Is it just me? Did the holiday’s used to start just a few weeks before Christmas and end right after the New Year? Lately if feels like as soon as the Halloween candy is off the store shelves, the Christmas countdown is on! I love the holiday season, the sights and smells and “doing for others”, but when you add up the indulgent meals, cocktails, parties, the stress of traveling, scheduling as well as the pressures of finding and paying for the perfect gift, it is hard to stay healthy (or sane) during this wonderful season…
So lets talk. What can we do about it?
Support your immune system.
When our immune systems are challenged, we’re less likely to maintain overall health. Consequently, most of the things we splurge on during the holidays – alcohol, candy, pastries, processed foods, snacking, running around and staying out late – tax our bodies and hinder proper immune system functions.
The immune system is not like an organ that does a certain job. It is a complex series of pieces and parts that have to work together to in order to form your body’s total defense system. Part of it is the glands in our neck/throat, armpits and all the other “pits” we have. Part is the lymphatic system that removes toxic wastes (think back to the pits and how they squeeze to move fluids) It works with the veins that deliver oxygen in the blood throughout the body. Another part is in the small intestine, and yet another is in our bones. The thing you need to remember is that we need all of it to be properly nourished and cared for in order for the immune system to do what it is supposed to, support you in times of stress and prevent illness.
Common Immune Suppressors
- Increase in quantity and decrease in quality food
- Not enough sleep
- Not enough water
- Not enough of sunlight
- Not enough exercise
Health-wise, the best defense is a good offense. Be prepared!
Here are a few ways to offset planned holiday indulgences
1. GET YOUR SLEEP ON
The late nights are one of the hardest things to deal with during the holiday season because we’re trying to accommodate events that are outside of our normal routine.
- Make sure to include foods with healthy fats, such as organic nuts/seeds along with their oils, organic ghee or coconut oil, and responsibly sourced cold-water fish. Bonus: pumpkin seeds are full of magnesium which helps you sleep better.
- Start mega dosing on your vitamin C. You can take anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 mcg. Remember to take it in divided doses through the day – vitamin C, and A, D, and K are water soluble, you’ll pee whatever you don’t absorb.
- Ensure each of your 3 meals include a healthy fat (see above), a clean protein, and fiber (fruit and veggies).
2. WATCH THE SUGAR
- Be picky and don’t overdo it! Be selective about the sweet treats you indulge in and choose wisely. Choosing meaning ONE. You have my permission that if it doesn’t taste as good as it looks, leave it or toss it. I don’t care if it is any of the big 3 C’s: Cake, Cookies or Cocktails!
- Make something from scratch and use healthier sweeteners like honey (which has anti-bacterial properties as a bonus)
- Cocktails are always optional. There has been quite a lot of discussion online the last few weeks about holiday events and alcohol. But honestly, you are the one that chooses. No one cares if you are drinking soda water or champagne. If someone does, re-evaluate the relationship. IF you choose to drink, avoid the fancy fruity cocktails and stick with a simple red or white wine. Alternating with big glasses of water helps to keep hydrated and keeps something in your hands.
- Speaking of water: Drink a lot of it to stay hydrated. Sugar is actually dehydrating and can lead to more cravings. Make it pretty! I love adding fresh herbs and berries to ice cubes. Rosemary and cranberries look gorgeous!
3. SHAKE, MOVE, DANCE
With the late nights and extra treats, energy levels drop. This can make you want to skip your regular yoga class or hike in the mountains. Don’t do it! Seriously, don’t. Keep up with your normal
physical activities. Invite a friend to take that class or join you in a snow shoe trek, or dance in your kitchen like no one is watching! (Yes, I do that?) Now, even if you do stay up too late, and eat too much, your body will stay strong and it will be easier to get back into your regular (or new) healthy routine once the holidays are over.
4. MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Stress just might have the greatest impact on your health out of everything.
Stress reducing tips:
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Stay in control of your sugar intake
- Learn to say no to any event that just doesn’t excite you!
- Take a yoga class regularly
- Don’t over commit yourself. You don’t have to attend every event you are invited too.
- Sit quietly and just breathe for 10 minutes (aka meditation)
5. KEEP UP YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE.
Don’t through your hands up and make the mistake of ending the year with a crazy, extravagant, do-what-you-please, no matter how bad it will make your feel mantra. Stay on course. Eat 3 balanced meals a day. Plan and prepare your own food as much as you can.
Keep a normal schedule as often as possible. Wake up, go to bed, eat, work and move like you normally do. Do your best, then let it go.
6. COOK -YES YOU!
You all know I love to cook. I think it is fun and extremely satisfying and even a little therapeutic. I love trying new recipes. When I cook I focus on plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, gluten-free whole grains, good quality fats along with small portions of clean animal proteins.
The holidays are a great time for you to spend time in the kitchen having fun with the whole family and maybe even teaching the kiddos some new skills that they can use though the year. Kids love eating what they help prepare. There are great, healthy recipes available on the web that you can use to replace some less than nutritious holiday favorites.
7. CONSCIOUS EATING
How we eat is as important as what we eat. when we eat due to stress or boredom, in the car, on the couch, at the desk, or simply not paying attention to what we are putting in our mouth, we’re more likely to overeat and feel awful. Think about that bag of potato chips that all of a sudden is mysteriously empty….
Conscious eating just takes practice. Slow down and pay attention to eat bite. Smell it, taste it, savor it. Likely you will feel more satisfaction and eat much less when you are aware that you are eating. The last bite is never as satisfying as the first few.
Take time with your meals and enjoy the food and the company at the table. Maybe use the holidays as an opportunity to invite your friends over for a homemade treat. The more awareness we bring to the what, where, when and why we are eating, the easier it is to develop life long healthy eating habits.
How to navigate a holiday party:
- Again, drinking is ALWAYS optional! Cranberry/soda is easy and delicious. Add a sprig of Rosemary to make it festive. BYOB can be BYO…… Bring what YOU want to drink and bring enough to share with like-minded guests.
- Often your beverage is more popular than you would expect!
- You’ve heard it before, I know. But eating a small, healthy snack before the party will help you navigate the party food and choose wisely.
- Get just one small plate and fill it with a few consciously selected appetizers so you don’t end up grazing for hours on end.
- Bring a dish you make at home to share.
- Feel confident in asking what something is, or what it is made of. If it isn’t up to your healthier standards, pass it up or ‘deconstruct’ it before you eat it. Think removing frosting, or getting the sauce on the side or not at all.
- Choose the lighter desserts – fruit or a cookie or small piece of one you want to try. Remember you don’t have to eat it all. A little bite will do ya.
- Share dessert with a friend, or split an entree.
- Drink WATER, alone or between alcoholic beverages.
- Remember that every choice will have a result. Will your choice move you toward or away from your desired result?
- Cleanliness is so important in staying healthy! Germs spread! Keep your hands washed and away from your face.
- Rest before the party. When you are tired, you are at risk for getting off the healthy train track.
My easy go-to for healthy recipes is Clean Eating Magazine- online too!
What is your favorite holiday treat? Want help in cleaning it up? Drop me a line!
NC, CNE, ERYT