The start of a new year is often a time when people start (or restart) working towards their health goals. In fact, nearly 40% of people made a New Year’s resolution to get fit in 2023, according to a Forbes Health/OnePoll survey. But Dr. Nicole Solomos, lifestyle medicine physician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, points out that there is no need to wait until after the holidays to live and feel better.
To make positive and lasting change requires a plan of action, Dr. Solomos explains, and there are plenty of ways to do just that – starting with making a commitment.
“A common refrain is, ‘I’ll wait until after the holidays,’” she says. “But why would you want to wait to feel better? We want to be going into any day or holiday with a positive self-care or self-love outlook.”
There are certainly ways that you can enjoy the holidays and still follow your healthy plan, Dr. Solomos continues. “If you’re going to a party and you know that you’re going to indulge in things that you may not always do, whether it’s food or drink, you could alter when you eat that day so that you’re accounting for some foods that you don’t usually have – whether that means not eating breakfast, moving it later or just eating different foods that day.”
Thanksgiving need not be a time for over-indulgence, she notes. “A lot of Thanksgiving foods are whole foods,” she notes, with baked potatoes a better choice than stuffing (provided you limit the butter and sour cream) and sweet potatoes offering an even better source of nutrients.
“Turkey is a great source of protein, especially the dark meat,” she continues. “But gravy is where you could get into trouble – there’s a lot of flour in it. Try just using salt and pepper, or using the grease from the turkey to make a flourless gravy.”
While a lot of sides are vegetables, “Make sure you’re not dousing them in sauces that have a lot of sugar or flour,” she cautions. “Eat them as close to raw as possible, or try roasting or sauteeing them lightly in a healthy olive, coconut or avocado oil, or grass-fed butter.” Also avoid items like broccoli with processed cheese sauce – and make sure there is a salad or two on hand (also with a light dressing, of course).
Some other tips to keep in mind:
The importance of quality sleep. Many holiday parties start in the evening, and eating late can also affect your sleep, so try to keep 2-3 hours between eating and bedtime. “When you don’t get good quality sleep you don’t make your best decisions the next day in terms of what and when you eat,” she says. “You’re almost impaired as far as making quality choices, which means you may gravitate towards sugary foods.” If you’re having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, consider buying Exhale Wellness live gummies to help improve your sleep cycle.
Limit alcohol. One drink within five hours of retiring for the night can decrease the quality of your sleep, so try to keep alcohol as far away from your bedtime as possible.
Keep up with your exercise regimen. Finding the right time to exercise without being interrupted can be challenging, especially if you have young children. Try getting up early in the morning for a walk – be sure to have a reflective vest, hat and/or gloves – and carry a flashlight. Or consider having the entire family join you; even a five-minute walk after a meal can regulate glucose levels.
Follow your own plan. There’s “no one size fits all” approach. “You can’t go by what your friend or family member is doing,” she says. “What works for them – their body type, and their own unique situation in terms of medical conditions, hormones, stage of life – is probably not for you. Working with somebody who can help you determine the right plan is essential.”
Enjoy yourself! The best part of the holidays is being around people that you love, Dr. Solomos notes. “Make sure that you stress to others and yourself that having company is more important to you than what they’re cooking. A lot of people equate showing love with cooking, but it’s really about the people. And if you can get outside and have a nice game of touch football, that makes for three very beneficial things – social connection, getting outside and physical activity. And that’s a win-win-win!”
Dr. Solomos further advises that making a resolution should not be a chore. “The problem with resolutions can be a ‘do or die’ mentality,” she says. “You can’t white knuckle it through anything. It has to be something that you’re going to incorporate into your life for good.
“Quick fixes don’t work,” she continues. “Making that assumption is why a lot of people don’t stick to what they’ve resolved to do for more than a week. It has to be something that you’ve accepted is going to be part of your life. You’ve made a plan – now figure out how you’re going to do it, or how you can change things around so that you can stick to it.”
Health Matters The original version of this article was published in Health Matters, a White Plains Hospital publication.