Oh man, the holiday season is almost here! Are you ready? Ugly sweater parties, cookies, cocktails, office parties, dinners, shopping, family parties, baking, wine, and did I mention parties? Many of us have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. It's great getting together with friends and family to celebrate, but it can also be really stressful, physically exhausting and emotionally draining. For those of us that are trying to eat healthy, it can seem almost impossible to stay on track. I hear people say things like, "Well I'm giving up now, but I'll get back on track after Christmas", or "There's too much going on, I can't commit to eating well until after the New Year". It doesn't have to be like that - why let the holidays derail you and your health?
Going crazy with indulgences one month will only make it harder to change the next. Wouldn't you prefer to feel energized, looking and feeling great throughout the holidays, rather than falling into bad habits, fighting fatigue and gaining 5 pounds in cookie weight by the time New Year's Eve rolls around? Eating well and taking care of yourself will also keep your immune system strong, helping to avoid those winter colds and flu that often go around at this time of year. So give yourself the gift of health this holiday season (sorry, couldn't resist the cheesiness) and end 2017 feeling good!
How to Stay Healthy Throughout the Holidays
1. Get Sleep
OK, I know you want to stay up all night partying with your friends, but sleep is really a lifesaver. Without sufficient sleep, our hormones become imbalanced, leading to an increase in appetite, stress and even depression. The last things we need more of during the holidays, right? The next day we turn to caffeine and sugar to keep up our energy, which throws off our blood sugar regulation, and the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and stimulants often continues. Personally, exercise often goes out the window if I'm tired, I'm way less likely to make that morning yoga class if I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Commit to getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night, even if it means leaving a little bit earlier than others, or not scheduling anything early the next morning. And on the nights you can get more, sleep up to 8. If you feel like you need a nap, aim for either 20 minutes, or 90 minutes to avoid waking in the middle of a sleep cycle, which could leave you feeling even more groggy.
2. Bring Something Healthy
Of course, check with the host first, but most people are happy for you to contribute food to their event. That way, you know you have at least one healthy option. I usually bring a big seasonal salad, maybe with roasted veggies or quinoa to make it more filling. Or maybe its a gluten free or low-sugar banana bread for a healthier desert option. If it's not an event you're able to bring food to, don't despair. Just eat a small amount of healthy food before you go. Having a small bowl of veggie soup, a salad, or a hard-boiled egg beforehand means you're way less likely to over eat the unhealthy party food options.
3. Boost the Nutrients
Let's be honest, you're not eating party food and drinking cocktails for every meal this month. So for all those meals you do have control over, choose extra healthy options! Load up on veggies of all colors, healthy fats like avocado and raw nuts and seeds, and clean protein. Avoid packaged and processed food. Maybe even take a probiotic or multi-vitamin. Do not let Sunday's cookie exchange extravaganza be an excuse to eat crap all day Monday. Get back into your healthy eating groove right away, and take advantage of all the times you do have healthy options. Cooking meals at home is the best way to ensure you're getting the healthiest ingredients. If you're looking for convenient ideas, check out this information on meal prepping.
4. Stay Hydrated (watch the alcohol)
Most of you are probably saying, "Ha, yeah right". I know it's the holidays, and booze is everywhere. Aside from the dangers of excess alcohol consumption, drinking negatively affects our sleep and appetite, so the effects last longer than just that one party. Imagine how you'd feel this month without any hangovers? Amazing, right? So my suggestion is simply to drink less alcohol and drink more water. After every glass of alcohol (wine, beer, spirits, whatever), have a glass of water. This will keep you hydrated, reduce hangovers, and ultimately reduce your total alcohol consumption. Instead of spending the day post-party on the couch eating potato chips, you'll have the energy to stick to your exercise routine, be productive and make healthy food choices.
5. Don't Deprive Yourself
Let's be real, you're going to have some less than healthy food this season. And that's OK! Just don't overdo it. Be selective about what you choose, indulging in the things you really want, not just the things that happen to be in front of you. Cut yourself a small piece of pie. Try the best looking cookie, not all of them. Remember you don't have to eat everything on your plate. You'll feel a lot happier if you allow yourself to have just a little bit of the "bad" stuff instead of completely missing out.
6. Exercise & Practice Self Care
Exercise reduces stress, increases our good mood hormones, and helps us avoid gaining extra holiday weight. As your calendar fills up with parties and events this season, be sure to schedule in time to exercise as well. Maybe take that friend who's in town visiting to a workout class with you instead of going to the bar? Or suggest a walk or hike with your family, instead of another dinner? As things get busy, commit to making time for this, otherwise it probably won't happen. This really holds true of all types of self care - make sure you're saving a little time for yourself, to do whatever it is that recharges your batteries. It's totally normal for the holidays to bring up feelings of loneliness or depression, so practices like journaling or meditation can be really helpful. If you're feeling depleted or overwhelmed give yourself permission to decline an invitation and spend a quiet evening drinking tea and taking a bath.
I hope you find this list helpful and realistic, so you can set attainable goals this holiday season. Try these suggestions out and let me know how it goes! If you've got a specific challenge coming up, or a question about your health, shoot me a message, I'd love to help!
Happy (and healthy) Holidays!