Sabotaged by the Holidays

How to keep holiday festivities from sabotaging your health.


We all want to join in the fun of the holiday season. But late nights, too much food and drink, and the stress of meeting others’ expectations can do a number on your health and fitness. Is it possible to allow yourself a few indulgences without completely undermining your wellbeing?




Dr. Kathryn Colteryahn, with IU Health Physicians – Internal Medicine, provides practical advice on maintaining a healthy holiday season.

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Yes, and there are two keys to success: staying active and setting realistic expectations.


Daily exercise, even moderate activity such as walking or taking the stairs, helps burn additional calories, relieves stress, and inspires more healthful eating habits. Try substituting a few food-centric activities (like baking cookies) with more physical activities: take the family ice skating, go caroling, or volunteer at a soup kitchen.


Next, be realistic. If you’re following a weight loss plan, don’t expect to shed pounds in December, but try to maintain your weight instead. Don’t indulge every single day; stick to healthful foods when you can.


Specifically, here’s how you can control the most common holiday culprits:


All those parties. Eat a light meal and drink plenty of water before you go. While you’re there, enjoy a glass of wine or champagne, but alternate with club soda on the rocks with lime. The appearance of a drink in your hand will make it less likely someone else will insist on pouring you another.

Break room candy and popcorn. If these gifts are from vendors, let them know you’d rather have a healthier alternative, like a fruit basket. If that fails, avoid the break room by taking a brisk walk instead.


Dining out too often. Have the server box up half before your meal is brought to the table. (Don’t worry about offending, they’re used to this request.) Make more time for cooking at home by spending a little time on Sunday afternoon to prep the week’s meals. Picking up a few groceries daily on your lunch hour, as opposed to on your way home, can help you avoid the break room candy and get you home a littler earlier to enjoy your time in the kitchen.


Pressure from family and friends. The truth is, we usually bring this pressure on ourselves. So prioritize. Be honest by saying that you simply cannot get around to everyone, every year. Alternate between different branches of the family from year to year. It’s okay to say no, and you’ll be surprised at how understanding they are.


And remember, it’s okay NOT to have plans, too. Take time off for yourself. Remain active, as well as realistic.




Author of this article

Kathryn Colteryahn, MD, specializes in internal medicine. She is a guest columnist and located at IU Health West Hospital, 1115 Ronald Regan Parkway, Suite 318, in Avon. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.217.2632.


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