Keep the focus on fun, not food!
Most holidays are associated with certain foods. Let’s face it, food is a major theme of the holidays. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, food excesses can lead to digestive troubles including indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux.
The best way to prevent these digestive issues is to moderate your food intake, and the best way to do that is to know when you’ve had enough. Try to eat slowly as the brain takes about 20 minutes to let you know you’re full. Also, go easy on the appetizers, meats, desserts, cream sauces, etc. to leave room for healthier choices. Fill half your plate with veggies and drink plenty of water, which will help with digestion. Finally, don’t force yourself to eat everything, but choose what you most enjoy. That being said, in case of gastrointestinal problems, your pharmacist can help you.
Christmas at your house might not be the same without your aunt’s green been casserole, but that doesn’t mean food has to be the main focus. Instead, throw yourself into the other rituals a holiday brings, whether it’s caroling or tree trimming.
Modify your eating times so that they jive with your relatives’
Do your in-laws’ meal schedules fly in the face of yours? Here’s how to compromise:
Say they wake up later than you do and serve a late breakfast at 10:30. Then they skip lunch and serve Christmas ‘dinner’ at 3 p.m. To keep your blood sugar steady without overdoing it on calories, have an early-morning snack (such as a piece of whole-grain toast) before your relatives rise and shine. Their late breakfast will count as your ‘real’ breakfast, plus some of your lunch. Enjoy the 3 p.m. meal – but don’t overdo it! – and have a small snack at around 8 p.m.
Limit your consumption of alcohol
No doubt there are numerous occasions to raise a glass with family and friends during the holidays. However, drinking to excess, even if it’s only once in a while, can cause serious damage. The adverse effects of alcohol can affect the entire body—not just cause a hangover!
Drinking too much makes you more prone to make bad eating decisions, but research also shows over-consuming alcohol can adversely impact your immune system. So can too much sugar, which makes those sweet cocktails a double whammy for getting sick. Instead of alcohol, consider sipping on a mineral water or club soda with lime. It’s a refreshing alternative that will also keep you well hydrated.
Women should limit their alcohol consumption to 2 glasses a day and men to 3. Women can occasionally have 3 glasses and men 4, as long as women don’t exceed 10 glasses a week and men 15.
Drink Plenty of WATER
If you’re like me, when you’re mingling at a party you always need something in your hand. If it needs to be a drink, be sure to have a large glass of water between alcoholic beverages. Your head will thank you the next day! Alcohol and high sugar cocktails not only wreak havoc on your system but usually have no nutritional value.
Be sure to drink plenty of water in between, or you can fizz it up a bit with sparkling water! I like to squeeze lemon or lime in Perrier and add a few drops of liquid stevia. It tastes just like soda pop without the added calories! Water will also help keep you feeling full longer so you’re not tempted to reach for the sugary goodies.
Get out there and be active
Don’t neglect your physical activities during the holidays. It’s even more important to stay active during this period. Besides being good for your overall health, exercise can help you get rid of stress and forget about your worries for a while. It’s even recommended to increase your level of physical activity during this time of festivities. For example, if you already run three times a week, run a fourth time. Not only will you feel better, you’ll also burn more calories. But don’t ruin all your efforts by using exercise as an excuse to eat more.
It can be hard to stay motivated to work out when the temperature is dipping outside and the last thing you feel like doing is going outside for a run or heading to the gym.
Luckily there are plenty of fun ways to stay active during the winter. Try things like skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking and ice skating. There are also a lot of “fun runs” during the holidays (5Ks, 6Ks). These can be a great way to get the whole family involved and get outside, be active and enjoy some fun exercise together.
Relax your body and mind
When you are more relaxed you sometimes get more done—and feel better doing it.
When you feel wound up or overwhelmed, take five minutes to breathe deeply and scan your body from head to toe. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of two, breathe out through your mouth for a count of four, and repeat. Check your forehead, jaw and tongue for tightness, relax; then check your neck and shoulders, stretch and move them to find a comfortable position, then continue with your arms, chest, abdomen and legs. You can even breathe and relax your body while driving—just don’t close your eyes!
Tend to your body’s needs
Notice if there are parts of your body that aren’t working well. Make a list and an appointment with your doctor for after the holidays.
Talk with your doctor if you have fatigue that hasn’t improved with time; mental fog that makes it hard to work or remember things; neuropathy (numbness or pain in your feet, hands or elsewhere), incontinence or other problems that affect your quality of life. Knowing you have a plan for attending to these problems can ease your mind during the holidays and let you focus on other things.
Handshakes, kisses and hugs are great ways to spread infections like colds, flus and gastroenteritis. Prevent them by washing your hands often and keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Also, remind people who are coughing or sneezing to cover their mouths with their elbows.
A single cough or sneeze can project thousands of saliva drops into the air. Always keep a small bottle of antibacterial gel on hand—even better, leave a big bottle out for everyone to use—to protect yourself from the many viruses you’re sure to come into contact with over the holidays. Try to keep your distance from people who present cold or other infectious symptoms. It may sound simple enough, but it’s not always easy to do at gatherings and parties. Finally, if you are feeling sick, stay in bed. It’s better to miss a party than to infect all your relatives!
Watch out for food poisoning
The risk of food poisoning increases during the holidays. A turkey stuffed the night before can become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. In fact, the turkey’s cavity isolates the stuffing from the cold air and provides a perfect environment for bacteria to multiply.
Buffets left out for too long can also present risks of food intoxication. To reduce the risks, it’s important to follow basic rules for safely preparing, manipulating, cooking and storing food: wash your hands often and thoroughly clean all cooking utensils and work surfaces; avoid cross-contamination (cooked or ready-to-eat foods coming into contact with raw meat or poultry); cook foods at recommended temperatures and refrigerate all leftovers right after a meal. Finally, remember to thaw the turkey in the fridge.
Take time for yourself
If you’re feeling tired, you risk exhaustion and increasing your level of stress. You might not have the time to take a spa day during the holiday madness, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a little time for yourself.
Between shopping, cooking and hosting, make sure you take a moment each day to just relax and clear your mind. A few moments are all you need to unwind and recharge. Take an evening walk, listen to relaxing music, rent the movie you’ve been wanting to see, lose yourself in a good book, treat yourself to a massage, etc. There are many ways to take some time out and pamper yourself.
Balance becomes the key to staying healthy during the holidays. You can enjoy festive foods while still being mindful about your health when you engage and indulge mindfully and moderately. Most importantly, remember to have fun. Life happens quickly, and before you know it mid-November will become New Year’s Day. Don’t let those moments of magic and joy during the holidays slip by!