The upcoming holiday season brings with it many things for some of us: cold weather, less sunlight, more social/family obligations, parties and celebrations, more time indoors, and greater consumption of alcohol and traditional or celebratory foods. For some, this time of year can be quite stressful with the combative fear of eating all the wrong things verses fear of missing out on eating their favorite holiday foods. The question then remains, how can one stay healthy during the holiday season while also being able to still enjoy it? Here, I’d like to help by offering some tips and tricks for making your holiday season healthier and more enjoyable. I’ll also include some of my favorite holiday recipes with a healthy twist to help you feel better about the foods you enjoy!
Quick Tips for How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays:
What do the holidays mean for you and your health? Does this season include many indulgences? Additional stress? Temptations at social gatherings? Less time or opportunity for physical activity? The question many of us may be asking ourselves during this time of year is: “How can I stay healthy?” Below are some simple tips that you can try out to hopefully bring more balance to your holiday season!
- Be engaged. If you’re hosting or attending a holiday gathering, remind yourself to truly be there. Be present with your friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Think of this as quality time- because it is!- and act accordingly. It’s not about the food so much as it is about the people. Step away from the food table and immerse yourself in the company of good people.
- If you have a favorite treat or meal that you look forward to each year (e.g. the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or your mom’s New Year’s casserole), then savor it. Celebrate it because it is a special treat, slow down, and enjoy the experience without going overboard.
- A little goes a long way. Most holiday foods are rich, sweet, and heavy. You don’t have to deny yourself during the holidays (see Tip #2), but you don’t need to gorge yourself either. If your plating up at a gathering or during a holiday dinner, start with small portions (using a small plate can help too). When eating, eat slowly and consciously. Enjoy the foods you’re eating and appreciate what they mean to you and those that you’re sharing them with.
- Think of the big picture. The holidays are only a few days of the year even though our society approaches them as an entire season. If you choose to enjoy and indulge for 2-4 days out of the entire year, then fully allow yourself to do so. There’s no point in beating yourself up over, stressing about, or punishing yourself for enjoying some of your favorite holiday foods. Again, think moderation (see Tip #2 and #3).
- Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest. Staying well hydrated and getting enough sleep are especially important during the winter months. Not to mention, being hydrated and well rested may help curb your appetite.
- How hungry are you? At gatherings or during special holiday meals, it can be easy to overeat. Try asking yourself, “how hungry am I actually?” Are you wanting to eat because you’re genuinely hungry or are you wanting to eat because you’re excited? Stressed? Happy? Tired? Bored?
Mindfulness has become a hot topic in the health and wellness world. But it is attention that we believe is well-deserved. Mindfulness is a small practice that can have a big impact on our daily lives. To put it simply, mindfulness is a state of being in which the individual is focused on the present moment. Mindfulness is about noticing and acknowledging one’s breath, thoughts, emotions/feelings, and bodily sensations (without necessarily trying to change them). To put simply, mindfulness is about being with yourself, here and now. Here are some easy ways for you to be more mindful this holiday season:
- Be in the moment. If you are celebrating with others, be present with them and also with yourself. Remember why you have all gathered together and what you are celebrating. Be in the now and enjoy it for all that it is rather than thinking of your to-dos, shopping lists, and other obligations.
- Eat and drink mindfully. When at a holiday gathering or other celebration, tune in and ask yourself what it is that you’re truly hungry for? Do you want to eat a slice of pie because it’s available or are really hungry for it? Do you want to sip on another glass of wine because you’re stressed or because you want to enjoy it with those around you? Do you want to go for seconds at Thanksgiving because everything was so good and you can’t help yourself or because you are still physically hungry and you’d like to enjoy a little more of the cranberry sauce?
- Give yourself space. The holidays can mean many different things and can bring up a whole host of emotions and memories. Whether you’re feeling gratitude, joy, anxiety, or grief, allow yourself the space and the time to sit with those feelings and figure out how you can express and cope with your experience healthfully.
- Be kind to yourself. If you choose to enjoy treats or “unhealthy” foods during the holiday celebrations, don’t follow up with beating yourself up. Shaming yourself, punishing yourself, or being angry at yourself will not do you any good. If you tripped up and put your goals to the side for a day, that’s okay- as long as you truly enjoyed whatever it was that you indulged in. Tomorrow’s a new day. You can be flexible with your goals without abandoning them entirely.
- Move mindfully. The winter season is one of slowness, rest, and renewal. With less daylight and colder weather, it can be hard to maintain motivation for physical activity. This is a great time to tune in and figure out the ways in which your body wants to move. Some great things to try this winter would be yoga, pilates, body weight exercises, dance, and strength training.