By Antonio Sini

There are many reasons why we overindulge during the holidays.  First, food and alcohol are usually a part of any celebration; eating with friends and family is a double pleasure. We’re feeding our bodies and souls at the same time.

Second, you may have noticed the days are shorter and colder.  This will affect people’s moods–many can become a bit depressed and less active during the winter months.  Our need for warmth and soothing makes us eat more.  And of course, there is no shortage of ‘comfort food’ during the holidays.

The biggest reason we overindulge during the holidays, however, is stress.  Decisions about where and with whom to share the holidays, cooking, hosting and spending money, are only a few of many stress-evoking concerns.  Again, it’s easy to find comfort and stress relief in food.

This year, don’t beat yourself up or fall into the trap of making choices you’ll regret later.  Be mindful and accept the reality of the holiday season.  Regardless of how practically and socially challenging it can be, if you are prepared and make responsible choices, your holidays will be happy, healthy and joyful.  Remember these important factors to avoid the consequences of overindulging:

Eat consciously.  Hors d’Oeuvres are notoriously high in fat and calories.  They are served first when you are most hungry.  Select the most appealing ones and avoid reaching for seconds.  When it comes time to eat your main meal, stick with your usual, non-holiday portions.  If there’s a large variety of a food being served, sample smaller than normal portions of each and avoid using large holiday plates which hold that much more food.

Watch your alcohol intake.  Alcohol is an appetite enhancer and can easily derail your diet in more ways than one.  Recognize your vulnerable moments: who hasn’t stopped to grab a greasy pizza on the way home after a few drinks at the bar?  The worst foods for us always seem to sound better when we’re a few drinks in.  Make sure you’re in control.  Place a two-drink limit on yourself and stick to it—and never drink on an empty stomach!  Have a small snack before you arrive at any social event, and drink plenty of water.

Make sure you stay hydrated.  Hunger and thirst have similar symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) so it can be easy to confuse the two.   Dehydration during the winter, especially in November, December and January, is very common.   We are less active and tend to not feel as thirsty.  Our schedules become cluttered with the requisite holiday travel and office parties.  And let’s not forget the extra alcohol consumption, which contributes to dehydration.   All these factors make it even more important to stay on top of your water intake.  Don’t slack during the holidays.  Take note of how much water you drink each day.  If you find yourself feeling hungry, try drinking a glass of water then waiting 15 minutes.  Chances are you won’t feel hungry anymore and you will avoid overeating.

Staying true to your self-care will allow you to have greater fun during the holidays and beyond.  Eat, drink and be merry–but more importantly, stay health conscious!