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How to avoid looking like Santa this holiday season

holiday cookiesWith a steady stream of last-minute shopping, social gatherings, party planning, decorating and keeping that Santa Clause secret under wraps, the holidays have a way of adding to our daily agendas. Dr. Tom Lenz, professor and director of the Creighton University’s Center for Health Promotion and Well-Being said Americans often make the mistake of subtracting the healthy routines from their to-do lists to get through the rush.

When people emerge from the blur, they might more closely resemble Santa. Studies show that the average American gains at least one pound during the holidays, and people who enter the holidays already overweight tend to gain even more (up to five pounds in one study). According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, four in 10 Americans are already obese entering the holiday season, so Dr. Lenz offers these tips for people to improve their well-being during this busy time of year:

Don’t compromise your sleep ‒ Being successful starts with sleep. There’s lots to keep up with this time of year, but getting enough sleep to feel refreshed in the morning is important to maintain the motivation to exercise or choose the right food. When you’re low on sleep, you secrete stress hormones that cause you to crave foods high in sugar and salt.

Stay hydrated with water ‒ People tend to eat when they’re actually thirsty. Drinking water, particularly before you attend an event with an abundance of food, helps curb overeating.

Turn your back on the buffet ‒ Position yourself so you’re not looking at the food and watching people pile on their plates to prevent the feeling of “missing out” that can lead to extra trips through the line and unwanted calories.

Plan your plate ‒ Look at all of the options in the buffet line instead of just grabbing a plate and filling it as you make your way through the end of the line.

Indulge in the people, not the food ‒ A mindset adjustment that can help with overconsumption is to remind yourself that you’re there to engage with the people, not just the food.

Incorporate mindful eating ‒ Be aware of moments when you are eating when you aren’t necessarily hungry. Ask yourself if you’re eating because you’re stressed, tired or thirsty.

Daily activity ‒ It doesn’t have to be rigorous. Getting a brisk walk in every day, or setting aside a small portion of time to be active can help keep cravings away. The results are even better when you seek outdoor activity.

Dr. Lenz added that monitoring the number on the scale tends to get the most attention when it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, but having a broader focus is the key raising your sense of well-being. For more information about the Center for Health Promotion and Well-Being, please visit


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