The Holidays are upon us and so are the sugar and refined flour laden goodies. It’s important not to deny yourself, but instead, be realistic about what you put in your mouth. Foods with sugar, flour and dairy in them are often too congesting for the mind and body. Eat too many of them and you find yourself congested or stuffy, battling a head cold, sluggish, not being able to think clearly and just plain sick. These foods are taxing to the immune system and can overload the liver, bowel and lymphatic system when ingested in excess.
If that’s not bad enough, these foods can cause the pounds to creep up on you which is never fun when you’re trying to get yourself into your favorite pair of skinny jeans.
1. Indulge on occasion. If you don’t, you just might find yourself binging on a half gallon of egg nog ice cream later which is much more taxing on the body than if you just had a bite or two of that decadent pumpkin cheesecake here and there. Balance your indulgences by making sure the rest of your meals are healthy and full of vegetables. And whatever you do, NEVER skip breakfast.
2. Dive into the healthy foods first. Let’s face it, when you’re at a party there are so many divine treats. Often we come hungry and fill up on heavy, calorie rich foods rather than kicking the party off with some crudités or lighter salads. Go for the lighter, nutrient rich foods first (provided they are available) so you want eat as much of the junky stuff.
3. Leaving grazing for the cows. Sometimes we think if we don’t grab a plate we’ll eat less. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A plate helps you gauge how much you have eaten. If you can handle it, skip the dinner plate and grab a smaller dessert plate. Start with one small plate and see how you feel. Eat slowly. Savor each decadent bite. You can always grab another if you’re still hungry, but chances are you’ll be just fine and you’ve just tricked yourself into thinking you ate a full plate of food. Ha!
4. Make a green drink before you head out the door. Green drinks are chock full of nutrients which eliminates cravings. Make a green smoothie or juice. Drinking a cup of homemade stock is another good choice. Not only are you getting some good nutrients into your system, you’re hydrating yourself as well. Try this tip before heading out to a party or shopping. You don’t want to stroll by Cinnabon on an empty stomach. It always seems like a good idea at the time… but this is a great segway into #5.
5. Slide into those skinny jeans at least once a week. I’m not a fan of the scale because it’s a number that may or may not be reflective of what’s healthy and causes us to become neurotic about our fluctuating weight. Putting on your slimmest pants a few times during the Holiday season will help you decide whether or not you’re packing on a few extra pounds. Yoga pants and leggings are comfy, but that waist band will grow right along with you!
6. Come with your own healthy dish. Bring something healthy that you love and enjoy it. If you fill up on that, you won’t reach for other temptations. Chances are other party-goers will appreciate it as well.
7. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough rest tend to have increased appetites and eat more. Yikes. So make sure you get your butt to bed at a reasonable time and take a little cat nap before you go out if need be.
8. Watch your beverages. This is my downfall right here. Wine, oh how I love thee! I find that if I pour a half a glass, I drink less, but other folks find that if they just pour one large glass and nurse it all night they do much better. You can even try counting 1-2-3 when pouring to get about a 5 oz. serving. Bring mineral water and lime to a party…you can pour yourself a spritzer in-between glasses of wine to hydrate and slow you down. The bubbles help with setting a slower pace. I know some people that even add sparkling water to wine and enjoy it very much. Hell, some nights you may just want to skip the wine and have the non-alcoholic spritzer
9. Find a food-free space in which to mingle. If you’re standing next to the food table all night, chances are pretty high that you’re going to be tempted to try most of it if not all of it. Search out a food-free space so you’re not tempted to graze continually. If you’re hosting a party, be sure to set-up an entertaining space where there is no food. Your guests’ waistlines will appreciate it!
10. Make time to play and get your butt moving! Let’s be realistic. You’re going to eat homemade Christmas cookies and indulge in your Aunt Maud’s fabulous spinach and artichoke dip. Give those sedentary indulgences a little balance with some movement. Physical activity will help the body burn up a few extra calories this Holiday season AND it will give you the energy you need to attend to your Holiday “to do” list. Get a few extra walks in every week, take the stairs, sneak a few squats in during your walk and add a set of crunches or push-ups in-between batches of cookies.
Whatever you do, be playful about the Holidays. Enjoy them. It’s a special time to visit with family and friends so don’t restrict yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday foods with them. Feelings of deprivation are never fun and only breed a negative relationship with food.
The more mindful and playful you are with your food during the Holidays, the better off your mind and body will be. A healthy mind and body is the BEST gift you can give to yourself and others this Holiday season.
Here are a few other healthy holiday tips from past posts. Now I would like to hear from you. How do you keep the weight from creeping up during the Holidays? Share you tips below.
Do you find it difficult to eat well and exercise during the Holidays? The Holidays don’t have to be a struggle or full of guilt around poor food and lifestyle choices.
Join Chelsea of Groove Dance Fitness, LLC and Kim of Cultivating Health for an exciting Healthy Holidays Open House at the Glenn Dale Community Center!
PLAY will explore healthy alternatives to sugar and ways to bring that sweet flavor into your Holiday menus. Learn and PLAY games that will keep your family entertained and fit during the Holidays. Explore movement that is fun for the whole family that will keep the trimmings from tackling your waistline.
Wear comfortable clothing and tennis shoes, and please bring water and your sense of humor.
This program will give you a taste of what’s to come in PLAY’s Fitness & Nutrition classes at the Glenn Dale Community Center this winter. We have PLAY for Success to help you set and keep your healthy New Year’s resolutions and PLAY for Energy to reinvigorate and energize you when you have those winter blues!
The big day is tomorrow and then the Holiday Season officially begins. When it comes to taking care of ourselves, this time of year can be a struggle. Often we are shuffling from one engagement to the next without thinking twice about the toll it’s taking on our bodies and spirits. So what can you do stay vigilant about your physical and emotional health this Holiday Season?
Here are five simple tips you can incorporate NOW to help you stay healthy during the Holiday bustle.
Tip#1: Eat breakfast every morning.
Yes. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you energy for the rest of the day and stabilizes your blood sugar levels. If you currently don’t consider yourself a breakfast person, start out with something simple like a hardboiled egg, oatmeal or a piece of fruit or sprouted, whole grain toast with your favorite nut butter. Just make sure your breakfast contains protein or complex carbs and fat. Avoid simple, refined carbs like cold cereal.
Tip#2: Have at least one alkaline drink every day.
During the Holidays, it’s easy to get caught up eating foods and drinking beverages that have an acidifying effect on the body. When your cells become acidic, they can’t hold oxygen and essentially suffocate. Tissues in the body become inflamed and begin to degenerate. Many experts say that cancer cells can’t survive in an alkaline environment. In addition to incorporating a lot of veggies into your daily menu plans, mix any of the following in 8 oz of water and drink at least once a day to help balance the pH of your blood and cells:
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 TBSP of raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP of chlorophyll
- 1-2 TBSP of greens powder
Consider making a green smoothie and if you have a juicer, juice some of your favorite veggie combinations. One of my favorite recipes contains apple, carrot and ginger. Yum!
Tip #3: Keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily.
Counting your blessings can keep you focused on the reason for the season. Our problems seem less dramatic when we focus on what’s going right in our lives. Then when things do go wrong, it’s not as big of a deal, allowing us to keep our stress levels in check.
Tip#4: Set a timer on the hour for breaks.
When the timer goes off, take five minutes to stretch, do breathing exercises, sit-ups, squats or close your eyes and meditate. Mix it up! In fact, decorate a box or other container and write about ten different activities on separate slips of paper. Keep this box near your timer or hourglass in your office, and pull out one slip of paper on the hour and do that activity. When you’re on the go, set several alarms listing different activities on your smartphone. You may not be in a place where you can plop on the ground and do sit-ups, but you could balance on one foot, close your eyes for a few minutes and take three deep breaths or do a gratitude check.
Tip#5: Take several deep slow breaths through the nose and smile between events.
Be intentional and playful about your schedule. If you have one (or ten plus) of those days that’s booked solid, be sure to take a few moments to acknowledge the present moment in between activities. Smiling lets your body and brain know that life is good and you can relax and enjoy the ride! Also, feel empowered, not guilty, about canceling if you do overbook and need to retreat.
Be sure to review my Healthy Holidays tips from last year to give you a few more ideas on how to live the next month more mindfully and playfully. In addition, Chelsea Calhoun of Groove Dance Fitness and I are hosting a Healthy Holidays Open House at the Glenn Dale Community Center on December 1st. Visit PLAY for more information. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing how these tips work for you and other playful ways that you create healthy habits during the Holiday Season!
Eat & Drink Mindfully.
I’m not saying to skip the cookies and the wine, (and not just because those happen to be my favorite things) but enjoy them mindfully. Believe it or not, our bodies do know when to stop if we are paying attention. Alas, we often get caught up in the excitement of social gatherings and ignore the signals (flares in some cases) our bodies are giving us. Enjoy your food, slowly. Savor each bite and sip. Now, if you overdo it, don’t beat yourself up as this is not helpful and creates even more guilt and anxiety during the Holidays. When we have negative feelings or anxiety around particular foods, it creates a stress response in the body. Cortisol levels raise, blood sugar levels rise and a host of other physiological responses that create weight gain. Enjoy it, call it an experiment and let it go. Stay mindful and just notice how the food or beverage affects you right after you eat or drink it, a few hours after you consume it and even a day or so after the event. How’s your mood? Energy levels? Digestion? Are you having any cravings?Also, if you reduce sugar and highly processed foods where you can and cook whole, nutrient-dense foods at home, you’ll still manage to keep your energy levels up, maintain good digestion and keep your mood stable. Finally, remember to drink your water! Although the weather might be frightful and it feels as though your water needs are less when it’s cold, many of the foods and beverages we consume (i.e. refined carbs, alcohol, animal protein, sugar and caffeine) during the Holidays actually increases our need for hydration.
Deconstruct Your Cravings.
What are you craving? Why do you think you’re craving chocolate? Sometimes cravings are due to either a lack of nutrients or an over-abundance of certain foods. For example, to little or two much protein or fat can cause cravings. In addition, an overabundance of sugar and refined carbs in the diet can create sweet cravings. Cravings can also be due to dehydration, hormones, stress or a desire to embrace the seasons by incorporating particular foods. Perhaps your life is missing some sort of sweetness this time of year or reminds you of a happy time in your life that you are looking to re-create. Cravings aren’t a bad thing. They are your body’s way of telling you something important so embrace them? Understanding them will help you to make lifestyle changes that will result in increased energy and happiness.
In order to make room for more blessings, we first need to count the blessings we currently have in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and to forget what truly matters. Consider naming then things that you are truly thankful for every morning when you wake up. Your blessings can range from the comfy sheets on your bed to your children and other significant others. It’s important to affirm the gifts the Universe has given us to remind us how lucky we are to be here so we take nothing for granted.
If you don’t get all your decorations in place, gifts perfectly wrapped or your Holiday cards signed and mailed, let it go. There will be other Holidays. How fortunate are we to have homes to decorate? Gifts to wrap? Friends and family to send cards too? Amen to that! We often have unhealthy expectations of ourselves and other people that result in undue stress. Enjoy this time of year. Only do what you’re moved to do. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with your friends and neighbors and make unrealistic goals for yourself. Let it go and lose the guilt. Your friends and family will still love you. I promise.
We often have a tendency to get caught up in doing things for others during the Holidays. Just remember that you’re only as good to others as you are to yourself. If you don’t recharge, how effective will you really be? Incorporate down time. It will go a long way to keeping you chipper and energized during the Holidays. Your family and friends will thank you. Plus, this is a great time of year to re-connect with ourselves and reflect on what our souls are calling us to do and who to be.
Are you dreaming of a Green Christmas? Consider eco-friendly and socially responsible gifts, and present them in reusable gift bags or some type of recycled gift wrap (i.e. fabric, recycled paper). A donation to your friend’s favorite charity is also a nice option. You also may consider drawing names and organizing a secret gift exchange with your family or group of friends so that you’re not buying presents for everyone. This saves time, money, resources and sanity. As far as Holiday cards go, why not send recycled cards or even e-cards which save on stamps and paper?
If you’re throwing a Holiday party, consider entertaining with real plates, silverware and napkins. If you ‘re having a larger party, use eco-friendly disposables. Finally, decorate with natural materials such as winter greens, berries, pine cones and forced bulbs. It’s always nice to cut a tree from a local tree farm, but be sure to check with your municipality to see where it can be recycled into mulch or habitat for local fauna. If you are on the fence between purchasing an artificial tree or harvesting one from a tree farm, check out this video from the Nature Conservancy which talks about the top reasons to buy a real tree. It’s great for your family, the environment and the local agricultural economy. If you need to purchase new indoor/outdoor lights, consider LED’s which are 90 percent more efficient than traditional lights.
Please comment with your Green Holiday Tips here!
Get Out & Get Moving.
It’s really important for both our physical and mental health to step out into the sunshine and fresh air this time of year. If you’re limited by daylight hours and can’t take a walk at lunch, bundle up and venture out with a loved one on a starry night. Regardless of whether or not you can get out, it’s important to continue to exercise this time of year in particular because it helps with blood sugar regulation which tends to be an issue for many of us when we’re surrounded by sugar-laden treats. It’s also helpful to soak up vitamin D when you can which is essential for a healthy immune system
Although, you want to keep moving, you also don’t want to swing in the complete opposite direction and overdo it. Make sure that you take time for yourself. In addition to incorporating some daily self-nourishment techniques, be careful of how many obligations you take on this Holiday season. We have a tendency to try and make every event in addition to hosting our own events, no matter how unrealistic or unpleasant this may be. Make a conservative plan of how many events you can attend and/or host this month and stick to it! If you feel like being alone, honor that. It’s important to take time to connect with ourselves and refill that well. Although it seems counter-intuitive, we are more productive and grounded when we take some extra time each day to relax and recharge. Remember that old saying. Don’t worry. Be happy.
Embrace Sweet Vegetables & Sweet Spices.
Incorporating sweet winter vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, sweet potatoes and winter squash into your diet is a healthy way to satisfy sweet cravings or prevent them in general. They beauty of these hearty sweet vegetables is that they can be used in savory dishes as well as desserts. Aduki beans and short brown rice and also be used to create healthy sweet treats. You can also experiment with spices such as allspice, cloves, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon which impart a sweet flavor to any dish. Cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves have been found to triple insulin’s ability to metabolize sugar and remove it from the blood so use them liberally this Holiday season!
Experiment with Natural Sweeteners.
Why use sweet vegetables and natural sweeteners in our Holiday cooking and baking? Refined sugars interfere with the absorption and transport of many important nutrients. Sugar and refined carbohydrates increase the excretion of B vitamins, vitamin C and most minerals including calcium, magnesium and chromium. In addition, minerals such as chromium, manganese and zinc are in short supply in the average diet (partly due to diet and partly due to the lack of minerals in our soils) and are needed to control blood sugar levels. Experimenting with natural sweeteners that still contain fiber, vitamins and minerals can keep your body from depleting vital nutrients and becoming acidic.
Consider trying one or more of the following, this Holiday season:
raw unrefined cane sugar (Rapadura)
brown rice syrup