By Caroline M.L. Potter
'Tis the season to ruin your diet. December holds three special holidays -- Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, and with each comes a host of opportunities to expand your waistline and add a second chin to your profile. While it's tough to limit celebrations outside of the office without offending family and friends, you can minimize the temptations that lurk in and around your workplace.
Steer Clear of Store-Bought Treats
Your coworkers or supervisor may think they're being nice by bringing in yummy surprises from a local market, but most of these are pretty naughty in terms of your diet. "Cookies, donuts, candy and other tasty treats might feel good in the moment, --- especially when they are all around you -- but you will end up feeling worse later in the day," says career and workplace expert Deborah Brown-Volkman. She urges workers to just say no when it comes to these types of foods to safeguard against a dip in energy later in the day.
Just a Bite to Be Polite
Homemade foods are almost always healthier than their factory-made counterparts. If a coworker takes the time to make a special holiday dish to share specifically with you and the rest of your team, it may be best to take just a small bite to avoid hurt feelings -- but be sure to keep it at one bite. If you're on a strict diet and must abstain, share that with the well-meaning cook. Also, don't be afraid to ask what ingredients any dish contains. Many people suffer from nut, dairy and wheat allergies. Do not jeopardize your health in the name of goodwill.
Plan and Pack Your Meals
The holidays can put people in a partying mood all the time. Invitations to lunches and dinners become more frequent. If you know that you cannot control your eating during these casual outings, avoid them by bringing your breakfast, lunch and snacks with you to the office. Planning and preparing your own meals not only saves you money, but will also usually save you calories as well. If you have a client or office celebration you must attend, pack an extra healthy snack to eat beforehand to lessen the likelihood that you will overindulge. "Make better food choices, one meal at a time," says Brown-Volkman. "Small changes can have a big impact on how you feel."
Brown-Volkman also recommends making an extra effort to be active during December. "Getting active doesn't always mean having to go to the gym," she says. "You can take a walk at lunch. You can take the stairs or stretch at your desk. As long as you are moving, you'll feel better." She reminds office workers that moving around in any capacity can reduce stress. "Get up from your desk and walk around," she says. "Visit a coworker. Go outside and get some sun." Any physical activity is a better way to keep stress at bay than eating unhealthy holiday treats.
Create New Ways to Celebrate
Says Trish Balbert, a certified holistic health counselor based in Manhattan: "Every day is chock-full of reasons to rejoice in life and there are so many ways to honor these moments. Too often, food or drink is presented as the only option." She recommends creating your own ritual or way to have fun while celebrating an event. "Get your creative juices flowing and come up with your own ways to mark the wonderful moments of life," she says,