Updated: Dec 18, 2021
The holiday season is in full swing, and with these cold weather days, the stresses of gift buying, traveling and surplus of heavy foods and sweets, it can be easy to put our good health mindsets and practices on the back burner. There are a few key things to remember about indulging - or not - this time of year to keep your mind and body sane, safe and healthy.
Number 1: It’s OK to say NO! Just because grandma made her extra special pie recipe that you used to love as a kid, or it seems like “everyone else is eating it,” doesn’t mean you have to break your healthy eating habits and elimination strategies. Your lifestyle changes could even cause certain comfort foods to make you ill! There is no need to give in to that pressure.
Number 2: It’s OK to say YES!....in small quantities. The stresses we put on ourselves to follow strict diets or not being able to partake in social functions can do more harm to our waistline than good. Our metabolism and fat stores are guided by our hormones, and releasing a stress response can make it even harder to lose weight. It is proven to be beneficial to our microbiome to keep a variety of foods in our diet in order to be able to handle and process foods in a better manner, but the key is doing so in small doses. Take a small bite of your favorite dishes to quench those taste buds and satisfy your urges without storing too much in your fat cells. You might even find after switching to a more whole foods, plant based diet that the small bites of those comfort foods don’t taste as good to you anymore. And don’t forget to say YES to those veggies!
Number 3: Offer to bring something or host! If you are in charge of a dish or the menu you can be sure you are using quality ingredients that serve your body right. More importantly, you know it will be something you love and can eat guilt free. Your friends may be surprised at just how tasty healthy foods can be and become inspired to make similar dishes at upcoming events.
Number 4: Elimination…..and yes I am talking BOWEL MOVEMENTS! If you are putting extra or different foods in, make sure it’s coming out! We run into disease and illness when our bodies are inundated with toxins that build up and are stored in the body without being released. Regular bowel movements on a daily basis are key to keeping our microbiome happy. Try taking a probiotic and/or prebiotic supplement if you know you are exposing your body to new and/or different things or if you are not getting as much fiber from whole foods, fruits and veggies as you normally do. Use of an infrared sauna is also another great way to help your body eliminate those added toxins in the body.
Number 5: The most important one of all in my opinion, is to GET MOVING. Numerous studies have shown the immense benefits of exercise and physical activity on health including improving brain health and cognition, depression and anxiety, sleep quality, heart health, bone density and strength. Exercise also promotes weight management and metabolism gains, decreased risk for cancer, decreased arthritis pain, and increases your chances for living longer. It might seem harder without your usual exercise routine and regimen that will often be interrupted during the holiday season, but try to find a way to incorporate some movement into every day. Take a walk with a family member or pet after (or even better before) a big meal. Choose to take the stairs or skip the motorized walking path at the airport. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching a movie or sports game with the family, get up and have a dance party to your favorite holiday playlist or play an active game like charades. Not only will it get everyone moving, but dancing and games usually lead to lots of laughter and smiling which releases positive hormones and endorphins such as oxytocin. There are countless exercise videos available online; sneak in a quick session at some point in the day to meet your body's needs. Plyometrics and high intensity interval training are other ways to get your heart rate moving and elicit that sweat response in a short period of time. Or even better, make it a family affair and convince your loved ones to participate in a yoga, exercise or Zumba class with you so everyone can share and experience the benefits.
Cheers to a healthy holiday!
Your Physical Therapist,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Benefits of Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm