Health Coach Spotlight: Tips to Stay Healthy During the Holidays with Omada Coach Melinda Merry
Omada health coach Melinda Merry is a registered nurse and a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with extensive experience working with people living with type 2 diabetes. We recently sat down with Melinda for her tips on staying healthy through the holiday season.
Q: Tell us about your role as a health coach with Omada.
I’ve been a nurse for almost 14 years and have always been interested in diabetes care. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child and have been driven to educate and empower others living with diabetes to improve their health. For many years, I worked in the endocrinology unit of a hospital. I’ve also worked as a home health nurse, a substitute school nurse, and at an outpatient pediatric endocrinology clinic. I’ve been with Omada for nearly a year now where I provide personalized coaching to people living with type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Working with people with diabetes is an amazing opportunity. I enjoy being able to talk to people about their health concerns and share ways for them to lead healthier lives by making small, sustainable lifestyle changes. People with diabetes often have long lists of questions about their condition, but may not get the chance to discuss all of them with their physician due to doctors’ busy patient schedules. Omada’s deeply personalized approach to coaching allows me to spend quality time with participants. I’m able to listen to their concerns and address all of the questions they have, as well as offer tools to build long-term healthy patterns.
Q: Holiday parties can make it challenging for people to stick to their health goals. What are some tips for staying healthy during the holiday season?
Holiday parties can be stressful for many people. Whether they are work or family gatherings, these events can make people apprehensive about attending, which can push them to overeat. I encourage people to follow these tips to stay focused on their health goals during parties:
- Hydrate well in advance – Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty. We all know it’s important to drink several glasses of water each day to avoid dehydration, but many of us are unaware it’s important to hydrate in the days leading up to an event. I encourage participants to up their water intake several days before an event to ensure they are properly hydrated the day of.
- Exercise beforehand – Scheduling time for regular exercise helps to boost metabolism and reduce anxiety. Exercising before a social gathering can yield similar benefits reducing anxiety during the event.
- Socialize away from the food table – Hanging out by the party buffet can tempt us to overeat. Make a plan to talk to people across the room, around the corner, or in another area where the food table is not in your line of sight.
Emotional and mental stress can cause blood sugar levels to increase which can lead to overeating and, ultimately, weight gain. Fortunately, there are little things everyone can do to help alleviate stress and prevent weight gain.
- Keep moving – Regular exercise can help keep blood sugar levels in check. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon. There are easy ways to work more movement into your daily routine. Walk a few quick laps around the kitchen while dinner is cooking. Grab two soup cans and do bicep curls while you’re watching TV. Follow along with a 10-minute exercise video on your smartphone while waiting for the kids to get home from school. These are all little ways to keep moving that don’t require a lot of time.
- Make time for self-care – The holidays can be a very busy time. Family obligations, work deadlines, travel, and other seasonal responsibilities can pile additional tasks onto an already full schedule. Make a point to take five minutes for yourself every day. Clear your mindset. Reset. This can be as simple as doing deep breathing, listening to calming music, or watching a short meditation video. All of these activities can help you reset and refocus.
- Do things for others – Helping others is a great way to support those around you while also improving your own wellbeing. Studies have shown that doing good can have mood-boosting benefits for the brain and can help you reduce stress, lower blood sugar, and feel calmer. Find opportunities to volunteer in your community – whether you have a few minutes or a few hours to give-- you can impact positive changes for people in need and for yourself.
- Journal – I encourage participants to take a few minutes each day to write down their thoughts and motivations. This can be as easy as writing a few words about what you’re grateful for in a notebook on your bedside table, putting a motivational quote on a mirror with a dry-erase marker, or simply making a “to-do” list. No matter what you write, do it at the same time every day so journaling becomes a natural part of your daily routine.
Omada has great resources to help participants stay on track to achieve their health goals including apps, tailored lessons, worksheets, and even tips for getting through stressful conversations. A few of my favorite resources are a SMART goal-setting worksheet and a productivity planner.
A SMART goal-setting worksheet is a great tool for people looking to improve their health. It helps to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals. Completing the worksheet helps participants put their goals into writing; including why they chose this goal and how they are going to achieve it. Participants will proactively consider barriers to meeting this goal as well as listing ideas to overcome these barriers. We want goals to be challenging, but also realistic and achievable. For example, going to the gym five days a week during the holidays may not be possible when your kids are home from school, and you don’t have daycare. Instead, consider taking your kids on a hike, or walk at your local community center.
A productivity planner is another good resource. It can help prioritize and track important daily activities and goals. Big goals can feel overwhelming. Breaking them down into small steps, then scheduling time for those steps in your day or week can help you stay on track to achieve your goals.
Many people make resolutions to be healthier in the new year. What are some tips for making healthy changes sustainable?
I encourage people to not wait until January to make health resolutions. Healthy living is a year-round commitment. Make a list of your health goals now and set realistic expectations for how you’re going to achieve those goals during the holidays and beyond. Adding small changes into your daily routine – for example, engaging in 10 minutes of exercise or meditation – is the first step in creating a positive impact on your health long-term.