time to understand why you’re doing something, you’ll end up with your own personal version of the Jekyll and Hyde dilemma: “Part of me wants to keep up my exercise routine and my low-sugar diet, but the other part of me is saying to skip the treadmill and try some of Aunt Pam’s cookies!”

With a little foresight and advanced planning, you can nip the bad habits early, before your own personal “Mr. Hyde” gets the best of you. Here are some simple things you can do to catch yourself in the moment, and overcome these common holiday bad habits.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Eating Until You’re Overstuffed

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Drink More Water

You should be drinking a healthy amount of water throughout the year, but this is especially important during the holidays. We’re ready to smother everything in gravy and butter. We all want that piece of pie and cobbler, and a few scoops of ice cream. If you’re going to enjoy these indulgences, do one easy thing to help counter that icky overstuffed feeling, and the extra calories. Drink more water.

Have a glass of water for every glass of wine, or beer. Carry your water glass around with you throughout the evening. Consciously try to drink more water during your holiday mingling. Sounds pretty simple, right? You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel. Plus, when your body is well hydrated, you feel less hungry — so, you’ll end up eating less while still satisfying your cravings.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Overdoing it on the Gravy – or the Pie

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Eat Balanced Meals

Imbalance is really at the center of almost all food discomfort (aside from allergies). Even as young children, we learn that no one food group is the best or worst, because our bodies need a balance of all food groups in order to stay healthy. “Macro imbalance” is a technical way of describing how well fats, carbohydrates, and protein in your food are balanced for your body’s needs.

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about how many meals per day are best for you, but all nutritionists agree on one thing: it’s not a great idea to binge on one massive meal, or to eat from entirely one food group. It’s easy to get carried away with extra helpings of your favorite foods, leaving little room on your plate for much else. To help you eat balanced nutritional meals, make a point to grab equal portions of a vegetable dish and lean meat — along with a (smaller) treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. This is a great time to be a role model for your children, and encourage them to mix a balanced variety of foods on their plates, just like you.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Napping Before (and After) Dinner

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner, but why wait until January 1st? Now is a great time to get started (or to continue) with some healthy behaviors. Of course, the holiday season isn’t a convenient time to join a CrossFit gym, or a Zumba class. A much easier solution would be to a take a walk in the morning with the family, to socialize and get some cardiovascular activity in; perhaps do the same post-dinner, before you sit down for a nightcap, or some dessert.

Go for a stroll before and after meals, do 10 crunches at night before bed, read your holiday books or magazines on the treadmill — whatever you do, make a point to participate in some form of physical activity every day. Do some power walking laps around the shopping mall, if you like. Regular physical activity will help prevent unintentional overeating, give you more energy throughout the holiday festivities, and pay real dividends for your overall health as you head into the new year.

Mr. Hyde’s Holiday Mistake: Taking a Break from “Everyday Life”

Dr. Jekyll’s Solution: Maintain Your Routine

Other than excess calories — and a propensity for becoming a permanent resident of your couch — what often suffers the most during the holidays is your daily routine. Family comes into town, or perhaps you go out of town to visit them; and like hurricane-force winds, you feel forced to drop all of your usual day-to-day habits.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy is important for both mental and physical well-being; this is especially true if you have children. If you are used to getting up every morning and having a cup of coffee, then do so — even if you’ve got a few extra members around the table, or you have to learn to use Aunt Beth’s new coffee maker. If you are used to taking some alone time to decompress at the beginning or end of your day, schedule the time — even amid the trips to the mall, the extra baking, and the wrapping of presents. Try to keep your children as close to their usual routine as possible. That means getting them to bed at a decent hour, eating meals when you normally would, and not skipping out on your usual bedtime story or afternoon walk around the block. Your family will thank you; your mental health will thank you too.

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