Chelan Wilkins, RHN
National Education Trainer
As the holiday season fast approaches, we all seem to start to feel the un-denying pressure and stress that comes with it. From the endless lists of shopping, busy parking lots, expensive purchases, Christmas parties, gift exchanges, grocery shops, houseguests to late night wrapping sessions, Christmas seems to bring on much more than joyous laughter and family traditions.
I know throughout the years I have found that taking on too much during the holiday season has left me bedridden, sick and tired and quite often over the actual holidays itself. Not to mention the aftermath we all dread come the new year, the 5-10lbs we seem to gain from all the festivities, treats, stress and Christmas cocktails! So how do we go into the holiday season, immune system armed, happy and joyous and our midsections prepared to stay in tack? Here are my five tips:
1:) Eat Healthily:
Christmas is all about overindulgence and treats. However, when we start to slide off our healthy eating patterns, our body will crave more and more of the sugary treats and drinks. This is where we find that extra 5-10lbs a month later. I like to tell my clients that finding a balance during these months is key! If you are heading to a Christmas party and know that there will be a spread of delicious foods, Christmas drinks and desserts, make sure to eat throughout the day healthy and nutritious meals. Don’t fast all day to save yourself for the one big meal that you will be indulging on later that day.
Getting in those nutrients and healthy foods will keep your immune system up, cut back on the cravings you will go through as well as make you feel full therefor cutting back on the amount you will enjoy that evening. I like to suggest if you know that you are going to be indulging on the weekend at a party or family gathering, make sure you eat good wholesome meals throughout the week. You don’t want to cut out all treats during the season ( unless you find that they just don’t agree with you ), however, I find that when we make choices to not indulge we often find we indulge more due to the restricting of those foods.
Ensure that you are eating enough protein and veggies in your meals. Especially when you go to functions. Opt for those options when you fill your plates! Protein will make you feel full longer alongside those fibrous veggies and limit those refined carbs.
If a potluck is a theme to a party you are attending, bring something healthy. Often the healthy options are always appreciated and the recipes out there these days are delicious, low in fat as well as sugar-free.
Continuing with your exercise routine is very beneficial during the holidays! It is a GREAT stress reliever, an excellent way to burn those extra calories that we consume as well as it is great for our moods! If regularly exercising isn’t something that you usually do, try to go for a nice walk outside, visit a local light display, enjoy the sunshine or crisp air. This is especially beneficial if you had just had a big meal or the evening before, enjoyed treats and a big dinner. Exercise has been known to release dopamine our feel-good hormone and naturally increases serotonin levels in our body. So if the holidays have you feeling stressed, anxious, and even depressed; exercise can help relieve those symptoms. Exercise is also an excellent way to take “me” time, especially for those who are hosting a guest in the home!
The holidays are filled with late nights from Christmas parties, late night shopping, wrapping gifts and sleepless evenings due to endless lists and minds racing due to the stress of the holidays. Sleepless nights can lead to poor food choices, stressful days, irritation, moodiness, and of course fatigue. If you are finding yourself having trouble falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts or endless stress, try incorporating soothing rituals. Indulge in a yoga class followed by a hot bath, drink chamomile tea, enjoy lavender scented bath salts or treat yourself to an essential oil diffuser to help with these nights.
Lack of sleep also leads to illness, as it will decrease our immunity. So if you are finding yourself not getting your 7-10 hours of sleep a night, try to incorporate the above to keep your sleep habits regular and immunity up.
If time permits, try to indulge in quiet afternoon naps on those evenings you will be out or the next day. Running ourselves into the ground will lead to more stress, higher intake of caffeine, poor food choices and sickness.
4.) Choosing your holiday treats:
Now this is a good one, as we all always tempted by the endless boxes of chocolates, toffees, baked goods, favourite holidays dishes and Christmas cocktails in front of us. How do we limit ourselves to the overwhelming selection of treats and make the right decisions?
I like to suggest if the temptation is there, allow yourself 1 -2. Choose something that isn’t too sugary or perhaps tries 1 and saves one for the next day. Choose the healthier options if there are some and in some cases, choose between having those Christmas cocktails instead of dessert. I know it is easier said than done sometimes during the holiday season, however having a plan ahead of time is vital. I often will look at the selection of desserts, and if nothing jumps up to me, then I will pass. Another great tip is to share a treat with your spouse or friend.
Often, people, don’t realise that alcohol is just as high in calories as baked goods. When people put on those extra pounds over the holiday season, it mostly comes from all the Christmas cocktails consumed. Alcoholic drinks are liquid calories with no nutritional effects in them. Our body does not metabolize alcohol, where the fat become stored in an excess amount. Try to limit how much you have to drink and when to reduce those unwanted pounds.
5.) Choose a Charity or Volunteer:
This tip is very close to home for me and makes me look at the Christmas holidays in a different perspective. We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and forget what the true meaning of it is.
I find when we help those in need it relieves the stress we feel within ourselves over the holidays. The warmth of helping others, spreading cheer and spending time with those unfortunate allows up to embrace the meaning of Christmas on a different level.
Volunteering our time for others not only gives back to our community, but it also rewards us with the pleasure of seeing others days light up with joy without the expense of gifts, the stress of wrapping or the hustle and bustle of hosting. It is the pure form of giving and is worth every moment.
Lastly, take a moment to remember what the meaning of Christmas means to you and your loved ones. Embrace the time and moments you get to spend watching Christmas concerts, hearing your children sing, baking family recipes together, watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation together and decorating the Christmas tree to your favourite Christmas songs. Be thankful for another year together, the health of those you love and the continuous wealth of joy, friendship, laughter and love you have in your life every day!