The holidays are upon us, and staying healthy during this season can be challenging. While this is true for the general population, it is especially important for individuals with hemophilia or other bleeding disorders. We understand the importance that activity and a healthy diet play in maintaining an ideal weight and decreasing the number of bleeding episodes and amount of factor needed to prevent or control a bleed.
This season can be a fun but stressful time of year, and we can easily find that our normal routines go to the wayside. It’s easy to overindulge on food and drink, and be more sedentary this time of year. However, there are small things you can do to curb these habits. Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy during the holidays:
- Enjoy your Favorite Holiday Treats in Moderation. Don’t deprive yourself. Enjoy a small piece of pie or one cookie, but not both. Avoid mindless eating and eat healthy most of the time, but plan for the occasional splurge. Also, split a holiday entrée with a friend/relative when dining out. Portion control is key.
- Fill up on Veggies and Fruit Vegetables and fruit are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber and low in calories, so focus on the nutritious dishes on the table. Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables and fill the remaining with whole grains, legumes and lean meats.
- Drink Lots of Water. Mild dehydration can sometimes feel like hunger, so avoid this feeling and drink water. Water can also be used to slow down your eating by taking a sip or two between bites. Also have a glass or two of water before you start drinking alcoholic beverages, and have one in between drinks to slow down your alcohol consumption as well. Don’t forget, cocktails add calories, so be mindful.
- Eat Slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for our stomach to tell our brains that we are full. So, before you go up for seconds or thirds, wait a bit and you may find out you are actually satisfied. Also, using a smaller plate can help control your portion size.
- Avoid Foods that Can Cause Inflammation Keep your joints healthy during the holidays by limiting the consumption of certain ingredients that can trigger inflammation. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are two that we commonly hear, but keep in mind that trans and saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and MSG also have pro-inflammatory characteristics, as listed by the Arthritis Foundation. Instead, choose foods that help fight inflammation like fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts.
- Don’t Hang Around the Table or Buffet. Mingle with friends and family. We know it is hard to resist the delicious food calling your name. Choose your items to eat, and then move to a different part of the room if you can. In most cases, you will think twice before walking back to the table.
- Relax, Limit Stress. Holidays can be a stressful time for many due to social and familial commitments, buying gifts, interpersonal relationships and balancing work and vacation. Anticipate the sources of stress and make a plan to manage them. Carve out a little time for yourself each day. Whether it be exercising, reading, mediating or listening to music – do something that helps you relax.
- Don’t Skip Meals. Breakfast is still very important. Don’t save those calories for a big holiday meal. Not only can skipping meals make you feel tired and crabby, but it can also make you overeat when you finally have a meal. For breakfast, have a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, eat raisins and nuts for a snack, and enjoy a light salad for lunch.
- Stay Active. Have fun doing holiday inspired and cold weather activities. Enjoy gathering pinecones, a walk to view the holiday lights in your neighborhood, gathering pine cones, playing in the snow, sledding, skating or building a snowman. Find a friend to work out with. This person will help motivate you to stay active, boost your confidence, challenge your weaknesses, and make fitness fun. You’ll do the same for them!
- Wear a pedometer.Research has shown that wearing a pedometer encourages people to walk about an extra mile each day, lose weight, and lower their blood pressure. Aim for 10 minutes and amp it up to 30 minutes of brisk walking and a total of 10,000 steps per day. Start slowly. Have a smart phone? Download HFA’s Get in Gear app and log your miles while listening to your favorite music. The app keeps track of your workouts and progress and even rewards you for your efforts!
The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks of inactivity. For those in the bleeding disorders community it means healthier muscles and joints and fewer bleeds and Factor. What activities are you going to choose to get you on your feet and on your way to better health and a better life? Prioritize health and fitness in your life and make 2018 a great one!