5 Healthy Behaviors to Help You Navigate Holiday Parties

By: Dr. Russell Kennedy

How’s this for an interesting fact? For Americans, up to 60% of the years’ weight gain can occur during the holidays.  Food and drink take center stage at our celebrations and it is very easy to over eat unwillingly.  For some, it might be best to set your health goals now, verses waiting until January 1st, 2014. You can avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain and get a jump start on making 2014 the best year yet.  While staying healthy during the holidays can be a bit tricky, you can also enjoy indulgences without too many calories. Here are a few behavioral tips you can try:

1.) Fill up on fiber.
Eat a fiber-rich snack like a small bowl of oatmeal, a smoothie, or kale chips right before going to the party. If you fill up before hand with low calorie bulk, you won’t have much room for anything else!  It reminds me of Catholic School growing up.

2.) Drinking whiskey? Drink water.
Holiday drinks can be a big culprit for unwanted extra calories during an attempt at weight loss.  A quick tip to address this is to alternate your cocktails with a glass of water. You can even add a lemon or lime to it to give it some flavor.  Drink slowly and spend most of your time socializing away from the appetizer table, which leads me to my next tip…

3.) Connect with conversation.
Spend more time connecting and talking and less time eating and drinking.  At the party, make a conscious effort to seek out a connecting conversation, especially if you feel that your low calorie party-plan is at risk. Having an enjoyable connection with someone who you care about can set up your internal biochemistry for healthy living.   The hormone of connection, oxytocin, is increased during social engagement with loved ones.  This hormone has been shown to decrease food intake in animal studies and well as a decrease in feeding time.  Maybe it’s your body’s way of telling you to not eat so much so you can share with others.  So the connection you make with others is a great intervention for those trying to maintain a healthy weight.

4.) Out of sight, out of mind.
If you are trying to lose weight, don’t spend much time looking at food.  Just the sight of food is enough to start a cascade of events that prepare your body for food.  After this preparation takes place, it’s going to be hard to hit the brakes.  If you don’t spend much time gazing at the very foods you had planned on avoiding, your body is less likely to get all revved up for the intake.  This gives you much more control of your hunger and overall a better ability to maintain a caloric deficient at the end of the day.

5.) Have compassion for yourself.
The holiday season is a time of loving, kindness, understanding and acceptance. (Actually, I say that every season!)  These are common feeling and thoughts that we often have for others, but less often for ourselves. Keeping ourselves on our wellness plan needs patience and forgiveness.  How we treat ourselves is important, and it isn’t helpful to be a mean unfair judge to you internally.  These journeys are not easy, and a bit of self-compassion can grease the gears and allow for a smoother flow.
Enjoy your holiday season and don’t forget about your health!

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Dr. Russell Kennedy

Dr. Russell Kennedy, PsyD, MA, works with clients on healthy behavioral change with an emphasis in weight management. Together with his wife, Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, they have a private practice that sculpts individualized plans for weight management, disease prevention and management and to promote longevity. Dr. Kennedy completed a Health Psychology Fellowship at Boston Behavioral Medicine. He combines his training in Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Stacy’s expertise in Nutrition to help his patients achieve and maintain weight loss. Dr. Kennedy has over twenty years of experience in personal training, coaching, teaching and fitness consulting to a vast array of athletes, clients and students. He practices and teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Aikido and was a Division 1 collegiate gymnast at Syracuse University. Dr. Kennedy enjoys spending time with his wife, 2 sons & 3 dogs.

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