Just one more bite of sinful food, just one more cocktail or just one more sleepy drive are bad habits that often emerge during the holiday season.
They’re common weaknesses just about everyone can admit to but particularly this time of year. With a little common sense and preparation, however, they don’t have to become regrets.
Many people consider overeating almost a given through the holidays, and believe they can beat the extra calories by skipping meals prior to an upcoming feast. Unfortunately, that plan is likely to backfire, said Rachel Kinsman, a health educator for the Fulton County Health Department.
“People think if they skip breakfast or lunch they’re saving their calories for that bigger meal. But they eat more because they’ve gone too long without eating,” she said.
When your body is deprived in an effort to reduce calories it will react in kind, Kinsman said. Odds are, you’ll overindulge when you finally dine.
Instead, continue to eat normal meals, and snack on healthy foods prior to a huge holiday dinner, she said. That way, you can still enjoy it without overdoing.
If it’s potluck, bring a healthy dish so at least one is available to you. If you want to try a tasty-looking dish, limit yourself to a bite or two. “You don’t have to have a portion of everything,” Kinsman said.
You can trick yourself into satisfaction by using a salad plate or smaller plate instead of a platter, she said. “It’s retraining your brain to think, ‘I still have this whole plate of food to eat.’”
Because holiday eating begins in November, and because numerous opportunities to chow down are probably available over the ensuing five or six weeks, plan to partake in moderation, Kinsman said.
“It’s just being mindful of it. It’s a choice you have to make each time you go to a gathering,” she said.
Kinsman said having the mindset of, “It’s the holidays. I’m not going to worry about what I’m eating” can lead to weight gain – possibly as many as five pounds over the course of constant celebrating.
As for washing it all down, “water is your friend,” she said. “But a lot of people have their wine or alcohol, or also egg nog or punch. All the calories in that add onto the calories you’re eating.”
And in the case of alcohol, don’t assume you will successfully moderate your own intake, she said. “Everybody metabolizes alcohol differently. Everybody has a perception of how much alcohol they can handle.”
Imbibing often means enjoying several adult drinks, but having even one is reason enough to consider yourself incapacitated. “You don’t have to be drunk in order for the alcohol to have an effect,” Kinsman said.
If a person has to stop and question whether they’re drinking too much, “that is a good sign to hand over the keys and let somebody drive them home,” she said. “You’re putting other lives on the road in jeopardy.”
She said if the plan is to drink alcohol, arrange for a designated driver before leaving home.
People should also be wary of driving when drowsy, a potential danger that increases this time of year, Kinsman added. Drivers should be well-rested before getting behind the wheel, and should always wear a seat belt.
She said people must also remember to protect themselves and others against seasonal illnesses. Flu viruses can survive on a hard surface for 24 hours; cold viruses can stick around on indoor surfaces for a week.
The general rules to avoid getting sick are to wash hands often, keep hands away from the face, and wipe down surfaces regularly. Be especially mindful of these tips while at a gathering or shopping. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
“I don’t think it’s something that people think about,” Kinsman said.
And don’t forget to care for your mental health during the holidays, she said. Whether it’s dealing with stress, a tight budget or the loss of a loved one, take time away from the surrounding bustle. If needed, be willing to talk to someone.
“Everybody handles holidays differently,” Kinsman said. “Know when you need that time for yourself.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.