Healthiest Holidays: Give Yourself the Gift of Self-Care

The winter holidays can be hectic, making it easy to become overwhelmed and when it’s time to enjoy the festivities, you’re exhausted. It’s important to remain physically healthy and mentally grounded.

Even though the holiday season can be overwhelming, you shouldn’t restrict yourself from things you enjoy. Give yourself the gift of self-care and think about your goals for the year ahead. Follow these tips to kick-start your resolutions, and be your healthiest self this holiday season.

First and foremost, keep a mindset of growth and learning. The choices you make, especially when it comes to food, don’t equal your value as a person. And when things don’t go as planned, remember to stay positive.

The holidays can be challenging whether it’s on the eating front or getting physical active, and self-compassion goes a long way toward letting you come out healthy and happy on the other side. Don’t let one or two frustrating events spoil the entire season.

Think about what’s worth splurging on and what isn’t. You may not be able to control what food you are served, and others may be eating tempting treats. Elizabeth Kauruter RDN, LDN, Penn Highlands Huntingdon Director of Food and Nutrition shares “it’s not so hard to enjoy the holidays and stay healthy, with a little planning.”

When planning for food, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  • Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If you are going to have a meal later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime then eat a little less when dinner is served.
  • Make eating vegetables a priority. Try to fill up on as many as possible, so at least the evening isn’t a net loss health-wise.
  • If you’re going to have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
  • If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.

Being active is a secret holiday weapon; it not only helps when eating more, but has many other health benefits. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health, reducing stress, improving mood and concentration, and combatting depression. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.

When creating a plan and anticipating the obstacles, be realistic about the situation and your abilities, or your plan could fail. Be smart about your strategy and honest about your limitations, and make sure that your plan will work in reality, not just in theory.

The holiday season may not be the best time to focus on weight loss. Avoid starting strict diet plans or exercise regimens that are not able to be maintained—both during the holidays and after the New Year. Be mindful of what is realistic for your plate, body, and routine. A healthy lifestyle should not make you feel like you are starving or stressing to keep up.

The plate method is helpful for those trying to make healthier lifestyle changes while avoiding crash diets. The goal of a healthy plate is to include: half of a plate of vegetables, ¼ of the plate as lean protein, ¼ of the plate as carbohydrate/whole grain, and a serving of fruit. Take the time to enjoy your food. Think about the taste and chew thoroughly.

Try to pick an activity that you enjoy to exercise throughout the week. Go for a walk, even at a slow pace. Dance solo or with your family to some festive music. Break out an interactive video game that keeps you on your feet. If you have a hard time with balance, try some chair yoga.

If you start to feel stressed out, take a time out. Take a breather—some quiet time or try deep breathing. This will help prevent burnout and redirect your feelings away from comfort eating. Think about why you are eating—to enjoy a seasonal favorite? Or out of boredom? Or loneliness? If the answer is boredom, consciously find another activity. Connect with a family member or friend over a phone or video call.

Living healthfully isn’t a single challenge, but many small challenges that add up to big advantages.

Keep this in mind as you go through the holidays, and don’t forget to celebrate the small victories. This is important for a few reasons:

First, associating positive feelings with healthy behaviors is essential in forming lasting habits. Simply flexing your face muscles into a smiling position convinces your brain that good things are happening. So holding a smile on your face as you pass by the dessert table can make it easier for next time.

Second, focusing on each of your wins as you experience them gives you a feeling of progress, and makes your small actions more meaningful psychologically.

Feeling successful is far more motivating than “I wish I was skinnier” or “I wish I had more self-control,” and can help you persevere down the stretch.

As you set your goals and build your skills, you are certain to experience many successes and many setbacks. Learning is the only way to make long-term progress.

Every year your circumstances will be slightly different. You’ll have different obligations, you’ll move, change jobs, get married, get divorced, have kids, they’ll grow up, etc. Life keeps happening.
Your strategies will need to adapt to the changing times, but the lessons you learn each year will stay with you.

For more information on nutritional wellness services in North Central Pennsylvania and how Penn Highlands Healthcare specialists can help guide you on a journey to good health, please visit