Holiday Health Survival Guide

HOLIDAY HEALTH SURVIVAL GUIDE

The holidays can be a whirlwind time of year–Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, your work party, your partners work party, one side of the family’s party, then the others, Secret Santa, a cookie swap, holiday events at school for the kids…The list goes on and on. It’s fun, but its a lot.

One of the biggest challenges of November and December is maintaining some semblance of health. There’s far less time to exercise and sleep, getting meal prep done on a Sunday feels almost impossible, and by the time you arrive at that party at 5 you’re starving and standing in front of four pounds of spritz cookies. Who wouldn’t dive in? The shame is that these hurdles make this time of year feel like a green light to spiral into a two-month binge for some folks. And then we promise ourselves that we’ll make up for it January First and become a health goddess overnight. The reality is, that’s just not going to happen. It’s the definition of self-sabotage.

So how do we manage these sprinkle-coated weeks and approach January with clarity and calm?

First, we have to get the good stuff in first, no matter what time of year it is.

Second, we have to satisfy, not stuff ourselves.

Third, we have to return to regularly scheduled programming at the very next meal.

Fourth, we have to continue to move and sleep.

Consume Your Nourishing Meals First

Resisting a holiday cookie platter is hard enough as it is, let alone on an empty stomach. One of the most important factors in maintaining healthy habits this time of year is to continue to get nourishing meals in first, before the parties and baking.

If you’re going to a party at 6 pm, you have to consume a nutrient-dense mixed meal before you go. Maybe for you this is making sure you have a rotisserie chicken and raw veggies on hand, or a bowl of homemade soup waiting in the fridge, or meal prepping a batch of chili in the slow-cooker at the beginning of the week. Regardless of how you get it, going to parties that are full of treats with a stomach that is already well-nourished will ensure that you don’t go off the cliff of indulgence. This instantly helps resist temptation.

Satisfy, Not Stuff

There are delicious and emotional memories associated with holiday foods. And fortunately, there’s no reason to miss out on them. If there is a special item that’s made only once a year and you just have to have some: have some! The key here is to have a little bit, and move on. One gingerbread man is very different than fifteen. There’s no reason to not have some, and there’s no reason to have tons of them. Satisfy your emotions and palette by allowing yourself to have a reasonable portion of the treats that are totally worth it. And again, when you’ve already eaten a nourishing meal beforehand, this is far easier.

Return to Regularly Scheduled Programming

Holiday weight gain doesn’t occur because someone had one treat. It occurs because someone went to a party hungry, went wild at every food station, and then woke up the next day feeling so “off the wagon” that they gave themselves a green light to wait until January to consider a vegetable again.

If we let ourselves have some of our favorite treats, we eat less. And then the key is to gently return to our normal, nourishing nutrition at the very next meal. We can return to our regularly scheduled programming within hours. And when we do that, we feel better, we get to have the treats that are worth it, and we stay the course.

Keep Moving, Keep Sleeping

Finding time to exercise during the holiday season is certainly a challenge. But if we don’t prioritize it, it’s just not going to happen. We have to schedule our sessions so that we’re accountable, and we have to show up and do the work. This might mean rearranging the schedule a little bit, but what could be worth it than your health? Even if we reduce our workouts to one or two a week, but make sure we get adequate steps per day, that’s still a win. Completely disappearing from the gym with the promise of showing up January 1 is no way to manage and progress your health.

Additionally, we have to make sure that we’re still getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If one night of little sleep rolls into several weeks of little sleep, we’re just asking for trouble. Not only does that lower our sensitivity to glucose and insulin in our blood, but it weakens our immune system and can contribute to anxious or depressed moods. This might mean saying no to a few holiday parties, or scheduling a hard stop for an event you’re attending, but if that means sparing your immune system, inflammation, and mood, it’s worth it.

Overall, it’s clear that there are ways to get through the holidays with minimal damage. But it is going to take a little planning and strategy. Items to prioritize include: keeping vegetables and protein on hand (rotisserie chicken, celery/carrot/cucumber sticks), meal-prepping a slow-cooker soup, keep nuts and seeds in the pantry, and stock the fridge with fresh fruit. Be sure to arrive at events having already eaten a nourishing meal, and let yourself be satisfied by reasonable portions of treats, not stuffed. And as always, keep moving and keep sleeping.

HOLIDAY HEALTH SURVIVAL GUIDE

The holidays can be a whirlwind time of year–Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, your work party, your partners work party, one side of the family’s party, then the others, Secret Santa, a cookie swap, holiday events at school for the kids…The list goes on and on. It’s fun, but its a lot.

One of the biggest challenges of November and December is maintaining some semblance of health. There’s far less time to exercise and sleep, getting meal prep done on a Sunday feels almost impossible, and by the time you arrive at that party at 5 you’re starving and standing in front of four pounds of spritz cookies. Who wouldn’t dive in? The shame is that these hurdles make this time of year feel like a green light to spiral into a two-month binge for some folks. And then we promise ourselves that we’ll make up for it January First and become a health goddess overnight. The reality is, that’s just not going to happen. It’s the definition of self-sabotage.

So how do we manage these sprinkle-coated weeks and approach January with clarity and calm?

First, we have to get the good stuff in first, no matter what time of year it is.

Second, we have to satisfy, not stuff ourselves.

Third, we have to return to regularly scheduled programming at the very next meal.

Fourth, we have to continue to move and sleep.

Consume Your Nourishing Meals First

Resisting a holiday cookie platter is hard enough as it is, let alone on an empty stomach. One of the most important factors in maintaining healthy habits this time of year is to continue to get nourishing meals in first, before the parties and baking.

If you’re going to a party at 6 pm, you have to consume a nutrient-dense mixed meal before you go. Maybe for you this is making sure you have a rotisserie chicken and raw veggies on hand, or a bowl of homemade soup waiting in the fridge, or meal prepping a batch of chili in the slow-cooker at the beginning of the week. Regardless of how you get it, going to parties that are full of treats with a stomach that is already well-nourished will ensure that you don’t go off the cliff of indulgence. This instantly helps resist temptation.

Satisfy, Not Stuff

There are delicious and emotional memories associated with holiday foods. And fortunately, there’s no reason to miss out on them. If there is a special item that’s made only once a year and you just have to have some: have some! The key here is to have a little bit, and move on. One gingerbread man is very different than fifteen. There’s no reason to not have some, and there’s no reason to have tons of them. Satisfy your emotions and palette by allowing yourself to have a reasonable portion of the treats that are totally worth it. And again, when you’ve already eaten a nourishing meal beforehand, this is far easier.

Return to Regularly Scheduled Programming

Holiday weight gain doesn’t occur because someone had one treat. It occurs because someone went to a party hungry, went wild at every food station, and then woke up the next day feeling so “off the wagon” that they gave themselves a green light to wait until January to consider a vegetable again.

If we let ourselves have some of our favorite treats, we eat less. And then the key is to gently return to our normal, nourishing nutrition at the very next meal. We can return to our regularly scheduled programming within hours. And when we do that, we feel better, we get to have the treats that are worth it, and we stay the course.

Keep Moving, Keep Sleeping

Finding time to exercise during the holiday season is certainly a challenge. But if we don’t prioritize it, it’s just not going to happen. We have to schedule our sessions so that we’re accountable, and we have to show up and do the work. This might mean rearranging the schedule a little bit, but what could be worth it than your health? Even if we reduce our workouts to one or two a week, but make sure we get adequate steps per day, that’s still a win. Completely disappearing from the gym with the promise of showing up January 1 is no way to manage and progress your health.

Additionally, we have to make sure that we’re still getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If one night of little sleep rolls into several weeks of little sleep, we’re just asking for trouble. Not only does that lower our sensitivity to glucose and insulin in our blood, but it weakens our immune system and can contribute to anxious or depressed moods. This might mean saying no to a few holiday parties, or scheduling a hard stop for an event you’re attending, but if that means sparing your immune system, inflammation, and mood, it’s worth it.

Overall, it’s clear that there are ways to get through the holidays with minimal damage. But it is going to take a little planning and strategy. Items to prioritize include: keeping vegetables and protein on hand (rotisserie chicken, celery/carrot/cucumber sticks), meal-prepping a slow-cooker soup, keep nuts and seeds in the pantry, and stock the fridge with fresh fruit. Be sure to arrive at events having already eaten a nourishing meal, and let yourself be satisfied by reasonable portions of treats, not stuffed. And as always, keep moving and keep sleeping.

2018-12-01T15:20:51+00:00

About the Author:

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Erin is a graduate student working toward a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Health Promotion, as well as completing the Didactic Program in Dietetics to become a Registered Dietitian. She’s also a Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach and Certified Sports Nutritionist.