Five tips on how to maintain health and wellness during the holiday season


(NEW YORK) — As the holidays arrive and people attend gatherings with family and loved ones, many will stray from their daily routines but maintaining your health is possible.

“It is hard to stick with routines when on holiday because we are no longer in our day to day pattern,” Dr. Amanda Velazquez, director of obesity medicine at Cedars-Sinai Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Health, told ABC News.

She added, “A lot of gatherings are centralized around eating. This is part of our culture as human beings.”

Here are five expert tips on how to maintain health and wellness during the holiday season:

1. Do not intentionally skip meals in anticipation of a big meal

Many will forgo meals when expecting to consume large amounts of food in one sitting.

However, this is “Priming your body to be very hungry, overly hungry. Also, you will not give yourself the fuel and energy during the day to sustain yourself,” Dr. Velazquez says. Experts recommend having balanced meals throughout the day.

Consider eating a quick and healthy snack before a large meal to help curb your hunger. Foods higher in fiber and protein will keep you more full.

2. Be mindful of what you drink

Liquid calories can be deceiving as energy-containing drinks are generally less satiating than solid foods.

“Try to minimize empty calories and avoid sugar sweetened beverages such as sodas, juices, and high calorie cocktails,” Dr. Velazquez says.

In addition, alcohol not only contains calories on its own but it may also increase appetite. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are consuming beverages in moderation over the holidays.

3. Propose a group fitness activity.

Doing things with others can be more motivating and fun than doing it on your own.

“I try to encourage patients to think about who are members of their families or friends who may want to participate in physical activities. This usually leads to them brainstorming about partnerships and keeps them accountable,” Dr. Velazquez says.

Fun activities to consider include yoga, hiking, going for walks and sports.

4. Take short mental health breaks

Keeping up with holiday demands can be stressful, experts say. Stress hormones can increase appetite and lead to weight gain, according to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Stress causes cravings for unhealthy foods such as fast foods, snacks, and calorie-dense foods.

Consider utilizing self-care strategies like meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, yoga, and physical exercise to minimize stress.

Having someone you can talk to openly and genuinely can also be therapeutic, experts say.

5. Prioritize sleep

Per the National Institutes of Health, quality sleep can improve your brain performance, mood and overall health. Experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

A consistent sleep schedule can help, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So can ensuring that you have a quality sleep environment with minimal distractions including noise and light, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the afternoon and evening.

Lastly, avoid screen time before bed as blue light can disrupt sleep.

Edward King, MD, is a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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