Ten Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

For many of us, it's an annual
holiday season struggle - how to
avoid the added pounds that come
with the holiday parties,
family meals, and special events...

read more

Holiday Decorating Tips

We all have that vision - your
house, immaculately clean and
perfectly decorated with
Christmas music playing in the
background and a fire crackling...

read more

Strategies to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

For many people, the holidays aren't
so much a time of joy - but more
a time of stress, guilt and even
depression. The expectations that
accompany the holidays...

read more

Ten Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

For many of us, it's an annual holiday season struggle - how to avoid the added pounds that come with the holiday parties, family meals, and special events. Often the pounds that take just a few weeks to put on can take many months to come off. And unfortunately, some holiday pounds never leave. According to the researchers at the National Institutes of Health, most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain an important factor in adult obesity.

This year, try some easy but effective strategies for eliminating the holiday weight gain. Make this the year that the holidays leave you with happy memories rather than unwanted pounds! Here are some helpful strategies:

Never Arrive Hungry:

Whether you are heading to a casual party or a formal dinner, try to take the edge off your hunger by having a nutritious snack before you go. This will not only help you from overeating once you arrive, but it is a nice opportunity to work in some fruits and/or veggies since they tend to be in short supply when it comes to party food.

Divert Your Attention:

Remember, there is more to holiday parties and festivities than food. Try to focus on the social aspects of parties. Catch up with people you haven't seen in a while or take the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with friends you usually see only in passing.

Pace Yourself:

Remind yourself to eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites. Engage in conversation between courses. You may find that you aren't as hungry as you thought - or you may forget about the food altogether once you find yourself having fun.

Count Your Canapés:

Tiny pieces of finger food tend to be gobbled up quickly. Try to limit yourself to a predetermined number of canapés. By keeping track, you are more likely to enjoy each bite without overeating.

Outsmart the Buffet:

When faced with a buffet-style dinner, use the smallest plate possible. You will take less food and be choosier about what you select. Try to stick with the simplest foods on the buffet - sauces, dips and cheesiness are all calorie bombs.

Limit Alcohol:

Limit yourself to one or two drinks at holiday parties. After that, if you need something in your hand, switch to water or club soda. It's not just about controlling your alcohol intake: When you drink more, your inhibitions are lowered and you are more likely to eat more too.

Be Choosy About Sweets:

When it comes to dessert, be very selective. Most of us have a favorite type of dessert (cake, pie, anything chocolate) - if the dessert in front of you doesn't fit your category, chances are the calories won't be worth it. Don't be afraid to pass!

Bring Your Own Treats:

Consider bring a low-calorie treat to a friend's party of the office potluck. That way, you will know that what you are enjoying not only tastes good, but it is good for you too. And you will likely find that other party-goers appreciate a healthy option as well.

Limit "Tastes" While Cooking:

Instead of mindlessly tasting while you cook (think of how many spoonfuls you can ingest in the course of an hour or two of cooking!), limit yourself to two small bites of each item - one before seasoning and one after seasoning. And if it is something you have made many times before, try challenging yourself to not tasting it at all!

Walk It Off:

Start a new holiday tradition this year: the family walk! Besides burning extra calories, it will get everyone moving and active and out of the house for a bit. If there is a neighborhood near you that really goes all out with holiday decorating and light displays, consider driving there and then ditching the car. Stroll the neighborhood on foot - you can enjoy the atmosphere while getting exercise.

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Strategies to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

For many people, the holidays aren't so much a time of joy - but more a time of stress, guilt and even depression. The expectations that accompany the holidays (joy, peace, family time, reflection) often conflict with the reality (over-booked calendars, financial worry, family tensions).

If you have mixed emotions about the holidays, try to be realistic about the holidays and what this time of year brings to your life. Planning ahead can hopefully turn this season of stress into a season of contentment. Here are some strategies, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

Acknowledge your feelings:

If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Seek support:

If you know the holidays leave you feel lonely and isolated, try to identify a source of support in your life. Think about family, friends, church, community organizations... Or, consider volunteering. Lending support to others can often lift you up as well.

Be flexible:

The holidays are not perfect for anyone. Nor are the holidays constant - traditions change, people move, plans get altered... The more you can roll with these changes - either unexpected or planned - the better off you will be. Embrace each change as an opportunity to find new ways to celebrate.

Be a Peacemaker:

Accept that no one is perfect and love your friends and family for who they are. If you have differences with someone in your life, try to find forgiveness (without attachments!) and work toward peace. You may find that that person is struggling with the same feelings of loneliness as you.

Know your Finances:

Money is a huge source of holiday time stress. Know what you can spend ahead of time ? and then spend less. The joy you will feel about having the burden of overspending lifted from your shoulders will far outweigh anything you can buy. Consider exchanging the gift of time together with family members and friends.

Prioritize and Plan:

Determine what activities and events are most important for you and then make those your priority. You don't need to accept every invitation you receive. If making Christmas cookies with a niece or nephew is more important than an acquaintance's cocktail party, skip the party.

Learn to say no.

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.

Stick with Diet and Exercise Plans:

Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Take Time for Yourself:

Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Seek professional help if you need it.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Mercy Medical Group, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation, wants to help. If your stress, anxiety or depression are affecting your daily life, call (916) 924-6400 to speak to a caring staff member.

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Holiday Decorating Tips

We all have that vision - your house, immaculately clean and perfectly decorated with Christmas music playing in the background and a fire crackling in the fireplace, ready for the holiday guests to arrive. Unfortunately, reality is often very different. This holiday season rather than stressing out by trying to bring a grandiose plan to life, focus instead on a few small touches that will have a big impact.

Here are ten easy ideas and tips from our friends at HGTV.

1. Stay with one theme and style for your holiday decorating. It makes shopping for decor easier and makes your space feel professionally finished.

2. Let your nose know it's the holiday season. Place potpourri and scented candles near your entry and throughout your house. Or, better yet, bake some cookies shortly before guests arrive.

3. Choose two to three colors for your holiday palette and keep it consistent. Multiple color palettes can be too distracting. Try silver, blue and white or red, gold and brown.

4. Create an inexpensive family tradition that involves the kids. Purchase a ready-made wreath of greens then gather items to decorate it. Use pine cones, ribbons, crystals, feathers, beaded garland or homemade paper snowflakes.

5. Give your space a different look and feel for this special time of year. Rearrange your furniture so the focal point is the fireplace or wherever you hang stockings. If you don't have a fireplace, arrange the furniture to create the best layout for cozy conversations.

6. Colored lights can be costly if you change your color palette from year to year. Stick with white lights; they can be used with any color scheme.

7. Start investing in a collection - something that can continue to grow through the years and can be passed on to the next generation. Check out online auction sites for vintage decorations.

8. Use lots of candles (including the battery operated, no-flame kind!). Nothing makes a room feel warmer and more inviting than candlelight.

9. Bring the holiday celebration into every room. Kitchens and bathrooms are a great place to put smaller seasonal knickknacks.

10. The holiday season is definitely one time where "less is more" does NOT apply. Have fun and do it up big.

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