Beyond Mealtimes: Heart Health and the Holidays
Besides following proper nutrition and meal planning, Dr. Heather Johnson of the UW Health Preventive Cardiology Clinic recommends the following tips to help manage your heart health during the holiday season.
Exercise is also an important factor in holiday weight management. If you have a regimen in place make sure you plan ahead to account for any changes in your schedule or even in the hours or schedule of your gym or fitness classes.
It’s important to still get some daily exercise. For example, if you can't keep up with your routine to exercise five days a week, try to exercise at least two or three days each week. Don’t fall into an "all or nothing" trap.
You don't have to let cold weather derail your exercise either. Make sure you have proper gear for walking in the cold, including shoe clips for icy sidewalks. Or, if you're a fair weather walker, consider going to your local mall where you can walk indoors. And, make the most of it by parking a distance away from the door.
If you are new to exercise, start simply by getting friends or family involved. Take a brisk walk together before or after a big meal and play outdoors with children and grandchildren. Look for activities the whole family can enjoy.
It goes without saying that the holidays can be very stressful for a variety of reasons from in-laws and exes to pressures to spend and attend events of all kinds. Be sure to identify a support person who understands your personal situation or concerns to whom you can reach out during a difficult or stressful time. If holiday spending causes stress, plan to look ahead at your budget to realistically decide how much you can spend this holiday season before you start shopping. People tend to overspend and over-schedule during the holiday season. That is why it is also important to be realistic about the amount of time you have.
Johnson says, "Ask yourself what you can comfortably say 'yes' to, and make sure you say no when you need to."
You can also lighten the pressure by sharing the shopping, planning and cooking responsibilities whenever possible.
Johnson also recognizes that it is difficult to maintain a regular routine during the holidays. Even so, it is important to get adequate sleep in order to help your body manage stress and even burn calories. She adds, "If you take medication, make sure to carry it with you if you are not following your regular routine."
Give Yourself a Do-Over
Give yourself a do-over when it comes to your schedule too. If you missed a day of exercise, stayed out too late, or over-committed your time, allow yourself the opportunity to take a step back, re-evaluate your schedule and recommit to making decisions that are healthier for your mind, body and heart – it's the best gift you can give yourself and those you love and you don't have to wait until January to start over!