Surviving the Season – 5 Holiday Health Hacks
We’re having a friendsgiving celebration and I just finished up baking some donuts for the occasion – the donut addiction is real people! Somehow I managed to get through the entire process and only eat one mini donut – I recognize all my accomplishments in life, big and small! Anyway, it got me thinking about how stressful the holidays can be with so many social functions to attend & trying to be healthy and what is being healthy all about anyway?
If you deprive yourself of foods you love, are you happy? And what about if you indulge. Do you feel guilty or workout excessively to compensate? Neither of those tactics promote an overall sense of well-being or help to cultivate a healthy relationship with food & exercise. So I’ve come up with some strategies to “hack the holidays”, avoid weight gain & enjoy the festive season without undue stress! After all, life is all about balance. And donuts…
1. Plan your Treats
Let’s be realistic now, none of us are perfect! Whilst you might be able to go to one or two parties without indulging, restriction typically leads to overeating. Most likely, you will eventually succumb to your cravings and instead of having one or two treats, you will binge and then spend the rest of the evening having a Bridget Jones moment on the sofa. Spare yourself the guilt-trip & show yourself some compassion. Make a deal with yourself to enjoy one or two things you wouldn’t normally eat and don’t feel bad about it. Skip things you can have any time of year like Oreos and M&Ms and savor your mom’s homemade pie instead. A couple treats here and there are not going to ruin your overall progress. Remember a healthy lifestyle is all about balance & long-term sustainability.
2. Keep Alcohol to a Minimum
It’s easy to forget that calories come in liquid form too and alcoholic sugary drinks are by far the most calorific. Not only that, but alcohol generally impairs your decision-making abilities, easily turning that one treat you’ve planned on into four (and the rest)!
Waking up with a hangover is unlikely to motivate you to want to workout or eat well either. If you like to have a drink or two, try to avoid cocktails with sugary mixers. Mix your spirits with club soda & fresh lime instead and be sure to space out your drinks with plenty of water in between.
Don’t skip your workouts or regular training routine. Do your best to continue to make time for exercise as it will actually help alleviate that added stress that the holidays can bring. Most high-intensity workouts are short & quick like Tabata intervals (20 seconds on, 10 seconds). You could do a 16 minute Tabata circuit with 4 body-weight movements, like jumping squats, push-ups, jumping lunges & sit-ups. Or ditch your usual 45-minute jog for 6 rounds of 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest in between.
Short and intense workouts like these are typically 20 minutes or less so they’re perfect if you’re crunched for time. They’re also amazing calorie burners as they ramp up that intensity so you’ll continue to burn calories after you’re done.
If things really don’t go as planned, then don’t forget that you can burn a lot of extra calories easily with activity not dedicated to formal exercise. NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)comprises all our activity that doesn’t involve eating, sleeping, breathing or formal exercise. So things like shoveling snow, cleaning the house, prepping food in the kitchen or playing with the kids can all add up! Have a standing desk in your office or home? Use it!
4. Eat Sensibly Before You Go
For some who are accustomed to intermittent fasting, you may find utilizing this strategy before a party very beneficial. But for most of us, fasting all day before a social function is not a good idea! We all know what happens when we go to the supermarket when we’re hungry right? So why would you think going to a party on an empty stomach would be any different? The only difference, is instead of filling your shopping cart with lots of delicious treats, you wind up filling your belly!
To avoid that scenario, it’s best to eat sensibly throughout the day. Stay on top of your lean protein and steer clear of starchy carbohydrates like rice, bread, pasta & cereals. Having a green, protein smoothie or a delicious salad (check out the brussel sprout slaw) before you go is a great way to pack in some nutrients & keep your hunger at bay.
5. Be Mindful
Part of being healthy is cultivating a positive mindset. It can be very easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk when you feel like you are not accomplishing the things you “should” be, especially when it comes to following a diet or fitness routine. Start the day with a 10-minute meditation, or go for a walk and focus on a simple mantra like “the secret to having it all, is knowing I already do.”Alternatively, try focusing your attention on five things you are grateful for.
Setting an intention for the day can also help enormously. I use a deck of cards called “Be The Change” and pick a card every morning to help me set an intention and focus for the day. It really makes a huge difference in helping me shift my perspective when I’m faced with unexpected and challenging frustrations. Instead of screaming at my dog for pooping on the floor and throwing me off my schedule, I simply deal with it & take a moment to play with her because let’s face it, the accident probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been neglecting her in the first place. Reframing challenging situations and turning them into an opportunity for enjoyment is so important when it comes to overcoming stressful situations. Take a moment for quiet reflection and question yourself. Did something happen to you or can you claim control and ownership over your circumstances?