Staying healthy during the holidays

The holidays are infamous for being a time of high stress, high calories and not much time to work out.

While some go into the new year packing on a few extra pounds or more, there are ways to stay healthy even while making the rounds at seasonal parties. The trick is simple, and an Alpena health club instructor and Alpena Regional Medical Center education coordinator agree: eat smart, and find time to exercise.

Let common sense prevail at family dinners and holiday gatherings, and eat a slice of pie instead of half a pie, Alpena Health and Raquet Club Instructor Kenny Anderson said. And while there might not be lots of time to exercise, it’s important to do what you can and get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.

“When I talk to people all the time, I tell them if they want to go to the gym and exercise, there’s nothing wrong with having a day to yourself, but go to the gym the next day,” he said.

Another way to avoid overeating is to go for the items you don’t eat throughout the rest of the year, ARMC Community Education Coordinator Melissa Tolan-Halleck said. Become a bit of a “food snob,” and eat thoughtfully, not with a guilty conscience.

“Think about what you’re eating through the holidays, if every time you sit down to eat something you’re mindful and thinking about how delicious it is, how much you’re eating and the choice you made,” she said.

Liquid calories are a major offender, especially the old favorite, eggnog, Tolan-Halleck said. Some drinks can have anywhere from 200 to 800 calories. She suggested tweaking the recipe, substituting skim or almond milk in whole or part while keeping the flavor. Alcoholic beverages can be alternated with soda water and a spritz of lime.

Making a plan to eat well and exercise is important, but be flexible, Tolan-Halleck said. Giving yourself wiggle room makes it easier to keep with the plan. It’s OK to let up on yourself a little bit, but don’t throw your diet and exercise routine away completely. Having a friend or two who has a plan of their own helps as well.

With family events, work, shopping and parties, the holidays are a busy time of year. But it only takes 15 minutes a day to get in a quick work-out, Anderson said. He’s heard lots of excuses for why people stop working out over the holidays, but most people can take time for exercise, and it doesn’t have to be in a gym.

“Just do something, and make it fun,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like going to the gym, they don’t like going on treadmills. When they go running around outside, it’s fun. Go ice skating, go sledding.”

For those who don’t like the cold, Northern Lights Arena and the Alpena Mall are open to walkers, Anderson said. Walking on a treadmill while watching TV works, too. It’s a good way to get in a low-impact sport while staying warm, although he suggests learning to embrace the outdoors by finding an enjoyable activity for each season.

The holidays can be stressful, and exercise helps, Anderson said. Taking a break to take your kids sledding can help you deal with your own stress, and you’re bound to be active while chasing your children around.

Many people find themselves reminiscing about the year around the holidays, and the memories can be sad ones, Tolan-Halleck said. She suggests writing in a journal. On Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Art in the Loft, she’ll host a community health walk about dealing with holiday stress.

If loneliness is an issue, Tolan-Halleck said volunteering or getting out into the community could be the fix. Many churches and organizations have activities and opportunities to help. Don’t let yourself become isolated, even if you’re dealing with painful times.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself, Tolan-Halleck said.

“We put all those expectations on ourselves, that it should be this way, that it needs to be this way,” she said. “Things change, finances changes, people are no longer with us on holidays. All of those are things people have to deal with.”

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at