Worried about overeating and under-moving? Not this holiday season
The holidays are filled with family, friends, food and drink, music, food, parties, and—you guessed it—more food! It can be a busy time with commitments that may add joy to your life, but also stress to your schedule and your body. While you may have been able to prioritize fitness, physical activities, and conscientious eating for much of the year, the holidays can be jarring to healthy habits.
Here are the keys to maintaining health through the holidays without impeding your enjoyment, and you don’t have to wait for January 1 to get started!
Sleep may be the most overlooked and underrated component of health. In fact, research has shown a significant link between sleep deprivation (sleeping less than seven hours per night) and a wide range of physical health issues, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and impaired immune function.
Tip: Prioritize sleep (and naps) where and when you can!
A major challenge many of us face over the holidays involves meal, snack, and dessert choices. Chocolates, treats, and adult beverages are holiday staples. They’re in your face (and often end up in your mouth). Here are a few real-world strategies that will help keep you on track.
It’s like your pre-nightclub college days, but the exact opposite, for the times when you know you’re going to a party, gathering, or dinner where there’ll be bonbons galore.
Tip: Eat nutritious foods containing high protein and fibre (both of which are known to keep you fuller longer) right before you go.
This is probably filed under the “duh” category of Captain Obvious’ tips, but it’s not what you think. The advice is not to “eat less,” but rather to normalize smaller portion sizes, because research illustrates that normalizing smaller portion sizes now has a mitigating effect on future portion size choices.
Tip: Keep it small; it’s perfectly fine to go back for a second small helping if you want.
Before you conveniently misconstrue, let’s be clear: stay hydrated with water. Research shows a correlation between increased hydration levels and both greater feelings of fullness and lower trends toward choosing salty foods.
Tip: Remember to get enough water; drinking alcohol can actually dehydrate.
You can usually plan movement and nutritious eating around holiday parties and family gatherings.
You might not be able to predict your co-worker bringing treats to the office, or when your kids threaten a hunger strike unless they get a full pancake breakfast. You can plan for this happening more often during the holiday season.
Tip: The “80/20 rule” suggests that if you eat in a mindful, intentional, and healthy manner (nutritious foods and appropriate portion sizes) 80 percent of the time, your body can deal with the other 20 percent without lasting impact to your health. Studies suggest this may also have positive psychological benefits, since it strategizes for inevitable deviation from healthy eating.
In that same spirit, be prepared to move your body when the opportunity arises. No, it may not be your step class, a spin session, or your regular gym workout, but any physical activity is better than none.
Tip: A 15-minute jog between meetings, a 10-minute stretch while your toddler is napping, or an after-dinner walk can keep you moving and make it easier to get back into your regular routine once your schedule normalizes.
Stephanie Rolfe, a health coach who specializes in behaviour change, believes that even goals set with the best intentions may fail without “gravity.”
“The key to setting any goal that will lead to long-lasting change,” says Rolfe, “is choosing those that have meaning. They have gravity! They’re grounded in your values and answer the question of ‘why?’
“Losing 10 pounds sounds nice, but as a goal it does little to light a fire ... Wanting to lose 10 pounds so you can move with less effort, feel energized, and keep up with your kids for years to come—that’s something worth working for.”
Once you’ve figured out your why, Rolfe suggests getting specific with your how: “… what you’re going to do, when, how often, and with whom are details that can help you get clear on your plan and make taking action easier and less overwhelming.
“Be realistic, though. If you’re not 9/10 (or more) confident that you can meet those action goals, break it down into smaller pieces and try again. The little actions add up!”
The best part is, if you start your plan before New Year’s Day, you can take significant positive health steps and still enjoy your holidays!
Planning for the holidays may also mean planning for nutritional gaps. Some of the supplements you may want to consider prioritizing in your plan include the following.
works in concert with vitamin D
cellular repair and brain support
general vitamin insurance policy
supports overall wellness when veggie intake is low
If you’re like most people, and a little overwhelmed by health-related goal-setting, health coach Stephanie Rolfe recommends focusing on things you’re already doing well, and look for ways to do more of it.
Want to eat healthier? Try eating more veggies and fruits rather than focusing on cutting out takeout.
Want to exercise more? Take your dog for a longer walk rather than cutting out Netflix entirely.
When you focus on the positive and build on skills you already have, you’ll be surprised at how the other stuff just fades away. Try setting action goals around positive additions this holiday season (before January 1) and let us know how it goes!
This article was originally published in the December 2023 issue of alive magazine.