Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Years - the Holidays are here in full force! The Holiday season in general can bring about a lot of stress and emotions surrounding health and wellness. Many of my clients have expressed concern in feeling as though they are stuck between maintaining the health promoting behaviors that they’ve worked so hard to achieve, and fully enjoying the Holidays. I’ve also seen a major uptick in messages from the media promoting rigid diets, calorie counting, and cleansing/detoxing that makes it feel as though we need to be doing something extreme to justify enjoying food during the Holidays.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed this Holiday season when it comes to health and wellness, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It IS possible to strike a balance between feeling good, maintaining health promoting behaviors, and fully enjoying this time of year. Below are some tips to keep in mind for a happy & healthy Holiday season this year:
Don't Skip Meals
Avoid skipping meals or restricting food intake to “save up” for a big holiday meal or party. Deprivation never ends well and typically leads to over eating! Continue your normal eating pattern during the day starting with with a balanced breakfast. Include a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat for satiety and long lasting energy. If you’re going to an evening party, have a well rounded afternoon snack. Eating consistently allows you to go into a holiday event clearheaded and without feeling deprived, so you can truly savor your favorite holiday foods.
Balance Your Plate
Choose a combination of foods that you love and foods that make you feel good. Scan the options available whether it be a dinner buffet or an appetizer spread and make choices based off what you think will truly provide you with the most satisfaction. This can be helpful for prioritizing what you really feel like eating. Include some protein for satiety, a couple starches for energy, and lots of colorful vegetables for fiber and antioxidants on that plate. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite!
Water is important for every organ in your body to function properly. It helps with nutrient absorption, promotes healthy digestion, and supports mood, cognition and energy levels. A combination of forgetting to drink water and including more alcoholic beverages can quickly lead to dehydration and not feeling your best. Drink 16 ounces of water first thing in the morning when you wake up to start the day off on the right foot, and aim to drink beverages like water, seltzer & herbal tea consistently throughout the day.
Ditch the All oR Nothing Mentality
Rigid dietary behaviors during the Holidays (and any time of the year!) lead to a lot of stress, and take away from the joy of time with loved ones. However, mindlessly eating to the point feeling sickly full doesn’t feel good either! Tune inward and make empowered decisions about what you want to eat, and check in with how your body is feeling throughout an event or party. Approach food during the holiday season with kindness, flexibility and an open mind. No food that you enjoy should be off limits!
Set your “Anchors”
Remember that we all eat until we feel a little too full from time to time, have one too many holiday cocktails, or one more cookie than our tummy might have liked - we’re just human! If you’re feeling like you may have overdid it a little bit I encourage you to focus on a couple behaviors or “anchors” that you can ADD to your life that make you feel great as opposed to restriction and punishment. Maybe you’re feeling a bit low energy and your digestion is off after a weekend of Holiday parties. Instead of restricting calories or starting a juice cleanse (which we know does way more harm than good to the body), set a couple “anchors” for the week or specific goals that will enhance your life and make you feel good. For example: this could be drinking a specific amount of water each day and nourishing your body with a high protein/high fiber breakfast daily.
Move Your Body
Engage in some form of joyful movement regularly! Walking, yoga, dancing...movement feels good both physically and mentally, it reduces stress & anxiety, and promotes healthy digestion. Avoid planning your day around rigorous workouts in order to justify eating foods you might not typically eat. Remember that there is always room for enjoying the foods that you love without justification!
The Holidays can be a stressful time for a number of reasons: food, family, finances, work...the list goes on! Chronic stress disrupts healthy digestion and hormonal balance and can have a negative impact on our health in the long-term. Incorporate daily activities that help you minimize/manage stress. Some of my favorites include deep belly breathing, fresh air, spending time away from social media & guided meditation (Headspace is my favorite app!). Remember that stress is far worse for your body than any food or meal could ever be!
What about Alcohol?!
You didn’t think I’d forget to chat about alcohol did you?! For those of us that drink alcohol, this comes up a lot this time of year. When it comes to alcohol, I encouraged you to aim for 1:1 alcoholic beverages to non-alcoholic beverages (water, seltzer, etc.) Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons why we feel crappy after drinking. You’d be amazed with how much better you feel by including a water for every glass of wine you have! Include a well balanced meal or snack while drinking to help stabilize blood sugar and to avoid the “drunchies”.
In the end - it’s most important to be present and soak up precious time with family and friends this time of year. If you feel like food and nutrition are big stressors for you or you’re struggling to strike a better balance between improving health (managing a digestive condition, balancing hormones, lowering blood sugar, etc.) and enjoying the Holidays, reach out to learn more about my one-on-one nutrition counseling services for personalized advice and support. Schedule a free 15 minute Discovery call to chat and learn more below!