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Holiday Eating Tips for Good Mental Health

Silver Hill Hospital

The holiday season is filled with gifts, get-togethers and tons of food and treats. From cookies at the office to department dinners, we are surrounded by unhealthy food choices and often give in to temptation with the intention of losing the extra pounds in the new year. Of course it’s not wrong to indulge a little during the holidays, but moderation is key. Not only do the extra treats wreak havoc on your waistline, but they can worsen mental health conditions too.

We know which foods and drinks are good for mood, but which ones have a negative impact and why?

Sugar

Sugar from food and drinks absorb into your bloodstream quickly, leaving you feeling good and full of energy for a short period of time, but then you crash. This roller coaster of highs and lows can accentuate the symptoms of mood disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder, and anxiety. So when you pass the plate of cookies in the break room, take one or two, not 10.

Caffeine

You may turn to a cup of coffee to wake you up, but if you’re refueling all day long, it could be problematic. Drinking too much caffeine can worsen anxiety and make it hard to sleep. The anxiety and lack of sleep can cause even more problems if you have another co-occurring mental health or addiction disorder. Limit your caffeine intake and don’t drink it late in the day.

Fatty Foods

New research shows that high fat diets may put you at risk for depression and anxiety. The excessive amounts of fat disturb microorganisms in the gut, which appears to interfere with brain function. The animals in this study who consumed a high fat diet demonstrated increased anxiety, impaired memory, and repetitive behaviors. More research needs to be done to further understand the connection, but for both physical and mental health, it’s best to limit the burgers and fries.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant, so it slows both your body and mind. If you are depressed or are susceptible to depressive episodes, it’s best to drink small amounts or avoid it all together. Like sugar, you may feel great after the first drink or two, but as the night goes on, you may find yourself feeling down in the dumps. Drinking too much at night initially causes sleepiness, but as the alcohol leaves your system, your body wakes up. This can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night or feel unrested the next day. If you are looking for ways to stay alcohol-free this holiday season, check out these holiday drink recipes and  read 5 Tips to Avoid Alcohol During the Holidays.

6 Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays

Help the hostess

An offer to greet, take coats or clean-up will not only be appreciated, it’s a good way to keep your mind away from the petit fours and egg nog.

Move away from the food table

Many of us take up station right next to the food table. This makes it easy to put all those culinary treats right into your mouth.  A more effective strategy is to stand somewhere else – try by the window decorations, the tree or menorah. It will give you something else to focus on.

Survey the offerings and select wisely

Don’t like cranberries? Think potatoes and stuffing are too much starch? Then don’t take them. Survey the buffet or table before eating. Take only small portions of those things you think are worth the calories.

Drink something besides alcohol

This is especially true if you are a recovering alcoholic, but good advice for everyone. When we drink too much, things happen we regret. Not to mention alcohol packs on the calories. Try a fruit spritzer, cranberry or orange juice, or diet soda with lemon or lime. No one will have any idea what’s in your glass and you will be able to enjoy the evening without an embarrassing incident. Coffee, tea, low calorie hot chocolate and warm apple cider work well too.

Pre-arrange for a buddy

Identify an ally going to the event who you can stand next to and talk with. Not only will this make the party more fun, you can help each other make wise choices with food and alcohol as well.

Keep moving

Yes, it gets dark early and with so much else to do, who has the time or inclination to go to the gym?  But even if you can’t fit in a full workout you can park away from the mall, use the steps or push a stroller. Physical exercise keeps your endorphins pumping too, which will also makes you less inclined to eat.