12 Ways To Enjoy Healthy HolidaysDec 20, 2022
Twelve Ways to Enjoy Healthy Holidays
The holidays are full of opportunities for great food, company, and celebration. Unfortunately, they aren't always compatible with a healthy lifestyle and the holiday season is known to be a time of increased stress. When the days are dark and festivities are filling your calendar, it's easy to get a little lax on the healthy habits you've worked hard to build throughout the year.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to enjoy the holidays without sabotaging your health.
1. Sober holidays are in
While occasionally imbibing is actually associated with improved health and longevity, moderate to high intake causes damage and stress on the body (1). Avoiding or reducing alcohol reduces negative impacts on sleep and detox. Studies that do show mild associated benefit show that this benefit ends if the number of drinks consumed exceeds 4 per week (for females, especially). Try a stress-relieving mocktail or an alcohol free spirit. Another option is Surely which is an alcohol free wine that I personally enjoy ;) Alcohol also contributes to those dreaded under-eye bags, so reducing or avoiding intake will keep you looking young and bright.
2. Get your beauty sleep
Put on your PJs and start up your daily wind down routine. Sleep is one of the best (and most affordable) ways to keep your health up. While you're sleeping your body is detoxifying your brain and your immune system becomes active in repairing tissues and organs. Schedule at least 8 hours for sleep and get your brain ready for rest by starting a wind down routine at least one hour before bed. During your wind down routine, avoid doomscrolling, working, and alcohol to make sure your nervous system is ready to power down and shift to repair mode.
3. Fill your plate with whole foods
Isn't everyone's favorite part of the holidays the delicious food? You can make healthy choices around food without being rigid. Focus simply on filling your plate with whole foods first. Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed, natural foods, think turkey, fresh lettuce salad, and sweet potatoes (I know my family at least likes to put marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and those are not part of the whole foods). You don't have to put out the stiff arm on the processed foods like stuffing, green bean casserole or rolls; but do try to eat whole food portions first and then eat the more processed foods or sugar laden desserts.
4. Slow down
While you're eating, bring in mindfulness and slow down. Eating too quickly and not chewing food thoroughly contributes to metabolic endotoxemia (hello nap time after you eat), bloating, and discomfort. Try pausing for 1 minute before you eat and simply notice the food, the smell, the anticipation of the flavor, and the company that surrounds you. As you eat, take each bite mindfully, chewing it thoroughly before swallowing it. This helps you avoid overeating and feeling more stuffed than the turkey.
5. Re-invent a favorite dish
Try getting creative and re-inventing your favorite dish with a healthy twist. You can try adding a little less bacon or butter in a green bean casserole, substitute yogurt for mayo in dishes like deviled eggs, or swap marshmallows for pecans on sweet potatoes or yams. You don't have to give up your favorites to find health.
6. Eat in order
Simply eating your meal in a certain order can help balance your blood sugar and reduce extra stress on your body. Try starting out with vegetables like a leafy green lettuce salad, then focusing on protein like turkey, then add in fats like avocado before moving on to carbs like potatoes (including sweet potatoes), rice, or dinner rolls. Finish with sweets last and honor your body with smaller portions (because by this time you should be full if you've used the tips #3 and 4 above).
7. Walk it off
Try taking a post meal walk after the big meal. Muscles use glucose (blood sugar) without insulin when they are being worked. Going for a walk after a meal helps maintain blood sugar balance while improving digestion and blood flow, ensuring those fresh nutrients you've taken in get sent out to the rest of the body.
8. Prioritize self-care
Especially if you're traveling for the holidays or welcoming others into your home, it can be easy to skip over the usual activities that you do to take care of yourself. Taking proper care of yourself first is what enables you to show up as your best self for others.
9. Keep your exercise routine
Exercise and fitness often take a back seat during the busy holiday season. Try to stick to the basics of your routine. Your workouts may be shorter and less inspiring than usual, but they can still be beneficial. Just showing up for yourself can be the hardest part sometimes. Doing anything is better than NOT doing perfectly.
10. Surround yourself with others who are prioritizing their health
They say illness spreads socially. While we recognize things like the flu and COVID spread by contact with others, chronic diseases like heart disease and obesity are also spread socially. This isn't because you catch any germs, but because you are likely to practice the same habits. We become the company we keep. So if maintaining your health during the holidays is a priority for you, keep others in your circle how maintain the same goals. Even if your family and friends are on a different page than you, you may consider finding others via social media, groups, or podcasts who can keep inspiring you and lifting you up.
11. Align your health goals with your passions
Sometimes we pick goals like "be healthier" because we know it's good for is and it feels like something we should do. But did you know that you are twice as likely to succeed at a goal if you is something you enjoy? It's true. Tap into your intrinsic motivation by setting health goals that feel inspring and engaging. Ask yourself questions like: "Does this goal engage my heart? Does it inspire me? Am I willing to work hard to achieve it?"
12. Remember your why
I may not know you personally, but I suspect that you desire to be healthier for a reason. Think about what motivates you and inspires you to want to improve your health? Is it that you want to be able to play more and keep up with your kids and grandkids? Is it that you want to feel confident and in love with your body? Those little gold nuggets will keep you going when the going is tough and temptations to give up on your goals are high. Temptations may abound during the holidays, but your motivations are worth the slight discomfort and delayed gratification to get there.
May you have everything you need to heal,
1. Chiva-Blanch G, Badimon L. Benefits and Risks of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Disease: Current Findings and Controversies. Nutrients. 2019 Dec 30;12(1):108. doi: 10.3390/nu12010108. PMID: 31906033; PMCID: PMC7020057.
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