It’s about that time of year again. Schedules start to fill up with holiday parties, visits from friends and family are a regular occurrence, and little bits of holiday cheer (ahem, mainly in the form of sweets) are everywhere.
The question is, how can we keep up our healthy habits when things get hectic during the holiday season? First things first, it is possible. With a bit of planning and a few simple tips, you can count on feeling energized, less stressed and without that post-holiday weight gain. Here’s how:
Keep your energy up
Let’s not underestimate the power of simple habits.
When it comes to energy slumps, they are most often due to dehydration or a blood sugar dip. Aim for half of your body weight, in ounces, as your target fluid goal for the day. For every cup of coffee or 30 minutes of exercise, add another 8 oz. (S’well bottles make an excellent gift.)
Who hasn’t felt hangry? When you skip a meal or reach for that cookie on an empty stomach, your body ends up with lower blood sugar. Translation: feeling tired, irritated and foggy-headed. The best way to avoid this when your schedule gets hectic and sweet treats are abundant, is to eat regular meals and snacks. Ideally something every 3-4 hours with a bit of protein and healthy fat to keep you satiated (a handful of raw nuts are my staple). Even if you decide to indulge in the homemade shortbread at the office cookie exchange, you won’t experience the same negative effects as you would on an empty stomach.
Lower your stress
The holidays can be stressful. Let’s be honest. Even if you aren’t hosting a large dinner party or don’t plan on travelling far to visit family, this time of year can be more demanding and less routine than usual. So in order to keep ourselves healthy and happy with whatever comes our way (or goes wrong) this holiday season, let’s nurture those adrenal glands and keep our stress hormones in check.
The solution? Get your B’s and Zzzz
B vitamins are present in many of the foods we eat. However, when stress levels rise, our bodies use up a lot more of these vitamins (especially B5, B6 and B12). Taking a high quality form of all the b vitamins, usually in the form of a b-complex, can be a safe way to manage your stress and replenish what’s lost.
Sleep is the first thing to go when our schedules get packed. Don’t let it be. Aim for no less than 7 hours per night (if you need a bit of help try a few drops of this pure essential oil on your pillow). If a late night does occur, just be sure to get back into your routine the following evening. More than 1 night of too-little sleep affects our mood, energy and need for under-eye concealer. Life happens, just don’t make sleep deprivation a habit over the holidays.
Prevent the holiday weight gain
This is probably the most common complaint about the month of December. Too many treats and not enough exercise to balance it out. Most weight gain occurs from the over-consumption of carbohydrates (think alcohol, pastries, chocolate, those little hors d’oeuvres).
You can counteract this in two ways. One: avoid all extra carbohydrates (unlikely). Two: eat three regular meals that are high in protein (at least 20g) and focus on high fibre vegetables. It’s a common misconception to think ‘I’ll skip a meal in order to indulge later’. The problem is you end up eating more calories, and not the nutritious type. Your body then responds by increasing your cravings or storing the extra calories as fat. By sticking to 3 high protein meals daily, your body (and waistline) will react better to the ‘added treats’. I usually recommend a vegan protein powder smoothie in the morning, lean protein with green veggies for lunch and dinner. Simple.
Overall, the holiday season should be a time spent with loved ones, spreading joy and feeling good about yourself. Don’t let the stress of this time of year leave you irritated and tired. Make a plan to get this month in order, stick to these simple tips and reap the benefits.
Here’s to a happy & healthy holiday season!
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.