Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the holidays are right around the corner. Christmas is exactly 2 months away, can you believe it? I’m sure you’re excited for all of the wonderful feel-good emotions that the holidays bring- connecting with family and friends, engaging in joyful parties and events, and of course, indulging in some guilty food pleasures. Who wouldn’t be excited for that?
As the days grow closer and you find yourself bookmarking more Christmas cookie recipes, you might start to worry how all of the emotional stress is going to effect your current health goals. Let’s face it, the most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most overwhelming times and if we aren’t focused on staying on track and putting our own health first, it’s going to be easy to let everything go and promise ourselves we’ll just write it off in the new year.
The key is having a plan to tackle these next few months. It doesn’t have to extension and you certainly want to give yourself some extra grace because we all know, it’s a time to celebrate love, life and happiness, not to feel guilt for the things we did not do.
Here are my top 5 ways put your health in front of the holidays:
1. Never skip a meal.
“Saving” your calories doesn’t do your body any favors, it actually does the complete opposite. When you skip a meal, you’re slowing down your metabolism and decreasing your energy stores. It’s a guaranteed way to eat more later on in the day so by the time you get to that party, you’ll be all over the chips and dip like it was your job. Instead of bypassing breakfast and lunch, aim for healthy balanced meals throughout the day and let yourself indulge just a little on the extensive buffet spread at your office Christmas party.
2. Schedule your workouts.
If you think your to-do list is jam packed now, just wait until you start adding in Christmas shopping, parties, and any other holiday related gatherings that always seem to pop up after Halloween. Exercise might become less of a priority but don’t let it! Always remember how good you feel after a great workout and let that be your motivator to keep you on track. Now more than ever, it’s best to make a routine and stick to it as best you can. If you plan on working out 3 times a week in the morning, write it out and check it off each time you complete it. Seeing your goals in front of you will make it easier to remember and help you stay focused.
3. Control your stress hormones.
Adrenaline is your short-term “fight or flight” stress hormone that’s triggered by point-in-time situations (e.g, last minute shopping, social encounters, finishing your work to make it home by dinner). Cortisol is your long-term stress hormone that’s triggered by stressful situations in general (e.g., dealing with finances, worrying about your health). Elevated levels of either of these hormones causes your body to store weight. So, no matter how healthy you eat if you have high stress levels your body will hold onto weight.
4. Increase your protein at every meal.
There are many wonderful benefits of protein but a big one is that it keeps you full and energized for a long period of time. It’s important to have enough protein at every meal so that our blood sugar doesn’t drop and we aren’t always feeling that sudden urge of hunger. The holidays are a great reason to partake in some extra treats that we may not get a chance to have often, but if we are indulging in a sugar overload now until January, it’s only going to make it harder to get back on track once the holiday season ends.
5. Get lots of sleep.
Sleep is critical in maintaining a health weight and immune system. Do you ever notice how so many people start to develop nasty sicknesses this time of year? If you want to keep yourself free from colds and other illness, make sure your body is getting enough rest every single day. It’s easy to let this one go, especially if we feel like we will miss out on the festivities, but remember, if we aren’t getting our proper zzz’s, we put ourselves at risk for a lower immune system, which in turn could result in weight gain and feeling lousy when everyone else is celebrating.
I’m thrilled for the holidays and you should be too! It’s a beautiful time and one that I never want to look back on and think how unhappy I felt with myself or my choices. So eat a cookie or two, have an extra cocktail and maybe even a slice of pie, but just remember that these acts should not be the focus of your day. Live as you normally would, take everything in, and remember that your health and happiness are what always matters.
Question: What is your favorite tip for staying on track during the holiday season?