It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I truly love the Christmas season: the snow, the lights, the activities, time with family, the feeling that comes over you when you think of and give to others. Yes, the holiday season is also about the food eaten while having a merry ole time with friends and family. Temptations to overindulge are everywhere. I hope one of these tips will help you through the holidays while staying healthy and sane!
1. Eat to nourish. With balance and moderation, you can absolutely enjoy the holidays in a healthy way. I strongly recommend you NOT skip meals in order to ‘save’ calories and indulge later in the day. This strategy never ends well. Instead, start your morning with a nutritious, protein-powered, fiber packed breakfast such as eggs and oatmeal, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and chia seeds or eggs with sliced tomatoes and whole grain toast. Be mindful in your choices. Also, be aware of how the food you choose makes you feel and perform during the day. For example, are you bloated, are you tired and/or do you have a headache or do you have more energy, less fluid retention and better concentration/mental clarity throughout the day?
2. Wander in nature. Spending time outdoors lifts mood and boosts creativity. Fresh air and sunlight are essential in helping fight winter depression also known as seasonal affective disorder as well as improving your mood and self-esteem. Reconnect with your family and friends by taking a hike; skating, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or going for a long walk with them instead of meeting them for lunch. The key is to set the intention to make physical activity happen on a regular basis, even when life gets busy because conscious commitments change habits!
3. Rest and rejuvenate. Don’t let the excitement of the holidays overwhelm and exhaust you. Find a way to make rest a priority. Did you realize a lack of sleep may be associated with your sugar cravings? If the holidays cause you to stay up later than usual, make time for a 20 minute nap. Naps are not a replacement for a good night’s sleep, but they are effective in helping you feel rejuvenated as you prepare for the next task before you! One word of advice: limit your naps to 20-30 minutes. Longer than that may interfere with your night’s sleep.
4. Drink responsibly. If you choose to drink during this holiday, please do so in moderation and responsibly. Not only do you not want to hurt someone while driving under the influence, you want to avoid “holiday heart syndrome” which is a heartbeat that’s usually chaotic, irregular and faster than your normal heart beat. It’s more common among people who usually aren’t heavy drinkers but overindulge in alcohol during the holidays. “Excess alcohol in susceptible people can trigger abnormal heart rhythms any time of the year,” says Dr. Marc Gillinov, a heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, “but we just see it more around the holidays because people are drinking more. Men should limit their alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day, and women should drink no more than 1 drink a day. Again, it’s just moderation – whether it’s food or alcohol. Staggering drinks throughout the night and getting enough water can help too.
5. Be mindful when eating. Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware and in the moment instead of being preoccupied with what happened an hour ago or worried about what might happen tomorrow. Mindfulness can help you fully enjoy a meal and the experience of eating. When eating, put down your fork and don’t pick it back up until you have savored and swallowed what you already have in your mouth. Also, resign yourself from the Clean Plate Club (pack up what’s left as leftovers if you don’t want to waste food) while you are at it.
As Wynne Armand, MD says “Mindfulness offers many benefits throughout the year, but can be especially helpful during the holidays, even beyond healthy eating. Purposefully focusing your attention on the present can help you embrace companionship, connectivity, and overall contentment and help make the season more meaningful for you.”
6. Treat yourself. This season I encourage you to find non-food alternatives to reward yourself for the long hours you put in at home and work. A few of my favorite non-food reward recommendations: a massage (I LOVE a good massage), a pedicure, reading fiction or an inspirational book even if it is just for 10 minutes, buying a new outfit, calling an old friend to catch up, doing something crafty, or even rewarding myself with time to just rest and do nothing except maybe watch a favorite holiday movie or Christmas special. The key is not to use food as a reward for hard work or emotional escape.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the holidays, fall off your healthy habits and gain weight. If you are looking for a ittle extra help staying on track during the holidays, I have great news for you! Join me DECEMBER 5 (sorry for the short notice) in a private group where we provide each other motivation, accountability and fun. Click Email or shoot a message to julie@LifelongNutritionandFitness.com for details.