How to survive the holidays: advice from U of T experts

While the holiday season can be an exciting time to reconnect with friends and family, it can also cause stress and make healthy eating difficult.

U of T Faculty of Medicine's Mel Borins, associate professor in the department of family and community medicine, and John Sievenpiper, an associate professor in the department of nutritional sciences, have some tips on how to enjoy the holiday season in a happy and healthy way.

Beat the Stress

1. Make time
The holidays can be hectic. Book something each day that is fun and preserve the time no matter what.
2. Look for the positive
Connect with positive people who are uplifting to be with. Phone them, Skype with them, or better yet, see them in person!
3. Ha, Ha, Ha!
Laugh for no reason. If you’re finding the holiday stress is overwhelming, just laugh. Physiologically your body will not know the difference.
4. Meditate
Take 20 minutes each day to sit quietly, get into a relaxed state and do a body scan and internal brain scan to find out where your head is at.
5. Exercise
Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays it can be easy to miss out on exercise. Go for a winter stroll. 

Keep Healthy Habits

1. Pace yourself
Tell yourself sweets are everywhere, and if you want more than a couple of cookies, or a brownie or a piece of pie, there’s always tomorrow.
2. Plan ahead
If you’re going to a holiday party, eat a healthy balanced meal before you arrive so that you don’t arrive hungry, and you can limit yourself to just one treat.
3. Cut the starch
Often people consume more refined starches like bread, potatoes and rice to fill themselves up. Put less of these on your plate, and take more vegetables – an easy way to achieve portion control.
4. Flip the script
Stop thinking about all the food you can’t eat and start thinking about the whole foods you can eat and enjoy.
5. Make trade-offs
Delicious treats are an important part of the holidays, and you should savour every bite. But make trade-offs. Would you rather invest your discretionary calories in a really nice dessert and skip the alcohol?

We hope these tips help you enjoy this holiday season while maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Dr. Borins is a family physician and associate professor in the department of family and community medicine and author of the book A Doctor’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why. Dr. Sievenpiper is an associate professor in the department of nutritional sciences, a staff physician and a scientist in Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital. Read more tips from Dr. Sievenpiper on healthy eating during the holidays.


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