Holidays — the most wonderful time of year for some and the most dreaded by others. The season most certainly brings a number of demands: parties, shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, entertaining and more. All of these demands make it a very stressful time and for those of us watching our weight, the combination of stress and being surrounded by delicious sugary foods and alcohol can ruin our weight loss efforts.
It seems almost impossible to maintain or lose weight during the holidays, but there are a number of things you can do to help reduce stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle during this hectic time of year. Stress can take a huge toll on the body, ranging from a change in hormone levels to a weakening of the immune system. Lisa Krayer, a registered dietitian nutritionist and health coach at Sauk Prairie Healthcare, explains that stress increases the level of the hormone cortisol in the body.
“A rise in cortisol can suppress both the immune and digestive system,” said Krayer. “Studies have shown an association between rising levels of cortisol and an increased appetite, sugar cravings and weight gain.”
According to Krayer, the first step to combating holiday stress is recognition. There are a number of signs that may indicate you are stressed, including inability to fall asleep, lack of focus, trouble remembering things, mood changes and fatigue to name a few.
Most people experience stress at one time or another during the holiday season, so how can you help fight it? Krayer has the following four tips.
1. Exercise, get active
“Though it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling tired or stressed, it is one of the best things to do for yourself,” said Krayer. “Exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and do an intense work out. Instead, choose something you enjoy, whether that’s taking a walk, going for a hike, attending a yoga class, anything that gets you up and moving and allows your body to release any built up stress.”
In today’s digital age, we’re constantly plugged in and this adds an additional level of stress and a feeling like we are on call 24/7.
“Taking 15 to 20 minutes out of the day to breathe, relax by yourself and clear your head without the interruption of a phone ring or computer notification can help tremendously,” commented Krayer.
Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended for the average adult. “This is one tip to pay special attention to as studies are showing an association between lack of sleep and higher calorie consumption,” said Krayer.
4. Healthy Eating
There is no doubt that stress affects our eating habits from how often we eat to our choice of foods. After all, there is a reason it’s called stress eating! For many of us, stress makes us turn to comfort foods which often surround us during the holidays.