Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season
The holiday season is approaching fast and with that comes cold weather, less daytime hours, relaxing and lots of food. It’s the perfect storm causing the fittest person to even fall off track in their health and fitness journey. But no worries, we have some tips to help you stay on track this holiday season while still enjoying yourself.
Water can do wonders for the body during any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season. Drink plenty of water to not only keep your skin hydrated in winter's dry conditions, but also to prevent overeating. Many times our body can mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger. Water helps increase your metabolic rate, as well as makes you feel fuller for longer.
Find Small Ways to Increase your Activity
Go for a short walk (even if it’s around your home or the mall to keep warm), take the stairs when possible, exercise while watching TV or find other ways to move your body during the cold winter months where you may not be as active. Sign up for a Turkey Trot or another themed holiday race with a friend or family member to get in the holiday spirit while exercising. You can also do fun winter activities that keep you active such as ice skating, skiing or snow boarding!
Eat a Small Snack Prior to Gatherings (And Don’t Meal Skip!)
It’s easy to just eat nothing all morning of a holiday and then binging like crazy later in the day. This usually ends with you consuming way more calories than you would have had you ate breakfast. To avoid binging on all the delicious foods at holiday events, eat a small snack prior to arriving. Also, ensure you are eating three meals a day to prevent fat gain and overeating.
Make Smart Substitutions
You can still enjoy all the traditional holiday foods, but by making some small substitutions can make all the difference in terms of caloric intake. For example, chose only white turkey meat over dark during Thanksgiving dinner, use low fat gravy, or make homemade stuffing instead of store bought. You can research hundreds of different holiday recipes that have been altered slightly to be made healthier. These small changes will add up and really help you stay on track during this holiday season.
Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
With holiday break, it’s easy to go from waking up at 8am every day for class to sleeping in till noon one day, and waking up at 8 again the next. Your body’s circadian rhythm and internal clock is extremely fragile and thrives off a consistent sleep schedule. Studies have shown that going to bed at different times is associated with poorer sleep quality, weaker immune system and fatigue. In addition, research has found that inconsistent sleep or sleep deprivation can throw off your hormones and increase production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates your appetite. Try sticking to a basic routine during this break that includes going to sleep and waking up around the same times every day.
Get Sunlight When Possible
There is a reason that the “winter blues” and seasonal depression is so common during the winter months. Sun exposure provides incredible benefits for the body. A fact most are familiar with is the sun’s our main source of vitamin D, which is essential for the body to absorb calcium essential for bone growth and upkeep. In addition, sunlight has been found to associate with the rate of production of serotonin in the brain and alertness in the body, meaning that the sun plays a major part in keeping you awake and happy. When possible, go outside to soak in sunlight during the daytime hours, or invest in a light therapy lamp that mimics outdoor light.
Be Mindful of Empty/Liquid Calories
Hot chocolates, hot ciders, peppermint mochas, eggnog and other delicious beverages all start showing up everywhere during the holiday season. These drinks can pack a serious punch, with a drink like eggnog being around 400 calories a cup. Not to mention, these drinks typically contain very little nutritional benefits. Limit them to special occasions, and opt for a hot tea or coffee to warm yourself up when coming in from the cold. In addition, be aware of what foods fuel your body and contain necessary nutrients, and opt in to enjoy those foods rather than one that only provide caloric value.
Stick to Your Own Intuition
It’s easy to give in to when grandma is making you feel bad for not having another one of her cookies, but try your best to listen to your body and when it signals that you are full. You are allowed to politely decline or take small portions of foods offered to you. You will be proud of yourself for listening to your body instead of what others are saying. Practice mindful eating during this season as well, taking your time and appreciate the delicious flavors of this season! Not only will you keep on track in your health journey by following these tips, but you will also be more appreciate of this season, and all the wonderful treats it offers.