Surrounded by naked branches and dreary light, the Northeast rises to a quiet dense fog and light frost at this time of year. The impending winter warns us of its arrival. Shops, doorsteps, hearths and holiday tables are adorned with holiday décor and rustic red bows. Sounds peaceful, right? Then why do the holidays cause so much stress, anxiety and sometimes, weight gain for so many of us Moms? Yes, it’s true; the dreaded holiday eating frenzy has arrived.
It’s no secret that all of the friends, family, festivities and fun can take its toll on us. With holiday meal planning, pie making, and cocktail curating in the works, the anticipation of heaping holiday plates of health compromising foods is looming. With New Year’s on the horizon, we start to panic at the thought of surviving the holidays healthfully and preparing for the year ahead. Rather than sabotage our health, we can manage the wasteful consumption of junk foods and “less than ideal” choices and their impact on our mind and body this holiday season, while also enjoying ourselves and maybe even indulging a little. With a fresh mindset and new perspective, we can make better choices and healthier decisions that mitigate the risk and impact of binge eating sugar cookies, over consuming Christmas cocktails, and snacking on crackers and chips all month long.
Whether your holiday tradition is a pancake and coffee breakfast on Christmas morning, an intimate family gathering, or the whole extended family and friends squeezed around grandma’s farmhouse table, you can survive and even thrive throughout the holidays this year.
Health at the holidays is not so different from health the rest of year. Let’s try to focus on the foods and routines we need to include in our daily life to maximize our health around the holidays and all year long. Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Start Your Day with Healthy Breakfast
Every morning is an opportunity to start your day fresh! Forget yesterday. Wake up and start new today. Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day for your metabolism, it also helps to set the tone for the day. If you wake up to French toast and bagels the likelihood of you wanting a green smoothie or salad later in the day is pretty slim. Try starting your day with steel cut oats and fresh fruit, and include a healthy fat like walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds – which will also give you a boost of fiber. This breakfast will help to maintain blood sugar levels, increase your metabolism, and give you the energy for the day ahead. Beginning each day with a healthy breakfast routine impacts the rest of your day. Set yourself up for success.
2. Eat the Rainbow
Party or not, make sure to fill up on high fiber plant foods throughout your day – getting in those veggies, fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and healthy fats during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Consider adding immune boosting foods to your plate to help you stay healthy during this cold and flu season, which typically spikes during the holidays because of our increased intake of sugar, dairy and immune compromising foods; among other factors like our stress and lack of sleep. Anti-inflammatory and immune boosting foods, herbs and spices can be staples on your plate or used as seasonings. Try adding blueberries, broccoli, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, flax seeds, kale, mushrooms, onion, oregano and turmeric to your daily diet.
3. Prioritize Self Care
The list of festivities is endless. And our stress levels tend to build around the holidays – seeing family, fitting in friends, finding time to exercise, socializing and attending office parties, holiday shopping, weekend gigs and kids’ events take over our monthly calendars.
- Have a to-do list that’s a mile long? Write it down. Get in the habit of jotting down why you are stressed, fearful, anxious. Communicate your needs with your partner and your family and make a plan to tackle those lists together.
- Need space from all the hustle and bustle? While you’re shopping and cooking for everyone else this season, don’t forget to make time for you. Carve out time for self-care, exercise, meditation, reading a book, showering, taking an Epsom salt bath. Get some fresh air, take a walk, and make your mental, emotional and physical health a priority.
4. Stay Hydrated
Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, dairy, gluten. The main culprits of inflammation during the holidays. Staying hydrated and drinking water is essential to our health year-round, but particularly during the holidays when we are putting extra stress on our bodies. If you are out at a party or enjoying a cocktail, make sure to drink a full glass of water between each beverage. That glass of H2O will help prevent dehydration, which is super important in preventing a hangover, as well as promoting healthier digestion and preventing blood sugar crashes throughout the day. Water is essential for our basic organ function, but it also helps to keep everything flowing and helps to clear out unwanted toxins and chemicals, ridding our bodies of harmful waste.
5. Balance Sleep + Movement
To get our butts of bed and workout, or stay snuggled under warm flannel sheets and catch some extra Zzz’s? Finding the balance here can be hard. Sleep and exercise are both very important factors that impact our overall health. There will be days when our bodies crave more rest. And that is perfectly okay. Getting enough rest and deep sleep is crucial to our emotional and mental health; as well as physical health and our bodies ability to effectively recover from stress and exercise. Prioritize your rest by getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Getting the proper amount of deep REM sleep not only helps our digestive system work properly, but keeps skin looking younger and helps our brain to engage and power through the day. No amount of caffeine can revive us from too little sleep. Much like babies, we thrive on routines – establish a bedtime routine and practice it each night before bed. When we make sleep a priority, we then have the opportunity and energy to enjoy movement in the morning. If you are asleep by 10 PM, you can set your alarm for 5-6 AM, exercise – spin, yoga, barre, pilates, run, HIIT, strength training, resistance training – whatever feels good for you. This is a great way to begin your day before being crowded with requests from kids and work emails. Scheduling this into our mornings ensures that the workout will get done, versus waiting until after work or later in the day to try and squeeze it in.
Not a morning person? Try an afternoon walk to get some fresh air and vitamin D. Sweating helps to rid the body of chemicals, free radicals and unwanted toxins that end up stored in our fat cells – so no matter what form of movement you choose, know that all forms of feel-good movement are great for your overall health. Moving our bodies also helps to promote a healthy sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. Double win! Set a goal at the beginning of each week and see what feels best for you and your body.
With all that said, take it easy on yourself Mama! We often put enough pressure on ourselves to be perfect. In no way am I suggesting you should be Santa Claus and Supermom for the holidays. Do your best to take care of yourself – maybe attempting 1 or 2 items on the tips list to help alleviate stress and promote presence. Because the truth is, when we make time for “me”, we are better Moms, wives, friends, daughters, sisters, partners and teammates. Take time to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy traditions with your family and friends. Wishing you a very merry and happy holiday season!