Breezing Through the Holiday Season

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The holidays are here and that means lots of good food and fellowship. The holiday season can also be hectic, now’s the time to devise strategies to stay stress free, debt free, hydrated, physically active, and prevent holiday weight gain.

Our schedules are very hectic during this time of the year! All of the shopping, food preparation, and community activities can be a source of stress for many. Now is the time to organize your schedule and include some time to relax and unwind each day. Taking 20 minutes to just unwind can help tremendously. Use this time to meditate, listen to music, read, exercise, or talk to a friend. For those with extremely busy schedules, you may set a specific time of the day to unwind and reset.

Planning ahead makes everything happen! Planning is perhaps the most important key to staying stress free. Plan your menu, write a grocery list, and shop to ensure that you have everything that you will need in advance of your holiday meal gatherings. Allow sufficient time for food to be prepped and cooked, so that you are not rushed or risk serving food that is not prepared safely.

The holidays often present many opportunities for parties and community service work. Although these events are meant to be social or charitable, they can also be a source of stress when our day is already full. Try to balance your schedule. Remember that it is okay to say no.

Finances can also be a source of stress during the holidays. Social gatherings, meals, and gifts all require money to come to fruition. Plan holiday spending by making a budget and sticking to it. Remember that regular expenses such as utility bills, mortgage, etc. still occur during the holiday months and must be included in the budget. This will prevent financial stress after the holiday.

Just as it is important to maintain our budget, it is important to maintain our healthy habits. It’s important to stay hydrated during the holidays. During a busy day, it is easy to forget to take time to drink water. At gatherings, try drinking water before having a second helping. This can help curb cravings and prevent extra weight gain. Often when we feel hungry we are actually thirsty. One way to remember to stay hydrated is to bring your own bottle of water with you, whether you are shopping or partying. At events were alcohol is served remember to limit your servings to prevent hangovers. It is recommended that each glass of champagne be followed with a glass of water.

As you move about during the holiday, wear comfortable athletic shoes, so you can exercise wherever and whenever possible. Get your steps in while you walk the mall or the grocery store aisles. Whenever possible and sensible park further from the building to get some extra steps in. Plan to make time to engage in your regular exercise routines. Playing holiday music during your workout is a great way to enhance your holiday fitness routine or house cleaning/decorating physical activities. Encourage visiting family members to bring their comfortable clothing to engage in holiday fitness activities. When traveling by plane, carry a wheeled carry- on luggage or backpack, so you can get some steps in while waiting at the gate.

One of the biggest challenges of the holiday season is preventing weight gain. Researchers at Harvard University recommend the following tips to manage your weight during the 4-8 week holiday season:

  • Keep your meal routine by eating at the usual times.
  • Select reduced-fat ingredients
  • Aim to walk 10,000 steps each day to burn extra calories
  • Select healthy snacks
  • Read food labels to manage sodium, sugar, and fat content. Also, to identify the recommended serving size
  • Watch your portion sizes
  • Make smart drink choices-choose water, or calorie free options. Limit alcohol
  • Eat food slowly and enjoy!

Each year, the Eat Smart, Move More Program offers the Maintain, Don’t Gain! Holiday Challenge to help participants manage their weight during the season. The program is offered virtually at no cost and provides resources to help prevent weight gain during the holidays. Please register at Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Les

To find out more about health and wellness or if you are interested in nutrition education classes for your office or community contact Cheri Bennett at 910-997-8255 or email at

The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Richmond County Center helps provide research-based education and technology to the producers and citizens of this great county. The office is located at 123 Caroline St. in Rockingham, or visit for more information.