Holiday Wellness: Mindful Eating, PT Strategies, and Healthy Habits
By Dr. Sean M. Wells, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, CNPT, Cert-DN
The Holidays are here and dietary patterns change! Our physical therapy clients often come into our clinics and gyms complaining of new aches and pains, and with the perpetual battle of progressive weight gain. We discuss, in our continuing education courses for (physical therapists) PTs, the various dietary patterns that can promote inflammation and weight gain. But, what is it about the holidays that make them a particularly difficult time to eat health? Let's look at some information:
1. Overeating and Weight Gain:
Many studies suggest that people tend to consume more calories during the holiday season, which can contribute to weight gain.
Factors such as social gatherings, festive meals, and an abundance of high-calorie foods may contribute to overeating. Overeating is difficult to see when foods are ultra-processed: they are calorie rich but nutrient poor, which means our clients can over consume without knowing. PTs ought to educate their clients on the notion of whole, processed, and ultra processed foods.
2. Nutritional Choices:
Holiday meals often include a variety of foods that are high in sugars, fats, and calories.
Research indicates that individuals may consume more processed and energy-dense foods during the holidays, which can impact overall diet quality. Often the foods are ultra-processed and very heavy in animal products, some which are also excessively processed. PT should educate their clients that focusing on whole foods and mostly plants will help prevent the high calorie intake and weight gain.
3. Physical Activity:
Reduced physical activity during the holiday season, coupled with increased calorie intake, can contribute to weight gain.
Encouraging regular physical activity during this time is often recommended to help offset the effects of overeating. Obviously as physical therapists this can be easy to promote, but sometimes we have to be creative with our approaches. Finding inside exercises away from the cold, varying the training scheduled (e.g. Mondays walk, Tuesdays lift, Wednesdays bike), and leveraging technology (e.g. Fit bits, Aura rings, Apple Watches) are all great approaches to increase physical activity.
4. Psychological Impact:
Some studies suggest that individuals may experience psychological stress and guilt related to overindulgence during the holidays.
Social pressure, family expectations, and the desire to participate in festive traditions may influence eating behaviors. It's important that Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) empathize with their patients and also be on the lookout for emotional or disordered eating that necessitates referral to a licensed mental health counselor.
5. Health Consequences:
Chronic overeating, especially during the holiday season, can have long-term health consequences, such as obesity, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular issues. DPTs ought to do a thorough review of systems and medications with their clients: refer and discuss with their primary physician when appropriate.
6. Strategies for Healthy Eating:
Research supports the importance of adopting strategies for maintaining healthy eating habits during the holidays. This may include portion control, mindful eating, and making nutritious choices when possible.
7. Family and Social Influence:
Family and social environments play a significant role in shaping eating behaviors during the holidays. Shared meals and cultural traditions can influence what and how much people eat. Encourage patients to surround themselves with those that share similar health and diet approaches.
8. Moderation and Balance:
Studies emphasize the importance of moderation and balance in holiday eating. Enjoying festive foods in moderation and incorporating healthier options can contribute to maintaining overall well-being.
It's essential to note that individual experiences and habits can vary, and not everyone may follow the same patterns. While the holiday season often involves indulging in special treats and meals, maintaining a balanced and mindful approach to eating can help mitigate potential negative effects on health. Additionally, ongoing research continues to explore the complex interplay between social, psychological, and physiological factors influencing eating behaviors during the holidays. We explore these themes and more in our nutrition continuing education courses for physical therapists.
If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!