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Work on Willpower for Healthy Holidays

woman selecting holiday foods
November 15, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

The holiday season is in high gear, and my mostly healthy lifestyle has taken a serious hit. The inner strength I call upon to eat balanced meals and exercise on a regular basis is on the wane.

I assume the same is true for most busy people, what with working, managing the household, planning holiday gatherings, cooking, cleaning and, in my case, shopping for and wrapping presents.

If you’re anything like me, you may begin to doubt your willpower, which you regularly call up to make yourself do what you’d rather not, such as pass up second helpings, forgo holiday cookies, and rouse yourself from a warm bed for early morning work outs.

The truth is, your willpower – and mine – is being sorely tested right now.

Willpower tends to buckle under challenging conditions, including fatigue, lack of time and feeling overwhelmed. You only have so much energy, and doing anything you don’t want to do saps your limited reserve.

The good news is that willpower is a lot like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Look at this way: the more often you stick to good health habits, the easier it will be to get back in the groove come January 1.

Set yourself up for success with these simple strategies to improve your inner resolve.

Eat on a regular basis. Resist temptation by planning balanced meals and taking healthy snacks with you when shopping or doing errands.

Work it out. Can’t get to the gym? Take three 10-minute exercise breaks every day. Short walks help reduce the stress you may channel into munching on holiday goodies.

Sleep on it. Bolster your inner strength by getting the shut-eye you need. Proper rest helps you tackle the day ahead.

Limit alcohol. Alcohol disturbs sleep and packs on the pounds.  At holiday gatherings, start with a non-alcoholic beverage, such as diet soda, flavored soda water, or light eggnog to quench your thirst and curb alcohol intake. Alternate cocktails with non-alcoholic drinks.

Just say no. Yes, you can say no. You do not have to attend every holiday event you’re invited to. Stay home and get some rest instead.

Conserve energy. Pare down your present list to make shopping more efficient and cost effective.  Delegate holiday duties, including baking, shopping, wrapping and cleaning.

Write it down. Make a list of what you want to do today, including taking a walk and eating right.  People who put their goals on paper are significantly more likely to achieve them than are those who just think about what needs to get done. You’ll feel good when you accomplish each goal, and your success will help bolster your resolve.

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