January blues, avoiding depression after the winter holidays

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Mental Health | Saturday, January 02, 2016 - 09:00 AM

holiday bluesIt can be hard to stay on track with your health and weight during the holiday ‘eating season’ – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. With all the extra snacking and feasting, and time consuming shopping and holiday events that keep you from exercising, November and December can seem like an extended period of bad-habit building. And those habits are often hard to break come January.

Trying to cope with post-holiday slump is part of the January blues. After two busy and gluttonous months, January feels like the extreme opposite, which often causes depression or makes it that much harder to feel motivated enough to get your health back on track. However, even if you’ve gained a few pounds and are feeling lethargic from all the excess, you can still bounce back from the holidays by starting 2016 with some smart choices and a plan. Here are five strategies to get you back on the mark.

Tips to beat the January blues

Watch your portions, regain your weight loss momentumportion

With the buffets, party trays and second helpings, your good dietary habits likely went out the window the past couple of months. Now that it’s January, bouncing back from the overeating is all about controlling your portions and returning to your regular eating schedule – three proportioned meals a day with healthy snacks is a great start.

Incorporate more vegetables, fiber and protein as they have the lasting power to keep you fuller for longer. Also, more leafy greens will provide essential nutrients that were probably missing from your holiday meals.

Another trick is to use smaller plates. It works! There’s a Small Plate Movement campaign, educating people that our plate size relates directly to our waist size. When we eat, we feel the need to completely clean our plates. With a larger plate comes larger portions, which leads to overeating. Small Plates suggests that by bringing down the size of your plate, you will not only eat less, but you will also feel fuller because you will think you just had a large, complete meal.

Keep on moving, stop being sedentarykeep moving

It can be hard to find the time to exercise during the holidays, but if you want to get back to your energetic self, adding in some physical activity will give you a fresh start – and will also help you shed those unwanted holiday pounds.

Every step adds up: Park further away from the entrance to your grocery story, or get off one bus stop sooner and head to your final destination by foot. Go for a quick walk after your lunch or take an evening stroll to unwind after dinner. Aside from the slimming and strengthening benefits, studies show that exercise is a great way to relieve stress, which we could all use after such a hectic season.

In one particular study, conducted by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, two groups of participants were asked to eat 50 percent more than they normally would. One group remained sedentary while the other group used a treadmill for about 45 minutes at a medium pace. What they found was that although the two groups gained weight, the treadmill group gained less than the sedentary group. They also found that their metabolisms returned to their normal rate.

Make a plan, choose achievable New Year’s resolutionsmake a plan

Vague resolutions like “lose weight” or “exercise more” often tend to fall to the wayside by February because they aren’t attached to specific actions. Breaking larger goals down into measurable, achievable steps helps you stay on track, and gives you a bunch of mini-achievements to enjoy while you work toward your bigger goal.

For example, if you plan to focus on healthy eating in 2016, try goals like “Have a salad for lunch every day for a month” or “Eat five servings of produce a day.” Attach small rewards, like a manicure or movie night, to your goals as extra motivation.

Don’t be hard on yourselfpositive attitude

The commotion of the holidays is done, along with the damage of over-indulgences. When we’re entering the dead of winter, it seems easier to start blaming ourselves and forming regret. Don’t allow yourself to do this! Your mood and attitude are equally important to maintaining good health. If you find yourself feeling a little blue, here are some easy ways to boost your mood.

Focus on the good things in your life, like your friends, a beloved pet and those phone calls to your grandkids! Gratitude and appreciation can help you think more positively and land on the bright side of things.

Restore your sleep schedule; a good night’s rest can have you feeling refreshed in the morning. In winter’s shorter days, try to get as much natural light as possible. The vitamin D will help lift your spirits. Lastly, stay social, continue to visit and talk with friends and family; the feeling of togetherness will keep you on the right track.

It’s true that there isn’t a lot about the holidays that’s normal when it comes to your day-to-day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t restore your good habits and make your health a priority once more.

If you do, it’ll make it that much easier to jump back into your routine full swing, leaving the holidays as memorable and enjoyable times to cherish.

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