The holidays are upon us! This is a special time of the year meant to cherish time with loved ones, seasonal events and slowing down as winter approaches. For most of us, however, it also means added stress, full schedules, and holiday parties full of rich food, treats and boozy beverages that can put a screeching halt on our health.
Read on to learn simple tips for managing the major struggles of the holiday season.
Holiday Struggle #1: Overeating
All those holiday parties mean a never-ending opportunity to eat to your heart’s content. Only issue? Most party foods are high in sugar, salt and fat which is a recipe for weight gain, bloating, indigestion, and derailing your progress altogether. Do this: fill up on a healthy snack or light meal BEFORE you head to the holiday gathering—that way, you won’t be as hungry and tempted to overeat on the unhealthy foods there. Try a snack or light meal that stresses protein, complex carbs and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer. Examples may include a handful of nuts & seeds, a hard-boiled or scrambled egg with avocado, baked sweet potatoes, or a small serving of brown rice or quinoa.
Another tip—always drink a full glass of water before you sit down to your holiday meal. This will encourage eating only until you are full, instead of heading back for seconds and thirds.
Holiday Struggle #2: Overindulgence
Parties start with hors d’oeurves, followed by a rich dinner, drinks in between, ending with dessert, and wrap-up with all those leftovers to take home. How easy it is to overindulge! To start off strong, fill your appetizer plate with protein, veggies and fruits instead of carbohydrates and sugar. For example, eat more from the vegetable and fruit tray as well as meats or nut mixes instead of the chips, sugar cookies, and pastries. Filling up on nutrient-dense food will not only make you crave less of the sweet stuff, but also encourage you to fill your dinner plate with lighter options as well.
The same can be said for your dinner plate. Choose an appropriate serving of meat and make half your plate vegetables. Load up a larger quantity of salad and vegetables so it looks and feels like you’re still eating more food, except it is easier on the calories and your waistline.
Resisting temptation is hard, especially when it comes to dessert. Remind yourself of your health goals and let it serve as your momentum to continue making the best choices. Think of how GREAT you felt when you were losing weight, gaining energy, sleeping better, and so on. You felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. When you’re reaching for the slice of pie or second cookie, think to yourself, “is this going to make me feel guilty and bad about myself, and derail my progress?” If the answer is “yes,” move into that feeling and let it serve as inspiration to stay strong and walk away! Your steady progress and vibrant health is worth more than 60-seconds of a sweet treat in your mouth!
Holiday Struggle #3: Stress
With all there is to plan, shop for, cook and prepare, and with all the places to be and people to see, the holidays can be a major source of stress! While you may not be able to make your schedule any less busy, you CAN deal with your stress in a healthier way to make you better able to tackle the busyness of the season feeling calm and collected.
Meditation is an effective way to reduce your stress and promote even, relaxed breathing. Try a simple video on YouTube like this 12-minute Guided Meditation for Beginners and do it each day, in a quiet space with your eyes closed. You can also try to journal to release your stresses from your mind and get them down on paper. Movement is another excellent way to alleviate stress, through gentle yoga or Pilates. Try this video for Yoga for Anxiety and Stress, ideal also for beginners, only 25 minutes long. There are so many resources out there for you to explore, but the main thing to remember is to slow down, breathe, and fill your brain with positive, motivating thoughts.
Holiday Struggle #4: Exhaustion
Stress goes hand-in-hand with exhaustion. When we are stressed over time, our adrenal glands weaken and we feel increasingly wired, irritable, fatigued, and unable to sleep. Follow the techniques above to lessen your stress in the first place, and you can avoid exhaustion altogether! However, we all experience some sense of “holiday burnout,” so consider these ideas.
Cultivate time for stillness, connection with loved ones, and appreciating the small joys of the season. It’s important to CREATE time for rest—rest and being still are just as important as accomplishing the tasks on your to-do list, and it is rest which replenishes your energy to return stronger the next day. Without rest, we will surely become exhausted. Of course, the holidays are also meant as a time to connect with friends, family, and loved ones, as well as enjoy the simple joys of the season—family traditions, cozying up by the fire, the first snowfall, and decorating the Christmas tree. Don’t let the entire season go by without taking the time to slow down and enjoy the season for whatever it means to you.
Holiday Struggle #5: Weight Gain
We’ve already tackled overeating and overindulgence, but if you find the weight still tends to creep up on you, follow this one rule: maintain your exercise routine, no matter how crazy the season gets! Exercise is essential for maintaining proper weight and keeping the extra pounds off. Aim for at least 20 minutes/day to continually strengthen, detox and tone your body. Good ol’ fashioned cardio is great for burning excess calories, so hit up the treadmill or even take a fun dance class like Zumba to get that heart rate UP! Strengthening exercises can also burn calories and leave you feeling good too, so consider trying a local yoga or Pilates class.
Not only will regular movement held you maintain your waistline, but it will also help to improve your mood, reduce stress and promote more restful sleep—who wouldn’t want that around the holidays?
Holiday Struggle #6: Seasonal Blues
With all that’s going on, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of things. Combine that with the cold, grey weather and you’ve got a recipe for the winter blues. Take the extra time to nourish yourself this season by doing things that not only support your health, but make you feel good. Take a hot bubble bath with some relaxing essential oils, dive into an exciting new book, create a vision board, treat yourself to a massage, or whip up something creative in the kitchen. Whatever it is, do something that nourishes you on a soul level and brings you joy.
Have you wanted to plan a road trip for a long time? Been thinking about calling that old friend of yours? Wanted to take the plunge and sign up for that class you’ve always wanted to take? Now is the time! As the new year approaches, enter the year by taking care of and honoring the person that matters most—you.