Making the Holidays Healthier – To Your Health Article by Lori Stambaugh, RN BSN, Project Director of GrowWell Network

It’s holiday time again. Time for visiting family, holiday parties, and buffet-style meals.  Unfortunately that can also mean a time for overeating, overindulgence, and weight gain for many. On average, Americans usually gain around one to two pounds during the holidays. That may not sound like a lot, but over the years, those pounds start to add up. It’s also hard for many people to get back to their healthy eating patterns after overdoing it during the holidays.

The good thing is these extra pounds can be avoided if you pay close attention to your habits and work to maintain your healthy lifestyle. Some workplaces have even instituted challenges to not gain weight over the holidays. Similar to a weight loss challenge, this encourages people to not overeat and to make better choices during the holidays.

There are several strategies you can use to help keep off those extra pounds. It is important not to skip meals during the day in preparation for a holiday event. This can lead to overeating and consuming higher calorie foods. It is also a good idea to eat something with protein and vegetables prior to an event to keep you feeling full so you indulge less on the sugary sweets. Using smaller plates is also a good way to trick your mind into thinking you are eating more. Try to eat slowly and savor each bite. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to get the signal that you’re actually full so take your time so that you will be able to stop when you’ve had enough.

Traveling, shopping, and running errands during the busy holiday season can cause people to make bad choices including fast food and/or skipping meals. Try to always keep a healthy snack with you so you can refuel until you can get home and have a nutritious meal. Some people wear stretchy pants and oversized sweaters to holiday events to make room for overeating. Wear clothing that fits so you will be encouraged to stop eating once you notice your waistband getting tighter.

If alcoholic drinks are offered, be sure to drink in moderation and alternate a glass of water with every drink. Drinks that contain alcohol can have a lot of hidden calories in them that will add to the waistline.

Be sure to get in physical activity for the day. We are usually tempted to doze after a big holiday meal. Instead of sleep, try walking for 15-20 minutes. A brisk walk can help ease digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Be sure to keep up any exercise routines that you follow the rest of the year. It’s easy to put exercise on the back burner with a busy holiday schedule, but you have to keep it a priority for your day.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important to keep your body running smoothly and prevent exhaustion. We all need a consistent 6-9 hours each night of sleep. Sleep helps to regulate hormones and prevents daily fatigue. Exhaustion can cause you to overeat and to consume high calorie caffeinated beverages in an effort to stay awake.

Once the holidays are over is a great time to set a goal of living a healthier lifestyle. Following all of the tips above along with making sure you schedule a yearly appointment with your healthcare provider to get your appropriate screenings are great ways to meet your goal. Visit the Henry County Medical Center website at for information related to healthy living including healthy aging, nutrition, fitness, recipes and more! You can also sign up for our Health in Focus E-Newsletter to be delivered to your inbox by clicking the “sign up here” link at