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6 Tips to Survive and Thrive this Holiday Season

By Marylin Calzadilla, Psy.D.

Dr-CalzadillaThe holidays are almost here, and it’s a time of year that traditionally involves spending much time with loved ones as well as engaging in one of America’s greatest pastimes, eating.  For most people, holiday memories are tied strongly to traditional dishes and treats- turkey and ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie.  But for those who have had weight loss surgery, or even if you are simply trying to be conscious of your health and weight, it is important to step back and think about the holidays from a different perspective.  Below are six ideas not only for survival, but for success this holiday season.

Reflect

Think about what the holidays truly mean for you, and take the time to ask yourself what you want from this holiday season. Most of us get caught up in the rat race and never really stop and think what it’s all about. Vast amounts of money are spent on marketing campaigns aimed at luring us into shopping malls and grocery stores to buy the “indispensable” items of the holiday.  Rather than get caught up in the hustle and consumerism of the season, I encourage everyone to stop and ask themselves what they’re truly wanting from the holidays. For some it may be spending time with those they care about, for others it may be to take time for oneself. Write down your goals on an index card and post it in a prominent place at home or at work as a reminder of what your holidays are going to be about this year.

Support, Support, Support

Tap into your support network. We know that strong, available support networks are key to long-term weight loss success. Often we are afraid to ask for help as if requesting assistance were symbolic of weakness. Often we have a double standard when it comes to support. We like helping others yet dislike asking others for help. Just as it feels quite rewarding to help someone that you care for, let the individuals in your life be there for you. Allow yourself to talk about your feelings, share your experiences, both positive and negative. There is also no better time to attend support group meetings. You can gain extensive comfort being around those facing similar issues. You can also learn from their mistakes as well as their successes.

Allowances

It’s difficult to achieve success if you feel deprived all the time. You may want to think about the dishes that are truly special to you and allow yourself to consciously indulge in a treat. If you look forward to Aunt Marie’s delicious sweet potato pie every Thanksgiving, then allow yourself to enjoy this once-a- year tradition. Don’t tell yourself you will never be able to eat your favorite foods again. The bottom line is that long-term success with weight loss is about quality and quantity.  Allow yourself to savor each and every bite, and remember portion control. Also strike a deal with yourself to manage any extra calories you’re taking in with exercise or careful eating on other days.

Keep Active

Make a realistic exercise plan and stick to it. It’s easy to forego exercise during this busy time of year, but you shouldn’t compromise on your health. You will be spending more time around food and probably consuming a little more than you typically do. Sticking to your exercise routine will help you to indulge without feeling guilty and will allow you to get through the holidays without losing your hard-won progress on your weight loss. Plus, exercise will help you keep your energy and endorphins up so you can get everything done and feel good while you’re doing it. 

Create

Spend some time researching new bariatric friendly recipes. You might actually really enjoy the process, and it’s also an opportunity to introduce some healthy alternatives to friends and family. The truth is, everyone is thinking about smart food choices these days, and people will appreciate a tasty, healthy alternative to the usual holiday fare. At the very least if you prepare a nutritious side or appetizer for a social gathering, you’ll know that there will be at least one healthy dish for you to eat.

Plan Activities

Most holiday time is spent around the kitchen and the dinner table, but don’t be afraid to change it up. Create some fun activities your guests can engage in. Some friends of ours host a karaoke contest after their Thanksgiving meal. Other families go out for a walk, play charades, or even have contests on the Wii, Xbox, or any other home gaming system. Don’t be afraid to create a new tradition that gets everyone laughing, moving and having a good time.