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For many people Thanksgiving is a welcome celebration. It is a time to be with loved ones, share a holiday meal and reflect on all you are grateful for. However, Thanksgiving can also mean high levels of stress and anxiety, in particular for bariatric patients who are working hard to maintain a weight loss or intend to continue losing weight throughout the holiday season. Most of us know when we are heading into situations where we have previously struggled. For some, the sight of all the Thanksgiving food, seeing relatives you haven't seen all year, or not being able to eat your usual meals can increase stress.

It takes some preparation, but with a little planning and support, Thanksgiving and the holiday season can be a wonderful time for you to renew your commitment to living a positive weight loss surgery lifestyle. And, for celebrating your courage to make some pretty big changes in your life! Follow these tips to ensure your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Get Enough Sleep.
No matter what you have to do at night, be disciplined about when you go to sleep. Set an alarm clock that will tell you to stop what you are doing and get ready for bed. There's an abundance of research that sleep deprived individuals are heavier than well-rested people. But we all know that being more tired will make it harder to resist certain foods and more reactive to stressful situations.

Get Enough Exercise.
One of the best stress busters ever is exercise. Lace up your shoes and go for a walk around the block or make time for your regular gym work outs. Even if you are rushed for time, you can commit to doing something active for 15 minutes. Also, the sleep-deprived burn fewer calories a day because they were less active than those who get enough exercise. An increase in calories paired with less activity will result in weight gain and poor health.

Mindless Triggers.
It is likely that you can identify some of your most common mindfulness triggers. Do you tend to pick mindlessly at food when it is sitting in front of you? Does eating next to an annoying relative lead to stress eating? Make a list of things that sabotage your mindful eating and develop plans for addressing each one. For example, if sitting in front of the hors d'oeuvres is a trigger, get up and socialize with others, or go in the kitchen to help. Sit next to your favorite relative.

Set Limits.
If there are relatives or certain foods which contribute to your stress level and emotional eating, set a limit on what you are willing and not willing to do. Make a clear plan of which subjects are off limits and topics you are open to discussing. Make the same decision with the foods you will choose to eat and which ones you will make a clear, conscious decision to avoid.

Rethink Thansgiving.
Seeing Thanksgiving as "different and special" seems to imply there is a different way we eat on holidays. Yes, it is a holiday; however mindful eating is a pro-active and conscious choice we make about the foods we will eat. Mindful eating shouldn't go away on a holiday just because it is a holiday. Maybe we need to change our perception of the holiday so we can change our expectations and the way we behave.

Focus On Gratitude.
Stay focused on what is good about the holiday and all the things you do have instead of what you dislike about the holiday. An attitude of gratitude will open your awareness to all your blessing and future possibilities. Consciously shift your focus to strengthen your gratitude. One of the greatest secrets in life is finding the good in every situation and wanting what we already have. Focus in gratitude is a powerful method for affecting your inner life for the better.

Visualize the Thanksgiving You Want.
Before yor guests arrive or you have reached your destination, spend some time "rehearsing and visualizing" the day in a positive way, managing stress and eating mindfully. You can close your eyes and really picture yourself clearly enjoying the day and making healthy food choices. Anchor your feelings and thoughts with cleansing breaths and visualize yourself breathing through your stress.

Don't Forget To Breathe.
This may sound simple but is very sound advice. You can't leave home without breathing so it is the one thing you always have readily to manage stress or to give you some space. Breathing affects the whole body. When you take a few seconds to breathe slowly and deeply even in stressful situations, you can produce a state of relaxation. Try the following: Hold your breath for the count of three. Exhale very slowly while counting to three. And repeat this sequence three times. Then check in with yourself and repeat the sequences if you need some more time to center.

Mary Ziller, Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist and LIfe Skill Coach



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