Healthy Through the Holidays & Beyond

‘Tis the season of good food and great joy, but it can also be a season of overcommitment, packed social calendars, overeating, and stress. What can you do to make the most of the holiday season? To minimize stress and maximize your health and well being?

First of all, consider stress, its origins and impact on your body. Think of a caveman. He leaves the cave and ventures into the woods, where he encounters a bear. His blood pressure spikes, heart race increases, blood rushes to his muscles and adrenaline courses through his body (this is stress), preparing him to either fight the bear or run away from the bear. When the situation is resolved, his blood pressure and heart rate return to normal and the endocrine gland stops pumping out cortisol. In essence, he returns to a balanced state. Our modern day troubles leave us reeling under the misguided reaction that we are always being attacked by a bear. Hence chronic stress and all the illnesses and ailments that accompany it. Throw in the holiday season-specific stress and it feels like being attacked by at least three bears. What can you do?

Follow my top ten ways to stay healthy, happy and balanced through the holiday season and beyond.

Tip # 1: In response to the question, “what is the most balanced way to eat during the holidays?” Fill up on healthy foods! Start now by eating lots of veggies, greens, simple broth-based soups and lean protein sources. Then it’s OK to have dessert!

Tip #2. Eat treats SLOWLY. Look at what you’re eating and enjoy the sight of it. Smell the delicious aroma, and give thanks for the treat. Then close your eyes and take one small bite, savoring the experience, perhaps letting the bite melt in your mouth. Enjoy each bite and don’t overeat. 

Tip #3: What should you do if you do overeat or binge eat one night? Don’t Give Up!  Instead, drink lots of water and herbal or green tea for the next several days. Then eat light – vegetables and fruit with a small amount of light protein: Greek yogurt, eggs, tofu, chicken or fish.

Tip #4: Follow the 80/20 rule. Eat super healthy foods 80% of the time and then treat yourself 20% of the time, whether that’s a burger or ice cream, cookies or pizza. As long as most of the stuff you put in your body is good for you, its okay to eat your favorite foods. 

Tip #5: Exercise doesn’t have to be structured! Just Get Moving! Exercise reduces stress levels, improves circulation, burns calories and more! Here are some out of the box ideas to get moving: 

•Walk flights of stairs

•Park at the furthest spot

•Take 3 brisk laps around any store before purchasing

•Dance to your favorite music

•Play with your kids at a park or in the yard

Tip #6: Practice Simple Movements when you have time.
Simple Squats while doing the dishes, and push ups (knees down is ok) or crunches during commercials. Simple stretching movements that are found in basic yoga can make your body feel really good and keep the blood flowing too. 

Tip #7: Make S p a c e in your life. Look at your schedule for the next 2 months and remove two non-essential events/things. Don’t fill the space with anything. Allow yourself to rest, play, relax and enjoy. 

Tip #8: Learn to Relax. Practice deep breathing. Use a pattern. Inhale to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 8. Practice every day for a few minutes, with your eyes closed. 

Tip #9: Focus & Appreciate. Repeat a positive affirmation or mantra when you are stressed, caught in traffic, or feel distracted, nostalgic, or frustrated. Examples: “I am grateful for….,” “So hum (I am),” Strength and Wisdom,” “I am relaxing and letting go,” or part of a prayer of your choice, quote of your choice or inspirational phrase of your choice.

Tip# 10: Find Meaning. Take time to sit and think about what the holiday season means to you. Write down what is most important. Make sure to follow through and do it! Enjoy each moment for what it is.