Tis the season. The brief period of 37 days from Thanksgiving until New Years Eve can be the MOST damaging to people's health -- not to mention waistlines! In general, the holidays are a time to let loose, party hearty and enjoy lots of comfort foods. From turkey complete with all the fixings to ooey gooey holiday treats; this isn’t usually a time when anyone worries about their health. The worry sets in January 1st – most of the parties are over, you’re feeling run down, looking a bit haggard and thinking it’s time to renew that gym membership. Let’s preempt any of the looming stress and handle the holidays in a completely healthy way (and avoid unnecessary weight gain in the process!)
Here are my 12 tips for keeping your sanity and waistline in check:
1. Start off CLEAN. Begin each day by having a big glass of warm water with lemon squeezed in.
Health benefit – cleanses the liver and bodily tissues and decreases water retention; highly alkalizing and excellent source of vitamin C & electrolytes.
2. Have a healthy breakfast every day. Whatever you think will sustain you for a few hours – whether it’s a green juice or smoothie, some whole grains (unprocessed is best) or even eggs.
Health benefit – during busy times more than ever we need to fuel our bodies. Setting a healthy intention each morning by eating a nutritious breakfast will set us off in the right direction of making healthier choices throughout the day.
3. Swap out sugar. Reach for natural sweeteners like Stevia, Coconut Nectar, Honey or Molasses.
Health benefit – processed white sugar destroys your body! Robs your blood of calcium, is damaging to the organs (pancreas, kidneys & liver), causes blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and decreases the immune system – just to name a few!
4. Be prepared to face the day. When running from place to place, ALWAYS arm yourself with a few essentials like water and a quick snack; good options are fresh fruit, raw nuts or even a green smoothie.
Health benefit – While I don’t advise constant snacking throughout the day, it can be helpful to have a snack handy on those days when you’re just ravenous and are heading for the vending machine or local Starbucks.
5. Do a mini fast. Especially if you’ve overindulged a bit. Give your digestion a break by fasting – even a one day juice fast is beneficial. Possibilities are endless: juice all day, juice until dinner, green smoothies for a day or two, mono meals or even a raw vegan diet for a week. Whatever you feel you can do (with enthusiasm!)
Health benefit – Fasting is a great way to give your digestion a rest. Perfect to reaffirm health goals or to get back in touch with healthy eating. While I don’t recommend fasting specifically as a remedy to overindulgence, in the short term it can relieve some of the water retention and sluggish feeling from not making the best choices.
6. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluid in the form of water, fresh made juices or herbal teas. I love to added essential oils & stevia to my water, amazing how you can drink soo much more when it’s flavored.
Health benefit – Many people mistake thirst for hunger; when truly hydrated you won’t have false hunger and be more in touch with your natural hunger patterns (remember – ONLY eat when hungry!!) As an added benefit keeping your body hydrated will also have a direct impact on the health of your skin – dehydrated body = rough itchy skin while maintaining proper hydration will keep your skin smooth, supple and wrinkle free.
7. Take “me-time”. Be totally selfish, carve away a bit of time each day that is all about YOU. Read a book, go to the gym, do some yoga, meditate or for the ultimate luxury detox – take a bath; make it extra potent by adding in some soothing Epsom salt, baking soda and essential oils.
8. Smart supplementation. Between the late nights, overindulging, crowded malls and the general stress of the holiday season – the immune system takes a big punch! Definitely time to take a multivitamin (whole food ones are the best) and supplement with a few essentials that will support the immune system like – vitamin C, vitamin D, fish oils and probiotics.
Health benefit – While supplements are useful all year round, I especially recommend them in times of high stress when we may not be making the most nutritious food choices. Start with good foundation products and work from there as needed, i.e. adrenal stress would call for adaptogens or sleep disturbances will benefit from melatonin.
9. Get Domestic. I’m not referring to stay at home moms here, but take some time to do the more domestic tasks in life – like food shopping and cooking. If you’re one of those that make frequent stops to the food store – STOP right now!! Take one day and get all your shopping out of the way; then plan your menu for the week – seriously, you’ll save yourself a lot of time (more time for partying!). Next plan to cook a few meals at home, doesn’t have to be 5 course elegant meals – simple soups, poached salmon, baked veggies, etc. And finally take time to savor your meals. One of the reasons (possibly the only!) I like the winter is homemade soups and delicious baked winter squash. I tend to juice most of the day, or at least all morning; lunch if eaten is always simple and I reserve dinner time for something special.
Health benefit - Don’t rely on restaurant food or dare I say drive through food as the only real sustenance of the day. Home cooking doesn’t have to be extravagant nor do you have to be a 5 star chef. Learning to cook a few basic unprocessed HEALTHY meals will take you far and is immensely better for your health – did you know even innocent sounding restaurant meals are far from it – grilled chicken is doused with fat (hence why you can never recreate that exact texture/taste at home!), even salmon is rarely “dry grilled” and can we talk salt and MSG? Bad news all around.
10. 80/20 Rule? Some individuals prescribe to such ratios as eating uber healthy 80% of the time and being somewhat lenient 20% of the time while others make it a rule to relax on the weekends. I say – don’t try to figure out crazy ratios. My recommendation is to eat delicious, health promoting foods every chance you get; then relax and enjoy yourself at parties and special occasions.
Health benefit – Stop making everything more complicated then need me – forget the ratios; most people know what is healthy and what isn’t. Vending machines, eating out, drive thru’s = NOT HEALTHY. If it seems to easy, too quick (and can’t be found in its natural state) think again about eating it.
11. Include detox practices each day. Keeping your lymph flowing will insure a healthy immune system and detox the body at the same time! Great ways to incorporate this is by exercising - especially walking and jumping on a mini trampoline; dry skin brushing, Epsom salt baths, adding cleansing essential oils to your body lotion/oil and drinking water every day (be sure to use a high quality brand such as Young Living that is ingestible)
Health benefit -This falls back into the category of being kind to yourself! The big bonus here is that stimulating your lymph will help bolster the immune system, assist in detox, which in turn sets you up for cellulite free skin and some great weight loss. So, while others are scrambling to drop some weight come January, you’ve give yourself a head start!
12. Be gentle on yourself. Realize that you WILL eat something not so health promoting – GET OVER IT! I hate when I hear advice that says “make room for mistakes” or “don’t let one slip up ruin your day” While they sound good intentioned they can set you up for failure by merely saying certain food is a “mistake” or “slip up” - in this case there is always guilt associated with eating them. LOSE THE GUILT!! Accept that during the holiday season you will most likely ENJOY (IF you’re going to eat it you might as well enjoy it!) foods that you normally wouldn’t eat year round and even more likely foods that aren’t doing any favors for you health wise. BUT this is the holiday season – so if you want a bit of eggnog – have it (just not every day), want a sugar cookie? Well have that too, just don’t overdo it and save those less than healthy snacks & foods for the parties and the get togethers NOT your running around, starving and reaching for junk food or eating out of boredom!