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Ask the R.D.

Ask the R.D.

The Press 12/23

Question: I have several Holiday parties to go to. What can I do so I don’t overeat?

Answer:  Try some of these suggestions:

• Wear tailored slacks or skirts to keep you aware of your waistline. No loose pants. You want to be conscious of the stomach expansion that takes place when you hang out around the food table.

• Don’t starve yourself on holiday mornings to ‘leave room’ for the big meal. Instead have a good, filling breakfast (a bowl of high fiber cereal or a slice of toast, an egg or a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese, some fruit) to keep from becoming famished and out of control. If the dinner is later in the day, have a hearty bowl of soup or a healthy salad before you leave your house or before guests arrive.

• Have an all bran or fiber one cereal bar or a piece of fruit before arriving to the party.

• Don’t hang out by the food. Remember the reason for the season. Allow yourself on trip to the buffet table and one plate to fill.

• Choose a smaller plate to reduce automatically the amount of food you can pile on it. Dessert or salad plates can be substituted for dinner plates. Eat with a salad fork if one is available too; it will help you eat slower.

• Survey the table; load your plate with any and all fresh fruits and vegetables. Celery, carrot sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower florets are often available. Snack on the cherry tomato garnishes from the cheese plate. Skip the heavy dip and ask for low calorie dressings if it is available.

• On the last bit of space on your plate, squeeze up to five other small items of your choice: egg roll, pigs in a blanket, two ravioli squares, a cube of cheddar or wings.

Question:  I feel overwhelmed during the holidays with all I have to do.  Any ideas?

Answer: On top of all the normal day-to-day things like going to work, getting the kids to school and extracurricular activities, and basically living our already full lives, we find ourselves juggling budgets to buy gifts, attending extra family and work-related social events, decorating, cooking–and the list goes on and on…  

Take time for yourself  Face it, we all do better if we have some quiet time just for ourselves but that is usually the first thing to go when we are busy. 

In all of this commotion it’s often too easy to forget that self-care is still important Interestingly,  if you do take that time to recharge, other things seem to be handled more easily, day to day challenges seem less stressful and life seems a little less overwhelming. 

In fact “me time” is often last on the list and frequently postponed until January, but it is vital. 

This is true every day especially ding during the holiday season. So whether it’s taking an hour for a relaxing bath, reading or fitting in some exercise, down time rejuvenates and makes life easier to handle. 

During this stressful time of year you can remain joyous!  

Question: How can I eat healthy and exercise during the holidays with all I have to do?

Answer: All too often, things like diet, exercise, stress management and finding time to take care of ourselves are relegated to “after the holidays.” 

The time between Thanksgiving until after New Years we often let ourselves go and backslide on our health goals. 

As a solution, consider setting limits for individual events to a reasonable and accurate timeframe. 

Whether it’s a holiday party, a visit with friends, shopping, or the holiday event itself, each needs to have a clear beginning and end (a few hours, a half day, or a couple days) after which you return “to normal” so that during the hours or days in between you do what’s best for you and your health. 

This will also give you a sense of control so you won’t feel overwhelmed.  The holiday season can be stressful, so this is more reason not to forget your health during this time.

Question: I get stressed out during the Holidays, what can I do to enjoy it more?

Answer: To better manage your stress don’t over commit. When you over commit it adds to your stress. Also fight any negative thoughts because it adds to your stress. 

Negative thinking distorts facts and evokes thoughts that negatively can impact our emotions, self-esteem, and self-confidence. You may recall times may recall your thoughts got you all worked up even beyond the true “facts” of the situation. 

Consider all the times that your internal dialogue gets triggered whether it’s at a social event, when preparing for a family gathering, or even when looking in the mirror.  Your “internal dialogue” that can be either positive or negative.  

Ask for help and keep the holidays in perspective. Your feelings are stress induced physical changes, i.e. increased in heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, more oxygen consumption, and thus increased muscle tension. 

Control your thoughts. Understand how your thoughts may be making matters worse and take action:

1) Identify the negative thoughts are not helping,

2) Stop negative thoughts by simply saying stop, and 

3) Replace negative thoughts with something more calming. 

For example if you are fretting over a party you have planned, tell yourself “I know I have not thought of EVERYTHING but overall I have planned well for the party and its time to relax and have fun!” 

This process can work to improve your state of mind in almost every situation. The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress.

Question: How can I avoid disagreements during the Holidays? I want this to be a joyous season.

Answer: It is okay to be frustrated.  You are very sweet.  So many times people beat themselves up over the fact that every minute of every event is not perfect, joyous and without disagreement.

Think about it, at the height of one of the busiest times of the year, with all the pressure to make things perfect, we then throw groups of people together and expect them to get along perfectly. 

This is an unreasonable expectation. Families and friends sometimes disagree, often we all act in ways that might get on people’s nerves – why would the holidays be any different? 

More often than not if you try not to take things too personally you will be happier and your friends and family will too. 

Editor’s note: Dee Harwell, MS, RD, LDN is a CSH registered dietitian who provides a Q and A column once a month for parents and children.

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