Eight steps to a healthier holiday season
This week is dedicated to getting the crap out of the cabinets and substituting it with nuts, fruits and easy-to-grab snacks. "It's about doing that cleanse of your environment and your home jumping into the holidays. When you look at behavior change theory, there are many things that are important. If the only thing in your cupboard is chips, then you'll most likely grab it. But if you have carrots, you might grab that," says Jennifer Christian-Herman, executive director of HealthWorks products & innovation at Kaiser Permanente.
This week, you can give your employees information to find the closest farmer's market and tools to reduce their intake of sodas. "We're asking people to look at the plate in sections and give more real estate to fruits and veggies. If you teach them how to do it right, they're more likely to stick to it. At the end of the day enjoy your holiday treats, but in moderation," says Winnie Wambugu, product manager at Kaiser Permanente.
This is especially true for big holiday meals. Instead of pigging out during one meal, advise employees to eat throughout the day, when it's especially easy because food will be lying around. "It's not always easy to find a healthy snack when you're in a meeting, so even if it's carrots in a bag, it's being conscious and planning ahead," Christian-Herman says.
In the winter, the last thing your employees will want to do is brave the cold, but bundling up for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference, and can be the key to maintaining weight. "We're aware that nutrition is just one half of the equation. Just get walking, that gets your heart pumping, improves circulation and metabolism. You don't have to do a marathon," says Wambugu.
Advise your employees to eat before they go to the holiday party and replace the eggnog with sparkling wine or seltzer. "There's access to a lot of delicious food and the social setting itself makes employees more likely to get caught up in the spirit of things. With finger food or a buffet you lose track of how many mini hot dogs you've eaten," Christian-Herman says. Instead of bringing yet another heavy dish to a party, bring a healthy salad or low-calorie dessert as a back-up.
During this week, share health holiday recipes on bulletin boards or through your company blog. Many recipes can substitute apple sauce for butter and sugar, and turn out just as tasty. "We're aware that during this time people want to cook and that's great, but homemade doesn't mean unhealthy," Wambugu says.
The holidays and post-holiday slump are a time when depression peaks and suicide rates go up. Help your employees combat this with tools to unwind, even while at work. "In general, people tend to eat more when they're stressed and are less likely to be proactive. When they're rested, there's more likelihood that they can control their environment and what they put in their bodies," Christian-Herman says.
During this week, have each employee evaluate his/her progress and what worked and what didn't. Set small goals for the year that over time, can really add up. "There's awareness that doing extreme diets can be affective in the short run but when you're not on a restrictive diet, you are likely to gain weight again." Small changes matter, so during this time, acknowledge that you've started the foundation to a workplace where calorie-laden holiday parties are no longer the norm. Once you have one employee who's made a change, others will likely follow.
Kaiser Permanente recently launched "Maintain Don't Gain" campaign to help employers' wellness efforts through the holidays, a time when most Americans gain about a pound during the winter season. That extra weight accumulates through the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life, according to the National Institute of Health. Part of the KP campaign includes an eight-week guide to help employees avoid winter weight creep. As we approach the peak of the holiday season and the winter months when weather keeps us indoors more frequently, consider sharing these tips with employees to encourage winter wellness.