Stress. Anxiety. Overindulging. Depression. Lack of sleep. The latest virus. Weight gain. These are just a few of the exciting things often waiting for us as we catapult into the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. But with a few practical changes, you can minimize the holiday health madness and maybe even come out feeling healthier on the other side!
1. Pick one health commitment and stick to it above all else.
We might not be able to spend the time to meet all the health goals we had for this year, but we can identify one that we think would serve us most during the holidays. You might prioritize 8 hours of sleep or yoga class 4 times per week or avoiding alcohol save for a few special occasions. In order to stay committed to that goal, keep a note of why that commitment is important to you. You might commit to drinking enough water everyday because it helps you avoid headaches, have more energy and be a good role model for your kids. Or you might commit to eating a high-protein breakfast every day because you know it helps prevent cravings and manage your blood sugar leading to less anxiety about your to-do list.
2. Exhale stress.
You can do this breathing exercise anywhere and everywhere – in the bathroom at your in-laws, the line at Target or even in your car waiting for kiddo pickup. Ground your feet into the floor, becoming aware of your connection to the earth. Now close your eyes and breathe in slowly, inhaling “peace” or “love” or “patience” as you fill your chest and belly with breath. Slowly exhale as you envision letting go of stress. Even three deep breaths like this can engage your parasympathetic system and lower your stress hormones immediately. The benefits will be even greater if you can make this practice longer or a regular part of your day. For more great breathing techniques and the science behind breathing and stress reduction, check out the Chopra Center.
3. Indulge mindfully.
No holiday event ever ends well without a smart plan. For starters, it is often a good idea to eat something healthy – preferably with protein - before you go to a holiday party. Picture yourself at the event and decide where you will indulge and how you will navigate the scene. For example, decide beforehand that you adore Aunt Mary’s chocolate cookies so plan to enjoy a few of those but maybe you skip the Frappuccino and will stick to one plate of roasted veggies, cooked shrimp and chicken skewers and then move into the game room. You can always offer to bring a healthy dish that you know you can enjoy especially if you have food sensitivities. Plan for temptations, e.g. when you want to visit the dessert table again, you will instead grab a cup of herbal tea.
When an unexpected treat enters the picture, try to think first… “what am I really hungry for?” If indeed it is actually that jelly roll, then indulge mindfully, savor every bite and don’t feel guilty! See how you feel after the first bite and maybe you don’t actually desire the whole thing. And just maybe, what you actually find you need is a walk or a nap or a hug or a glass of water. Tune in and listen to what your body is really telling you. Usually it’s not “feed me eggnog”.
4. Enjoy foods high in stress-friendly nutrients.
Stress along with processed foods, sugar and refined oils can deplete essential nutrients and our body’s ability to absorb nutrients so we need a steady-supply of stress-friendly foods and beverages during the holidays. In addition to ensuring you are enjoying balanced meals and snacks with a good amount of clean proteins and healthy fats, it is important that you add in foods that are high in magnesium, Vitamin C and B vitamins. Leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach are high in both magnesium and Vitamin C so aim for 2-3 servings a day. Also, beans, seeds and legumes are also good sources of magnesium and complex B vitamins so indulge in these at least 1-3 servings a day as well.
5. Get Support.
Instead of battling it out on your own, consider taking this time to work with me (or someone like me) to get started on your health goals or challenges. My own health challenges became overwhelming during the holidays several years ago and I know what it is to feel awful when you are expected to make everyone else’s holidays bright! You can get a jump on reclaiming your health in the new year by starting to address your issues now.
I’m currently offering a Holiday “New Year, New You” Sale for you (or a friend or loved one) to receive a one-hour nutrition and lifestyle assessment with “start now” nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. Or if you’re not sure what nutrition counseling can do for you or are curious about what it might look like to work together, we can schedule a complimentary 30-minute discovery session.
Here's to thriving this holiday season!