How to Keep Yourself Healthy during the Holiday Season
You might be reading this after a long Thanksgiving weekend of eating pie, rolls, casserole, and other things that might not be contributing to the health of your body or your waistline! At the same time, you might think that enjoying Holiday treats once is a while is a good thing that helps you feel like you are not depriving yourself of all the foods you love. I talk to many people who battle these two thoughts: 1) I want to be healthy and I know I need to eat a clean diet and 2) I don't want to miss out on EVERYTHING. So, how do we balance all of this? I'm glad you asked. I have a few thoughts I wanted to share to help keep you sane...
The first is that a treat every once in a while is usually OK for most of us. If you are battling some very tough health challenge like cancer, auto immune disease or another debilitating chronic illness, you might want to rethink this and keep it clean all the time. However, for most of us, a one meal treat on occasion is typically fine. That's the key, however, keep it small and infrequent. Unfortuntely, the tendency is to start eating at Thanksgiving and let it turn into an all you can eat sugar buffet until Jan. 1st. That's not the same thing. I am talking about enjoying a small amount of your favorites on Thanksgiving day and then being back on track. For example, if you are typically gluten free and have a homemade roll on Thanksgiving, that may make you feel bloating and crummy, but as long as you don't eat the whole plate and continue all weekend, you can recover!
Here are a few strategies I have been using for myself and with patients for years to help navigate this festive time of year. I wanted to share them with you so that you can use them to help you stay on track!
Pick a few (up to 3) scenarios where you will be at a party, dinner, or something else where you would like to enjoy foods (and maybe a glass of wine or beer) that you don't normally consume. Give yourself permission to let go a little at those events (don't go crazy, but maybe have a dessert and a glass of wine for example). If you choose more than 3 events in a 6 week period, it feels to me like it crosses a line from "occasional". That's just my rule and I've been sharing it with others. It seems to provide a good balance to keep you from feeling deprived while still maintaing your health goals.
Continue to make time for self care activities. These are things like exercise, breathing exercises, cold showers (if you are really tight on time, just jump right in to the cold water - this will speed up your shower :). This may mean learning to say no to some things that will keep you up late and tempt you to skip an early morning workout. Even if it's just a quick morning workout, keep the consistentcy going. It's much easier to keep it going than to stop during the Holidays and try to ramp back up again after the New Year. Maybe even make a goal to run a 5k in early Jan. so you have to train through the holiday season.
Keep your vitamin D levels up. I test this on a lot of people and almost everyone who isn't supplementing and even most who are are not in the functional range of 50-80. It's hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun in the winter in most places, but when it's sunny, get outside for fresh air and sunshine. Two things that help your health tremendously. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm and sunny in the winter, get out in the sun for 20-30 min. per day in the middle of the day. If not, make sure to appropriately supplement to keep your levels in the functional range.
Keep sugar at bay! It does not seem like much of a coincidence to me that "Cold and Flu" season happen when it's cold and dark (less exposure to vitamin D) and when we bounce from Halloween candy to Thanksgiving gluttony to Christmas cookies, cakes, etc. Decreasing your sugar intake is one of the most important things you can do not only during the Holidays, but all year to stay healthy. It simply takes a bit more focus and determination during this time of year. It can be done, however. Make some peppermint hot tea to feel festive. Roast some nuts yourself with a touch of stevia, pumpkin pie spice and sea salt to get that taste of dessert without all the carbs and sugar. Bring healthier options so you won't be tempted when you go places.
Those are just a few of my favorite strategies to keep yourself healthy and sane during the Holidays. I hope you got a few good ideas you can use to Thrive during this crazy and festive time of the year!
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To your Health,