Nutrition

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Around the Holidays: H.A.L.T.

By: Matt Dengler

AM I HUNGRY?
Hunger is your body’s signal that you need nourishment to fuel yourself and ensure your body operates at its fullest potential. Real hunger does not come on suddenly. It is a gradual process and begins to increase as time goes on. When your body tells you that you are hungry, it’s time to eat and refuel with food that provides nourishment. However, be aware of the difference between hungry and other emotional reasons you might want to eat. If you are not hungry, then continue to walk through the steps of HALT, and identify the reason you want to turn to food.
Tip: Do the holidays cause food to be on your mind constantly? Grab a nutritious snack like almonds, Greek yogurt, or a cup of fruit or vegetables to hold you over until the holiday feast begins. Incorporate a glass of water with your snack to help you feel satisfied.

AM I ANGRY OR ANXIOUS?
The holidays bring to the surface a mix of emotions, but being aware of the feelings can promote care for your mental and physical health. Anger and anxiety are both associated with stress and can cause an increase in appetite. Start by slowing down, taking a deep breath, and working through why you are angry or anxious. Exercise is another healthy outlet to turn to instead of food to reduce your stress.
Tip: Does the holiday traffic have your blood boiling? Take time to reflect on the situation by journaling how the situation made you feel and how you can confront it. Go for a walk, scream into a pillow, paint, or turn on music and clean out that closet you have been eager to start.

AM I LONELY?
Loneliness is a common reason people turn to food for comfort, especially during the holiday season. Food, especially choices high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, send the “feel good” hormone serotonin to the brain. This is why it seems that food brings comfort, and mindlessly eating can become an unhealthy habit, especially during stressful times. Reaching out to your support system will help suppress the sense of loneliness, anxiety, and depressed feelings that the holidays may bring.
Tip: If the holidays are making you feel lonely, decorate your home, cook yourself a nutritious-packed meal, and curl up on the couch and watch funny Christmas movies. Call a friend, or find someone and give them a hug. Immerse yourself into laughter by watching funny dog videos or your favorite sitcom. Attend a local group meeting, visit family or friends, or take a walk around the neighborhood.

AM I TIRED?
The hustle and bustle of the holidays can take a toll on the mind, body, and spirit. Tiredness is also a sign of being overworked and overwhelmed, and the need for rest can easily be confused with the desire for food. When you feel exhausted, you crave carbohydrates to fill that void, which gives you a quick energy rush. However, this leaves you feeling empty in nutrients and in the same restless cycle. Inadequate sleep can also interfere with your hormones, ghrelin, and leptin, which can also lead to an increase in appetite. It is essential to your health emotionally, physically, and mental to establish a time each day to get food sleep and rest.
Tip: Is the holiday season wearing you down? Set your alarm clock, and take a power nap to satisfy the need to sleep, rest, and rejuvenate. Relax and enjoy a bubble bath, meditate, participate in music therapy to help you relax, or go for a walk instead of rummaging through your cabinets.

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