Keeping Food in Balance

by Arlene K Unger, PhD (PSY)

According to the American Heart Association, we run the risk of gaining five or more pounds between Halloween and New Years. We add an average of 200 calories more per day than we really need.

Such calories come from that ounce of fudge we can’t resist, that extra helping of gravy, that one glass too many of eggnog or that irresistible slice of pecan pie. Our senses are overwhelmed with the smells of caramel apples, and savory baked turkeys. It seems almost impossible to take refuge in sitting as far away from the decorative tables abound with rich pastries and trays of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres bombarding us at every turn.

Typically, holiday gatherings subtly encourage people to indulge in high-fat, high-calorie foods and drink empty calories that are low in nutrients. On top of that, we’re more likely to make excuses for skipping, or skimping, on our daily exercise.

Remember: more calories in and less calories burned means weight gain.

Sipping on water and nibbling carrots when most everyone around us is devouring every morsel they can find only compounds our challenge. The secret is to indulge yourself a little, but within reason, that is, indulge in some long range planning to maintain overall balance in your food consumption. With a little preplanning, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle over the holidays and still be merry.

For instance, sugar consumption is one of the most significant dangers to your diet. Being on a sugar roller coaster can trigger a slew of other problems, some even emotional. When you binge on sugar, you crave more and more and your metabolism slows down. Along with sunlight deprivation, sugar binges cause a drop in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates sleep and appetite. A lack of serotonin is often associated with depression. When you’re deprived of serotonin, you won’t feel calm and in control.

To help naturally boost your serotonin levels try to eat small but frequent meals that include complex carbohydrates and starchy veggies. You can also help control blood sugar levels by eating small quantities of protein three times a day. A diet of two egg whites in the morning, some turkey at lunch and a small portion of grilled fish at night is a move toward moderation and weight stability.

You definitely need to keep up your regular exercise during the holidays and accept no excuses. Exercise also increases your endorphins. When endorphin levels are high, we cope better with stress and eat only what we need.

If you have the opportunity to bring food to a party, offer to bring a low-fat/low-calorie snacks like pretzels, wheat crackers, or unbuttered popcorn, so that you will have something healthy to eat.

Remember that willpower and preplanning are the keys to being a guilt-free guest this holiday season.

Keeping Stress in Balance

It is funny how we allow our stress to take away from the true meaning of the holidays. If your house isn’t perfectly clean, it is not the end of the world, but missing an opportunity to laugh with family may be a huge loss. During the next few weeks, many of us will get stressed over visiting company, finances, buying gifts, eating or drinking too much.

Here is a simple guide to having merry, and peaceful, stress-less holiday season.


  • Mood for more joyfulness. Being positive is contagious and lends itself to happier interactions.
  • Heart Rate for at least 30 minutes. Getting out in the fresh air for brisk walk can do the trick. Choose an appropriate level of activity for your age, sex, health status.
  • Sensitivity for moderation. There is nothing like knowing your limits when it comes to rich food and fancyrinks. Pacing yourself can make your holiday more enjoyable, guiltless, and healthy.
  • Awareness for living within your budget. Getting into debt takes the joy out of giving. Gifts should be from the heart: “It’s the thought that counts!”
  • Tolerance for disarray, disappointment and change in plans. Remember it is only you that cares about completing every last thing on your list. It’s your list, no one else needs to know what’s on it. Be flexible.
  • Appreciation for what is truly meaningful. Is it the turkey, tree ornaments or people we are around that make the holidays special? Knowing what is truly important can make the difference between a frenzied and a fun-filled holiday season.

Keeping Your Checkbook in Balance

In these uncertain economic times, it is not at all wise to rely on chance and impulse when you go holiday shopping. More than ever, you need a plan, a budget, and the resolve to stick to them both.

Remember: The holidays are a time to acknowledge the importance of family and friends — that isn’t measured in dollars … but your BUDGET is!!

So, it’s time to get very analytical, especially if you’ve had problems with holiday budgets in the past.

Please visit for the FULL, FREE article, which includes tables “How to Feel Nice and Not so Naughty at the Holiday Table,” and “Have a Slim, Sane and Stress-Free Holiday Season,” and a useful “Holiday Budget Worksheet.”