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From Surviving to Thriving During the Holidays

Did you miss Dr. McSwain's LIVE Facebook video on 11/8? Need to play it on repeat to get through all of your holiday activities? Don't worry. As always, we've got you covered here on the blog. Here is the video, followed by a text recap from Dr. McSwain’s Facebook live post from November 8.


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The best way to have great health is to be prepared.

We’re going to talk about the holidays because they can really create some stressful times. I wanted to talk to you about the mindset. Often times, the holidays mean different things to different people. Sometimes, the holidays can be full of really fun activities and other times the holidays can be emotional, overwhelming, and debt inducing. They can also be really impactful physically to one’s health because people look to the holidays for indulging and, sometimes, over indulging.


Even though today we are going to be talking about some relatively simple ideas, they are really based in how to keep your heart balanced and to find acceptance for times that can be frustrating. Sometimes they are family and friends who we encounter during the holidays that can make it a really difficult and trying time. Some people look to the holidays as more of a time to survive.


I want to talk you about thriving. I don’t know your specific circumstance, obviously, but I do hear about the struggles that people encounter during the holidays. A common one in Michigan is the Winter 10. People in Michigan often anticipate that they will gain about 10 pounds every winter due to inactivity, holidays, stress, hibernation. As we talk about the holidays, I want to include the winter and how to really thrive during the winter.


From surviving to thriving during the holidays. I’m going to give you some tips, and I want you to recognize that they seem small but they are lifestyle modifiers and they are also mindset modifiers so that you can enjoy your life. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed. I don’t know all of the details about how the holidays came about, but I really believe that we celebrate and find joy in the winter because there is a lot of gloom in the winter. We look to those activities to brighten our mood, especially when it is so dark with having daylight savings time.


We are beginning to prepare for thanksgiving and also Christmas and other holidays that occur in the winter time. Often times, people can have anxiety and stress, but also joy and celebration. Some of my tips revolve around eating. We want to talk about the Winter 10 and be sure to avoid it.

Every day is not a holiday treat.

I’ll repeat that. Every day is not a holiday treat. We live a life of abundance in the United States, often a life of excess, and it’s easy to keep getting treats, candies, plates of goodies. I want you to really think about how you can budget or plan out what you really, really love for the holidays. I want you to enjoy that. I want you to be like, “This morsel is bringing me pure joy.” Whatever that little morsel is that you really, really enjoy, just think about planning it out and eating it and loving it. Flavor is meant to be enjoyed. We should enjoy it. Plan it out, whether it’s your Aunt Lucille’s Red Velvet Cake, or your Nana’s Fruit Cake Cookies. My Nana made fruit cake cookies and, believe it not, they were fantastic. But, you don’t have to go for the whole bag of cookies. There is also a freezer if you really love something, you can space it out and savor it for a few months by using the freezer. So definitely plan out those morsels. You know you’re going to go to certain holiday parties, and you know there will be certain things there, and you definitely want to enjoy getting those morsels in.

Understand portion control.

Portion control can be really hard, because a lot of times people are going a holiday party after a long day of working or doing other things, and they didn’t really get a chance to grab dinner. Or, they are going to a place that they don’t know ahead of time what is going to be available. This is a good time to plan ahead by bringing your own protein bars, or keep a protein shake in your car so that you can get some protein in. If some people are low on protein or fat, they are going to go for the carbs, and there’s going to be a lot of carbs available.


Do not take food from a large, general container and eat straight from it. For example, when eating chocolate fondue, you might be just sitting there dipping and dipping and not keeping control of they portions. Now, take what you want and eat that. Some of you know that I love cheese, and if I’m sitting too close to a cheese tray, I really need to be careful to take some cheese, put it on my plate, and say, “I’m going to enjoy these pieces, and that needs to be it.” Hold yourself accountable. If you’re carving a slice of pie or cake, pick how much you want and then only take half. Often times, you get that desired taste in the first one or two bites, and the rest of the bites is simply replaying the memory of the first bite and the initial flavor.


Another thing to remember is that about 80% of the flavor you’re tasting is coming from that smell of the food. Take a nice, big wiff in and eat it super slow. Then take a bite, aim for 30 chews per bite to really savor the flavor and enjoy the morsel of goodie so that you are enjoying your holiday treats, but not in excess. This is really going to help you, because when people are overindulging in treats, they are getting low on protein, they’re getting dehydrated, because sugar is very dehydrating, and that contributes to hormone problems and stress. Stress is often modulated by your stress hormone and the amount of carbs, sugar, and insulin your body is pumping through your system. Taking a small portion, relishing that small portion, is going to help you reduce your stress response during the holidays.

Make sure that you are getting high protein.

If you’re going for broke at the dessert bar at your grandma’s house, stop yourself enough to get a big glass of water and some protein. Be it a protein shake, or if you eat meat, those are the proteins. Get some vegetables in. Make sure you emphasize getting some vegetables and good, quality foods in before hitting the dessert sections. Often times, you don’t know what kind of situation you’re getting into in the holidays until you’re there, so consider keeping something in your car.

Take you weight on the scale every day.

Last tip, but really important, because it’s a great way to help you stay accountable during the holidays. If you are weighing yourself every single day from now on in the holidays, then you will not let this get out of control. You will be able to recognize if you are hitting it too hard at the dessert section at the party, or in the alcohol section, because you’ll be seeing your weight. The best way to hold yourself accountable is to check in with your weight every day, or at least every other day. If you just wait and ignore it, then you might be at that Michigan Winter 10. Then, instead of enjoying January for all of the health, fitness, and resolutions for moving forward. You’re actually backtracking. I really encourage you to look at January and think of where you are now, or even striving for better than you are now.


Our office is offering a cleanse to curb the holiday carb cravings so that people can really get ahead of this. Often times, people just think, “That’s the norm, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to gain 10 pounds, I’m going to be tired, I’m going to be stressed out, I’m going to eat in excess to the point that I can’t even taste the food anymore, and then I’ll recover in January.” But, that rarely happens for people, so it’s a good plan to get ahead of it and get everything planned and figured out.


Let’s go from surviving the holidays to thriving during the holidays.


Thanks so much!

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