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The Christmas tree is up, the Christmas shopping is underway, and the holiday parties are all lined up. There’s no doubt that we have officially entered the holiday season. And while most things are now covered with glitter and neatly tied with a pretty bow, it’s hard to do the same with family, emotions, and the stress that often comes with the holiday season. But before your palms start sweating and you're breathing becomes heavy, we've compiled a few of the most successful tips for surviving holiday stress!
For some of us, the holidays are about spending extra time with the family and friends that we don’t usually get to see. But as nice as it is reuniting with loved ones, you want to remember to focus on quality rather than quantity of time so you can reserve some time for yourself too! Your “Me Time” can be used for various activities like a short walk, a good workout, or channeling your inner yogi. Even a 10-minute brisk walk gets your body releasing the “feel-good” neurotransmitter endorphins that give you that “runner’s high.” Exercise has also been shown to improve your sleep as well as lower depression and anxiety, which often spike during the holidays.
There’s no lack of food surrounding us during the holidays, which is why stress eating becomes so tempting. Whether it’s a buffet spread or a smorgasbord of hor d’oeuves, build a plate with vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. If you keep these three in mind, you will be filling up on foods that are satisfying. What I love to do is offer to bring something to the get together, that way I know I can eat it. It can be as simple as a salad with hearty greens or a light dessert. Find inspiration in our recipes!
Many social get-togethers are centered around food. I like to mix things up by suggesting get-togethers that involve some kind of physical activity, whether it be ice-skating at the local ice rink, taking a morning hike, or even hosting a tree decorating party! When your hands are busy with an activity, you’re too busy to stress eat!
Volunteering is a fun and rewarding activity that you can do by yourself or with your friends and family. Research has shown that volunteering your time can lower stress, decrease risk of depression, boost your self-confidence and longevity. Volunteering is a popular activity during the holidays so if you are having trouble finding a soup kitchen to volunteer at, try making cookies or a gingerbread house and donating it to a local shelter or church, you can even send it overseas to our Troops!
Over the holidays, you are bound to be offered a food that is your Achilles heel. What do you do when you don’t have the power to say no or you just can’t say no because your gracious host slaved over a hot stove to make it? Use the three-bite rule. The first bite of food is always the most delicious. Every bite after it is less flavorful and eventually, you become full and that cake or roast, or whatever your Achilles heel is just doesn’t taste as good as that initial bite. The three-bite rule allows you to savor each bite, be mindful of the flavors, and allow yourself to indulge without going overboard. Instead of focusing on what is on your plate, focus on what is going on in the room. Engage in the conversation, the people, or the activity. Eventually, your plate is just a forgotten memory and what you are left with is memorable experience and not a guilty conscious and a belly full of cake.
I hope this tips help you through the holidays and lead you to a happy new year!
Gigi Kwok-Hinsley, DrPH, M.S., R.D., is a Registered Dietitian with a Doctorate in Public Health in the Greater Los Angeles area specializing in nutrition and public health research with experience in adult weight management, school nutrition and health and wellness. Dr. Kwok-Hinsley completed her doctorate in public health at Loma Linda University School of Public Health with an emphasis in preventive care and health care management. She conducted research in bitter taste sensitivity as it relates to a patient’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Outside of work and school, she is actively involved in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
An avid runner and ball hockey player, Gigi also holds a deep understanding of the relationship between evidence-based nutrition and sports performance. With 7 marathons under her belt, Gigi qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2015.
In the past, Gigi held positions in clinical nutrition research at the Veteran Affairs Hospital – West Los Angeles and Kaiser Permanente in health education. She is also an adjunct professor at Mount San Antonio Community College in Los Angeles.
Beside working and running, Gigi enjoys cooking and baking for friends and family.
Gigi holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, San Diego and received her dietetics training from the Coordinated Dietetics Program at California State University, Los Angeles.