The holidays are upon us, bringing with them the reminder that life is beautiful with family gatherings, social festivities and an overall feeling of celebration and indulgence. We've made it through the year and we want to feel good … we want to feel so good, in fact, that we have a tendency to overdo it.
Treats, sweets, appetizers and dishes we wait for all year long, cocktails, candy — you name it — we start to undo the healthy habits we've worked on throughout the year with food and drinks, sending us in to the New Year with the resolution to change our diets or lose weight. We may feel tired, heavy, moody, or guilty — canceling out our initial intention to celebrate and enjoy ourselves.
So, how do we allow ourselves the opportunity to indulge in the pleasures of the holiday season without feeling bad come January 1? How do we balance enjoyment with self-care so that we're able to celebrate AND feel great at the same time?
These seven steps assist our bodies in getting back on track quickly, so we can eat the foods we love without the guilt:
1. Hydrate as much as possible.
Holiday meals can be heavy on flavor and high in salt, causing us to feel bloated the next day. Remembering to hydrate all day long helps to flush the body of excess sodium. Try placing a glass of water beside your bed at night, as a reminder to hydrate first thing in the morning. If you don't like the taste of water, you can add seasonal spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise and clove, to add flavor and a little holiday flair.
2. Balance sugar cravings by eating sweet vegetables.
Delicious, starchy, refined carbs are often highlights of any holiday feast, but the more we eat them, the more we crave them. By incorporating more sweet vegetables, like roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, beets and winter squash to our meals, we provide our bodies with additional fiber to help ease digestion and curb sugar and carb cravings after indulging.
3. Start with high-quality protein.
Beginning with breakfast, choose protein-rich meals to strengthen, sustain and balance your body throughout the day. Try a quinoa porridge with fresh, seasonal fruit, a couple of eggs, or even some leftover turkey to fire up your metabolism, keep you energized, and leave you less susceptible to overindulging.
4. Eat leafy greens.
Leafy greens help strengthen the immune and respiratory systems, and, according to Chinese medicine, provide us with an uplifting energy to help create positive moods. Kale, collards, spinach, lettuce and bok choy help us withstand holiday indulging by providing added fiber to move digestion, and loads of nutrients to balance any poor food choices we make. To incorporate leafy greens, try a morning green smoothie, or make a kale salad or big pot of collard greens to bring to your holiday gathering.
After a giant meal, we're more likely to curl up in front of the TV for a nap than exercise. After a few days of heavy eating and being sedentary, our bodies respond with a desire for more naps and more food — it's almost as if we build a tolerance for it.
By choosing to incorporate some type of movement each day, we not only help our bodies use the additional calories we've taken in, we keep our metabolism running so we don't pack on extra weight. Add a morning walk the day of a big meal; try some light stretching each night before bed; grab your houseguests for an afternoon jog — whatever your preferred type of activity is, don't skip it during the holidays.
6. Shift your mindset.
If you choose to indulge, be OK with it. Many of us, eat something "unhealthy" or "fattening" and feel guilt or shame about it long after that particular food is gone. The residue of negativity lasts far longer than the food stays in your system, so be gentle with yourself. Trust that your body will recover. Allow yourself the opportunity to truly enjoy these foods and let them go. You'll bounce back much more quickly if you choose to savor your choice without regret.
7. Make space to nurture yourself.
Try to allow a bit of time each day for self-care. Consider bookending your day with a morning and evening ritual that allows you to decompress and re-connect with what's important to you. You can try meditation, yoga, journaling, a gratitude practice — anything that helps you feel a sense of grounding within.
In my work as a Certified Holistic Health Coach, I help women to love the bodies they call home by embracing balance and pleasure in their everyday diets and lifestyle. I've seen firsthand how these seven steps can help individuals move through the year with energy and ease. The more we are able to care for our whole selves — body, mind and spirit — the more fully we can show up in our lives.
How can you have a greater experience of the holidays by caring for your amazing body? How can nurturing yourself each day help you to fully embody your desires for the new year?