Surviving the holiday excesses

It's November and the holiday season has officially begun. This can be a lovely time of year, filled with fun, family and traditions, but it can also take a toll on your health. The extra activities filling up your calendar, like hitting the mall, attending cocktail parties and baking sweet treats, can leave you feeling stressed and sleep-deprived. And no place is safe from culinary temptation.

At the office, your coworkers are keeping the candy dishes full and bringing in their famous cookies. Holiday parties are rife with alcohol and high calorie, rich foods, and who can pass up the smell of a fresh Cinnabon coming from the food court in the mall? It's no wonder many people get to January, and their jeans don't fit.

While it's more of an urban legend that the average person gains 7-10 pounds in the six week period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the holiday season can wreak havoc on your system, making you feel tired, stressed and like you're carrying around an extra 10 pounds.

Eat, drink and be merry

"One of the reasons you may feel like you've packed on more weight than you have is because many holiday foods trigger bloating and water retention."[1] When you eat lots of foods high in carbohydrates, like cookies, bread and cake, your body converts the excess carbs to glycogen, which gets stored in muscle tissue. Carrying around extra glycogen in your muscles results in feeling sluggish and bloated and makes your clothes feel too tight.

And food isn't the only indulgence we partake in around this time of year. "The average American consumes double the amount of alcoholic drinks over the holidays than at any other time of year, according to new research."[2] Even if you keep the drinking down to a minimum, alcohol contributes to the negative effects you may already be experiencing from overeating.

Make this year different

Armed with this information, you can make this year different from those in the past. Keep habits like your treasured family traditions, and dump the ones that result in extra weight, stress and fatigue. National nutritionist and weight loss expert, Samantha Cassety, puts it this way: "The more consistent your healthy habits are, the better off you'll feel -- now and when the holidays are over."[3]

Make an effort to fit self-care activities such as exercise and meditation into your busy schedule. Be mindful about what and how much you're eating, and opt for moderation and healthy options whenever you can. Support your immune system by getting enough sleep and taking a probiotic, which will also help prevent digestive discomfort.

Finally, listen to your body, and respect your limits. If you have a party to attend, but you're feeling rundown, give yourself permission to skip it, or bring something store-bought rather than the time-consuming family recipe you'd planned.

Make the best of the holidays this year by sticking with healthy habits. You'll be glad you did when the new year rolls around.

[1] 5 Myths and Facts About Holiday Weight Gain,
[2] People drink twice as much alcohol over the holidays,
[3] How To Stay Healthy During the Holidays,