For many of us, the holidays are a joyous time to celebrate with friends, family and loved ones. For some, it can also come along with a lot of additional stress. Not only is this season more hectic, colder, less daylight, more to-do's, but the additional stress and holiday festivities can also wreak havoc on our health! You _can_ find a balance this season, enjoy holiday parties and gatherings, _and_ check all of the to-do's off your list while still _feeling your best_. Here are some helpful tips and ideas to help you focus on progress (not perfection!) and enjoy the holidays without the additional unnecessary guilt!
You might think you should "save up" all your calories for the "Big Bash", but in reality, it's more likely that you'll overdo it if you head out to a holiday gathering completely famished. Eating a small meal or satisfying snack before you go can actually help you stay more in control of your food choices so you can enjoy without the over-indulge.
Speaking of staying in control - if you choose to drink at holiday events, do so in moderation. Alternate each alcoholic beverage with water, be sure to eat before you drink alcohol, and even consider adding some seltzer to your wine. When it comes to mixed drinks - be mindful of sugary mixers and heavy handed pours! More than anything else, drink safely and responsibly.
Mindless eating is extremely common during the holiday season. Food is constantly being served and offered. Being mindful while you eat, truly savoring the dishes that you really do enjoy make a more memorable eating experience - this can lead to greater satisfaction and less likely occurrence of over eating. Once the food is presented, take a moment to consider what you are truly looking forward to having. If you don't LOVE something - don't eat it! And if you love it - focus on it as you enjoy it. How it looks, smells, tastes and feels. Eat and savor until you've reached an appropriate level of satisfaction. The WAY you eat, and the degree to which you truly savor what you are eating can make a big difference in the AMOUNT you eat.
It's very easy to rationalize eating every holiday treat you encounter when you think "Wow, this only comes once a year, better enjoy it now." Or "Better get as much as I can now - diet starts in January! Won't be eating any of these things anymore!" But stop and take a minute to consider the validity of this type of "all or nothing" thinking - does December really have a monopoly on gingerbread? NOPE! In reality, you could have anything, at any time you want! So don't let the thought that "these foods aren't going to be available soon" play tricks on your psyche and make you gobble up every peppermint gingerbread cinnamon cookie butter popcorn you come across! You will have access to any and all of these foods again.
Enjoy the time you get to spend with the ones you love. Bring it back to basics. Focus on quality time, fun conversations, playing silly games, or making new traditions with your loved ones. Let the laughter and love be the real star of the season that you savor.
As you enjoy the things that you decided you truly want to savor, take time to check in with your body. Midway through enjoying your favorite foods, pause. Take a moment to assess your level of satiety. Are you still hungry? Are you approaching a comfortable level of fullness? Are you satisfied? Are you going to feel physically unwell if you continue eating? Listen to that and honor it! Eating past the level of comfortable satiety rarely feels good. If it happens, learn from that and move forward. Try to eat slowly and more mindfully next time so you can feel your best.
Make fruits and vegetables part of your holiday plate. The best way to know there will be options available that will be more in line with your health goals this season, offer to bring a dish to the celebration and choose a vegetable based side dish like roasted brussel sprouts, a harvest salad, or a festive quinoa, squash and dried cranberry side! This way you can not only be confident there will be a healthful option to fill your plate, you might also inspire your loved ones to reach for a more healthful option as well!
There is never a better time to remind yourself to drink your water! The chaos of the season plus the ever-present allure of sugar filled holiday-inspired coffee drinks and cocktails are the perfect combination to let your water goals fall by the wayside. But staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of self-care that you can rely on to keep your energy levels where you need them to be to tackle the tasks on your to-do list.
It might seem like a dream - but getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours for most adults EVERY night) is one aspect of overall health and well-being that is so often pushed aside and deprioritized as the holiday pressure ramps up. Lack of sleep can very easily lead to hormonal imbalances which can increase your hunger levels, send you scrambling for sugar to replenish your low energy levels, and generally lead to feelings of burnout during the time of year that is really meant for kicking back and finding joy in everything and everyone you are fortunate enough to have in your life. So prioritize rest, relaxation, and stress reduction techniques like meditation and gratitude so you can find balance, pleasure, and happiness in the magic of the season!
The benefits of exercise are well documented and there is no better time to revisit these benefits than during the time of year when it can be so much harder to exercise due to the business of the season, more celebrations and gatherings and less daylight, and adequate weather to spend time being active outdoors. So, as a reminder of why you should continue to make time for even short 10-15 minute bursts of movement throughout the day, here are the most beneficial effects of exercise for this time of year: Improved stress management, improved memory/cognition, reduced short-term feelings of anxiety, reduced risk of depression, and it can help improve your sleep. So find an accountability partner that you can work out with or make it a friendly competition to keep you motivated. Find workouts for free online that you can access at a moment's notice when you are short on time and don't feel like bundling up to head over to the gym. There are so many ways to keep moving no matter what your schedule looks like this winter. You got this!
Enjoy yourself and keep yourself and your health the main priority as you have a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season!