The holidays are just around the corner…and you know what THAT means! Huge, festive meals, more excuses to drink alcohol (hello, eggnog!) and cold weather comfort eating. Did you know that by eating just 200 extra calories a day — a piece of pumpkin pie and a couple of Christmas cookies — you could pack on two to three pounds during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day? Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, it could take months, or even years, to shed that extra weight.
In addition to the opportunity for weight gain, holiday-related stress and Winter illnesses can also make this time of year particularly treacherous.
You may be hearing, “BAH HUMBUG!” but I actually believe that in 2020, the holiday festivities, comfort food and family time are more important than ever. No one is saying you shouldn’t partake in the high calorie, high energy fun. You can eat, drink and be merry AND stay healthy with just a few easy tweaks.
Healthy Holiday Eating and Drinking Tips
By practicing something called ”defensive eating and cooking”, you enjoy the holidays without the stress of knowing you’ll have to buy new elastic waist pants or go on a diet January 1st.
Before we go down our own list of Holiday Tips, one thing you should first commit to is a plan. It’s still early enough to change your mind set from “Eat and Drink Everything In My Path” to “Enjoy But Keep Long-Term Success and Happiness As My Goal”. A little wordy, to be sure, but you get the idea. Planning ahead will keep you on track while still allowing you to join in all of the holiday fun.
- Budget your calories – This doesn’t mean skipping the cookie exchange. It just means planning on where and when to indulge.
- Take a break before taking seconds – It takes a few minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re full. After finishing your first helping take a 10-minute break and then decide if you’ll have seconds. Chances are, you won’t be as hungry as you initially thought you were and your second round at the buffet will be smaller.
- Don’t eat your big meals on a completely empty stomach – A few hours before a big holiday meal, eat something so you aren’t famished. The best snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a cheese stick.
- If you drink, drink wisely – A glass of eggnog offers a whopping 500 calories; wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories. If you drink hard alcohol, use low calorie and low sugar mixers.
- Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes – Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories. Even at small family gathering, turn on the music and move around a little bit. And if weather permits, plan a walk before dinner.
- Make room for veggies – Don’t ignore fruits and vegetables (and resist the urge to drown them in butter)!
- Be buffet savvy – Here’s a great buffet trick….walk around the whole table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all of your options, you might be less inclined to “pile it on”.
- Don’t shop hungry – Eat before you go shopping so you don’t end up with 75% baked goods in your cart.
- Try a new, healthier recipe – There truly are some great online resources that have done all of the hard work of transitioning a fabulous recipe into a fabulous HEALTHY recipe. Try one or two!
Exercising at Home
Obviously the gyms are all closed now but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in a good workout. These types of exercises can be done inside in almost any location.
Yoga can be done just about anywhere. All you need to get started is a mat, comfortable attire and a program or guide to follow. Yoga equipment can be ordered from Amazon and, for beginners, there are plenty of yoga tutorials on YouTube. Here are the 10 Best Yoga Apps from Women’s Health Magazine.
If you have dumbbells or resistance bands you’re all set to do at-home weight and resistance training but trying to get new equipment during the pandemic is near impossible. Instead, use homemade weights and follow along with online tutorials like The Best Home Dumbbell Workouts from Men’s Health Magazine and Strength Training at Home.
Body weight exercises
No weights at all? Go old school and use your own body weight to hit each muscle group for a full workout. There are tons of really effective body weight exercises you can do in your own space at any time.
Even while sheltering in place, you can get your cardio in by walking in your neighborhood or even up and down the stairs. I actually sometimes walk up and down the hill in front of my house and work up a surprisingly good sweat!
1. Decrease caffeine
Caffeine is a powerful diuretic but it can burden the liver and hinder a detox. Swap coffee for green tea for a day or two if you’re able.
2. Increase your fiber
Increasing your fiber intake with vegetables, fruits, seeds, and legumes keeps the colon moving and swiftly removes toxins from the body. Foods that have high fiber content are a very important key to a healthy detox regimen.
3. Hydrate all day
Water is a powerful tool for removing waste and we need more of it than you think. To calculate your recommended daily amount, divide your weight by two to find the number of ounces of water you should be drinking every day.
4. Stretch your body
Deep stretching boosts both digestion and circulation, lowers stress and reduces inflammation. These improvements in function speed along with process of detoxification.
5. Reduce bloating with foods
Foods that reduce bloating include grapefruit which helps kill the appetite and asparagus which is a natural diuretic. Foods that have a high water content such as celery, cucumber and melon, also help any detox plan.
6. Try dry brushing
Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system and helps move water through the body, thereby eliminating toxins from the skin. Right before you shower, brush your body, starting with your fingers and toes and moving toward your heart. Continue brushing for 3–5 minutes and follow with a shower, alternating very warm and cold water to further boost circulation. As an added bonus, take a warm epsom salt bath to increase toxin removal.
7. Sweat out the toxins
Sweating removes some of the worst toxins from the body through the skin and, although the saunas and steam rooms aren’t available now, physical activity gets you to the same result. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even a long hike through the woods helps clear the body AND the mind.
8. Improve your breakfast smoothies
Smoothies made using sugary fruits may taste good but they actually work against you when trying to flush toxins, so instead try a smoothie using detoxifying vegetables. Try spinach, kale, celery, beets, carrots, and cucumbers. They’re all rich in the fiber and antioxidants that support cells during the detox process and fight inflammation. Add a handful of ground chia or flax seeds for extra fiber. Here are a few healthy smoothie recipes.
9. Supersize your salads
Make one meal per day a huge salad or a bowl of veggies; they’re high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and enzymes that encourage detoxification. Focus on cabbage, kale, arugula, brussel sprouts, and radishes as they naturally help remove toxic substances from the body. For a crunch add pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds for fiber and healthy fats. Detoxifying salad dressings include blends of apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, and garlic.
10. Try intermittent fasting
This type of dieting is all the rage in 2020 and I can personally attest to its effectiveness. There are a number of protocols and time frames that can be followed according to your body type and preferences.
Get a flu shot
This is the first time in 10 years I’ve gone to get a flu shot. I usually get a bad reaction to the vaccine but, given the current COVID pandemic, I felt I should go ahead and do it. Even though there won’t be as much travel this season as other years, the holidays will still overlap with flu season and the vaccination is the best way to prevent getting sick. Click here to find out where you can get your shot!
Whether it’s all that “family time” (we’ve already had plenty of it in 2020), burnt dinner or long “to-do” lists, stress can put a major damper on holiday fun. Keep this checklist handy and refer to it every time you feel your stress hitting a higher-than-normal-in-2020 level.
- Regular physical activity – We’ve already covered this above but exercise isn’t just for keeping in physical shape. It’s a proven scientific fact that exercise decreases overall levels of tension, improves mood and sleep, and increases feelings of self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate beneficial anti-anxiety effects.
- Prioritize things – Keeping a list is always a great way of reducing stress. There will be lots to do over the holidays, even THIS year, so prioritizing will help you keep on task. And who doesn’t like checking things off of a list? So satisfying…..
- Practice stress reducing techniques – Deep breathing and meditation are two traditional stress relieving exercises but sometimes just sitting quietly and being still does the trick. Activity is great but doing nothing works, too! Determine what works best for you and make sure to carve out time to relax, every day.
- Get plenty of sleep – According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Being tired is a major stresser and one that is easily remedied. Get your 40 winks!
And finally, remember YOUR reason for the season. Each and every one of us has something to be thankful for. Taking care of ourselves and practicing wellness will help you keep a clear head and remember those things that make us happiest. What are YOUR tips for success during the holidays?