Stay slim and stress-free during the holiday season – 12 months to total wellness – Cover Story

Stay slim and stress-free during the holiday season – 12 months to total wellness – Cover Story – Column

Carolyn Dean

HERE’S HOW THE PLAN WORKS.

A HEALTHY AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON IS THE GOAL OF THIS ISSUE’S 12 MONTHS TO TOTAL Wellness. Achieving that is not always an easy task. Along with the season’s celebrations come temptations, and preparations can cause stress and fatigue. It’s no wonder people often gain weight and catch colds during the holidays.

To help you avoid the season’s pitfalls, we’ll show you how to organize and prioritize your life during these next few weeks to make room for what really matters and to help you say no to what doesn’t. We hope to inspire you to move beyond the commercial aspect of the season to the spiritual. And we offer weekly tips on how to handle four holiday challenges–fitting in exercise, socializing, dealing with stress, and buying gifts.

You’ll also do well if you stick to the habits you learned in earlier months of this program: eating a whole-foods diet, exercising, meditating, and maintaining a set sleep schedule.

My husband and I cope with the chaos of the holidays by not getting too involved. We don’t give gifts on designated holidays, but save them for when we really want to express ourselves. When I go to holiday parties, I think of them mainly as an opportunity to meet new people and spend time with old friends. By de-emphasizing food and drink, I find it easier to stick to my diet, which means no bread or dairy (which I’m allergic to), and I still have a great time.

As your advisor, I’d like to remind you of an important point: If you’ve come this far with us on our 12 Months program, you already have a lot to celebrate–a new, healthier you. And that, perhaps, is the best gift you’ll receive this year.

–Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.

december

As winter draws near, so do the holidays. Parties and plans often confound the best intentions to live healthfully. We help you stay on track. If you get the holiday blues, we offer some advice for coping, And we suggest ways you can give to others.

1 week one

Monday

ORGANIZE AND PRIORITIZE

Write a to-do and activities list for the coming month, and make it as comprehensive as possible. Split the list into important and optional items. Using two different colored pencils, one for important items and the other for optional, plug your activities and tasks into the days on your calendar. If the month already appears too busy, cut back on optional activities.

In the coming weeks, use your calendar to manage your time. Be ready to say no to new invitations or tasks when necessary.

SCHEDULE EXERCISE

On Monday of each of the coming weeks, use your calendar to schedule at least three hours of exercise per week plus one back-up hour (in case you miss a workout). Exercising burns calories and maintains your metabolism, so if you do indulge, the results won’t be as bad. (Do both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Studies show this combination is more effective than either one alone for losing and maintaining weight.) Exercise also helps your body deal with the effects of stress, and it fights off the holiday blues.

If you typically work out in the evening, holiday parties may demand a change for this month. Consider getting up a half-hour earlier to exercise, or fitting in a half-hour during lunch. Or maybe you can squeeze in a quick workout if you go straight to the gym from work.

Although exercise is important, there may be times when you need to cut yourself some slack. Just try not to fall into an all-or-nothing mentality: One workout is definitely better than not working out at all.

Wednesday

LIMIT TV

Less time spent in front of the television means more time for your activities list. If you have children, cut back on the amount of time they watch television, too. This will reduce the influence that advertising has over their requests for toys.

Tips for the Week

EXERCISE TIP: When you can’t exercise, look for ways to make little gains. Stand while you’re talking on the phone, walk to your co-worker’s office (instead of emailing), and park farther away from your destination. Each activity burns a few calories.

PARTY TIP: Don’t arrive at a party hungry. Eat a small meal beforehand, and you’ll be less likely to overindulge. Or if you know you want dessert, cut back on other foods. The main point of a party is to be with friends and family–so spend more time socializing and less eating.

STRESS TIP: Stress may contribute to weight gain. To reduce your stress, don’t diet until after the season. Simply strive to maintain your weight.

GIFT TIP: Take the less-is-more approach to gifts. Ask family and friends to do a gift swap in which participants buy a gift for only one person. For children, buy one quality toy rather than several. Education specialists say sturdy, well-made toys that last for years help kids develop a sense of stability and inspire creativity and adaptability because they will devise new ways to use them.

2 week two

Continue using your calendar, scheduling exercise, and limiting TV.

Monday to Sunday

CREATE A GIFT BUDGET

Avoid the stress of overspending: Make a list of the people for whom you want to buy gifts, and assign a cost to each. After you buy a present, update your list to make sure you’re on budget.

PLAN TO VOLUNTEER

Share your holiday cheer with your community. This week schedule a volunteer activity for at least one day during the remainder of the month. Spend an evening at a soup kitchen, deliver meals to the housebound, or spend an afternoon with an elderly person who has no relatives.

Tips for the Week

EXERCISE TIP: Have to cut your workout short? You can burn more calories by varying the pace of certain aerobic exercise–like biking, running, and walking–between low and high intensity. Start at a comfortable pace, and then slightly increase your pace for one minute. Now lower your pace to slightly below your starting pace for one minute. Continue this variation for the duration of your workout.

PARTY TIP: When you’re socializing, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve put in your mouth. Before you know it, you’ve consumed hundreds of calories. Pay attention to how much you eat and how it tastes. Not only will you enjoy the party food more, your brain will also be more likely to register satisfaction, which will help curb your appetite.

STRESS TIP: If you don’t have time to go to the supermarket, order groceries online (search the Internet for local services). If the thought of going to a mall makes you hyperventilate, use catalogs and online services to buy presents. (Double-check delivery dates and then add a week so that you won’t stress over late packages.) If all else fails, take a vacation day and shop when the crowds aren’t as big.

GIFT TIP: When shopping for children, choose multipurpose toys like finger paints that encourage open-ended play, say education specialists.

3 week three

Continue using your calendar, scheduling exercise, limiting TV, and following your gift-buying budget.

Monday

JOURNAL EXERCISE: TRADITIONS

What do you traditionally do for the holidays? Do you always go to a certain religious service, or do you typically decorate your house on a certain weekend? If you’re not religious or don’t celebrate Christmas, maybe you have another tradition–like going to the movies as a group. Write for 30 minutes about what makes this time of year special to you. Ask yourself why generations pass on traditions and what you’d like to pass on.

If you don’t have a tradition, consider starting one. It could be as simple as listening to a certain CD on a set evening, or inviting a friend over for hot chocolate.

DELEGATE

Look for help with tasks whenever possible. For example, if you’re having a party, budget for a one-time professional housecleaning. And divide everyday chores among all family members.

Wednesday

SHARE YOUR WEALTH

While you’re out shopping, buy something extra for those in need and donate it to a local charity. Churches often run charity drives around the holidays, and the Marine Corps covers all 50 states with its Toys for Tots program.

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH YOGA

It’s not uncommon to feel depressed during the holidays. Yoga can help shift your focus from whatever is bringing you down to your body and its movements. Practice this move, called the Crab, when your mood or energy is low.

CAUTION: Avoid this pose and the one in week four if you’ve had heart disease, a stroke, uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma, a detached retina, or a back injury. Don’t do them if you’re pregnant.

1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the floor, hip-width apart, parallel, and about 1 foot from your buttocks. Place your hands on the floor behind you, with your fingers pointing toward your body. Inhale deeply through your nose.

2. As you exhale, raise your hips and abdomen as high as you can toward the ceiling. (Your goal is to lift your torso and thighs until they’re parallel with the floor, but this may take practice.) Your arms should be straight and directly under your shoulders. Focus on lifting your chest toward the ceiling.

3. On your next inhalation, lower your buttocks back to the floor. Repeat the process 3 to 10 times at your own pace. On your final round, hold the lifted position For 2 to 5 deep breaths.

Tips for the Week

EXERCISE TIP: If you’re tired, try doing just a few minutes of low-intensity exercise. Studies show it can provide you with an immediate energy boost. Consider jumping rope or running in place.

PARTY TIP: Drinking alcohol can pile on the calories. Consider the following: one mug of spiked eggnog has about 230 calories; a 12-ounce can of beer, 145; and a 3.5-ounce glass of red wine, 74. Opt for unsweetened sparkling waters as a festive, low-cal alternative; add a slice of lemon or a couple of fresh cranberries.

4 week four

Continue using your calendar, scheduling exercise, limiting TV, following your gift-buying budget, and delegating tasks.

Monday

JOURNAL EXERCISE: HOLIDAY BLUES

Along with holiday celebrations can come the blues. The reasons are many: The holidays may evoke the loss of loved ones. Your family may not get along. Poor finances can make you feel inadequate. On top of all this, commercial pressures to be happy can make you feel even worse.

If you’re feeling depressed, write about it. Explore your feelings without any guilt. Also write about the most recent event that made you happy; why did it make you feel that way? Write for at least 30 minutes.

DONATE CLOTHES

Look through your winter clothes and donate anything you haven’t worn during the past year to charity. Don’t forget to sort through outer garments like coats, hats, and gloves.

Wednesday

BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH YOGA

This move is called Bend and Twist. Practice it along with the previous pose when your mood or energy is low.

1. Stand tall with your feet about 3 feet apart. Keeping your back flat, bend forward from your hips, and then bend your knees until you can place your palms on the ground. (If you can’t touch the ground, use several stacked books as props.) Straighten your knees as much as you can without locking them.

2. Move your right palm between your feet (or slightly in front of them). Your fingertips should point to the left.

3. Slowly raise your left arm until it’s extended overhead. Turn your head to face, your left hand, but if your neck feels strained, look to your left or at the floor. Take 3 to 10 deep breaths. As you inhale, focus on extending your spine. As you exhale, deepen the twist of your torso.

4. Lower your left hand to the floor; then repeat steps 2 and 3 on the opposite side.

5. To release, place both your hands on the ground and walk your feet closer together. Bend your knees, tuck your tailbone under, and slowly roll up to a standing position.

Tips for the Week

STRESS TIP: The thought of a load of party leftovers–and the temptation to indulge yet again–causes stress for some party hosts. To alleviate anxiety, buy festive doggie bags and send treats home with your guests. If you still have goodies left, bring them into the office to share with your co-workers.

GIFT TIP: Save some paper and time this year–don’t wrap presents. If you have a Christmas tree, arrange presents in designated piles underneath it. Or create a treasure hunt: Hide gifts, and give people clues as to where to find them.

mark your progress

Use this calendar to track your progress. Whenever you complete a

task, give yourself a check. Keep in mind the goals you set for

yourself and aim to achieve them. At the end of each week, tally

your checks. Did you meet your goals?

WEEK ONE MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

Organize Your Time () () () ()

Schedule Exercise ()

Turn Off the TV () ()

WEEK TWO MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

Update Calendar () () () ()

Schedule Exercise ()

Turn Off the TV () () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () () ()

Volunteer () () () ()

WEEK THREE MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

Update Calendar () () () ()

Schedule Exercise ()

Turn Off the TV () () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () () ()

Volunteer () () () ()

Write in Journal () () () ()

Delegate () () () ()

Share Your Wealth () ()

WEEK FOUR MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

Update Calendar () () () ()

Schedule Exercise ()

Turn Off the TV () () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () () ()

Delegate () () () ()

Volunteer () () () ()

Write in Journal () () () ()

Donate Clothes () () () ()

WEEK ONE FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY TOTAL

Organize Your Time () () ()

Schedule Exercise

Turn Off the TV () () ()

WEEK TWO FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY TOTAL

Update Calendar () () ()

Schedule Exercise

Turn Off the TV () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () ()

Volunteer () () ()

WEEK THREE FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY TOTAL

Update Calendar () () ()

Schedule Exercise

Turn Off the TV () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () ()

Volunteer () () ()

Write in Journal () () ()

Delegate () () ()

Share Your Wealth () () ()

WEEK FOUR FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY TOTAL

Update Calendar () () ()

Schedule Exercise

Turn Off the TV () () ()

Follow Gift Budget () () ()

Delegate () () ()

Volunteer () () ()

Write in Journal () () ()

Donate Clothes () () ()

checkup

how are

you doing?

If your answer yes to

any of the following

questions, you’re on

your way:

* Have you

continued a

tradition?

* Do you feel

in control?

* Are you

on budget?

* Do you feel

a sense of

community?

Natural Health advisory-board member Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., has more than 22 years of experience treating patients with integrative medicine. She has written several books; her latest is Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments (Keats, 2001).

COPYRIGHT 2001 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group