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How to Stay on a Healthy Track During the Holidays

“You are what you eat” is a cliché for a reason. Everything you put in your body is absorbed and used or isolated and eliminated, and what you choose to consume (or not consume) can either strengthen or weaken you.

At All Functional Health, Dr. Jeffrey Mark understands the complicated relationship between food and your overall health and offers expert nutritional counseling that focuses on your unique physical and mental health needs. 

Whether you’re overweight and trying to get to a healthy weight or you’re living with a medical condition, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), chronic pain, or food sensitivities, he can help you manage your symptoms and still enjoy the holidays. 

Here are some tips for getting through the parties and celebrations unscathed.

Know yourself

You know yourself better than anyone else does. You know how you feel when you cheat with cheese or gorge on chocolate cake. You know what caffeine and alcohol do to you, and which temptations are stronger than you are. 

Dr. Mark can identify your medical condition, treat it, help you manage your symptoms, and tell you which foods will nourish or harm you, but only you can choose what to do with that information. 

Not everyone with a food sensitivity reacts the same way to the ingredient, and not every dieter loses weight the same way, so take Dr. Mark’s advice and listen to your body for the best results.

Make choices, not sacrifices

If your challenge this season is trying to stay on track with your weight-loss goals, one of the hardest things is the feeling that you’re missing out on all the great holiday treats and flavors. But your mental approach can make all the difference.

Look at the dinner table as an array of choices, not sacrifices. Identify the delectable dishes you can eat, rather than focusing on those you can’t. If you’re counting calories or fat, make them count by having a small portion of something you love instead of giving it up completely. For example, at Thanksgiving, make a choice between the mashed potatoes and the pumpkin pie, but don’t have both, and at your next party you can choose the other. 

Don’t starve yourself all day just to gorge at night — this tactic leads to overeating and bad choices. Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day, and then have a sensible meal at the party. Start with the veggies and lean proteins before eyeing the treats, so your tummy will be satisfied and less tempted to devour the desserts. 

Bring your own food

These days, food allergies, aversions, and preferences are so commonplace, restaurants and supermarkets now cater to a wide variety of dietary needs. If cheesecake is your passion but you’re lactose intolerant, make your own out of a dairy substitute and give it to your hosts as a gift. 

Likewise, if gluten gives you problems, bring along a tray of wheat-free hors d’oeuvres. And if the gathering is at your place, make sure you know your guests’ dietary restrictions so you can accommodate others facing similar challenges.

Prioritize your sleep

The increased stress of the holidays can keep you awake at night running down lists of things to do, like shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, budgeting, traveling, housecleaning, and entertaining. But without proper rest, your body (and your mind) will be in no shape to handle the rush.

What’s more, too little sleep makes your body produce more of the hormone ghrelin (which makes you hungry) and less of the hormone leptin (which makes you feel full), so you may overeat if you’re overtired.

Manage anxiety and depression

If you suffer from depression or anxiety, the holidays can trigger some of your worst symptoms. Paying attention to your nutritional needs goes a long way in keeping your body and mind stable through stress, but you can also do yourself a favor by anticipating situations and planning ahead. 

Make lists of things to do and buy, and then take a marker and cross some of them off before you even start. Reduce your expectations of yourself and learn to say no to some invitations. If parties make you anxious, don’t stay long. Show up and offer a gift and your best wishes, and leave when you’re ready. Maybe you only stay for appetizers or come only for dessert — it’s okay not to stay.

And steer clear of the bar this time of year. Alcohol exacerbates your depression and anxiety symptoms, so stick to unspiked eggnog or sparkling waters.

For more tips, nutrition advice, or treatment for your chronic condition this holiday season, contact us at one of our offices in San Ramon located in the Tri-Valley area of the East Bay, or Turlock, which is easily accessible from various cities in the Central Valley.  Request an appointment with Dr. Mark online today.

All Functional Health

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