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Healthy Holidays Are Possible -The Key Is Finding Your Balance

Having “healthy holidays” can seem like an impossible task. Between work and friends and family festivities, it’s no surprise we often find our health both physical and mental left waiting in the wings until New Year’s Day.

I have complied easy and applicable tips for prioritizing wellness and combatting stress this holiday season. From managing a healthy diet while still enjoying all of your favourite holiday Treats to creating space for your mental health amid the festive chaos, a healthy holiday season can be easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of balance.

The winter months are known for serving sickness on a silver platter. Pair frigid temperatures with irregular sleep cycles, fewer than the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, one too many glasses of wine and a whirlwind social calendar, and you’ll find yourself sipping the perfect cocktail for a Christmas common cold. But a stuffy nose isn’t the only health risk at this time of year the holidays can be hazardous to your health, affecting everything from blood pressure to your psyche.

Finding Balance in Your Body

Sugar-based, rich, fatty foods have long been a part of holiday celebrations, and with them come the worry of holiday weight gain.

Contrary to popular belief, holiday weight gain is far less drastic than we think. In 2015, a study performed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services found the majority of participants experienced little to no weight gain (or loss) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, even while making little to no effort to control their weight. In fact, the average weight gain recorded among participants during the holiday season was just 0.37 kilograms.

Even so, in a month filled with party food, alcohol and Christmas cakes , there’s no shortage of diets to try or tips to read for maintaining healthy eating habits during the holiday season. But what if there was a happy, enjoyable middle ground somewhere between the traditional family treats and the January gym rush?

Indulge With Intention

Deprivation leads to backlash, so, if we’re always about what we can’t do, then we lash out. It’s a delicate balance. People are worried about weight and health. We’re used to this all-or-nothing mindset, whereas the life that’s going to feel the best is one where you get to have your indulgences.

Her secret to seasonal success? Have a plan and do it on purpose.

Make a list of indulgences that you really love, that make you feel good and that you want more of. Make sure you have those in the pipeline throughout the holidays. If you build it in and you know it’s there and that you’re allowed to have it, then there’s no ‘I’ll eat now and have none tomorrow. This way one is less likely to binge.

People think they deserve a free pass to treat themselves around the holidays, which are centred around food as a social tool and a reward. There’s a lot of social influence going on, if others are eating, you may eat, too, even if you’re not hungry. Research shows people tend to overeat more in groups and sometimes overdrink to keep pace with the group.

Eating can also be a way for some people to cope with and distract themselves from holiday emotions or stress, and studies show comfort eating increases during the holidays. When the cravings or social pressure do set in.

The promise of a clean slate on Jan. 1 often provides another temptation to abandon healthy eating practices during the holidays. This perspective is often misinformed, though, as research suggests 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them by February.

Instead of relying on resolutions, here are some simple solutions to help relieve stress around holiday eating without missing out on your festive experience:

Eat slowly and mindfully & Use smaller plates.

Wait 20 minutes before going back for a second serving of something. (If you’re really hungry, the hunger and fullness cues take about 20 minutes to settle in).

Have a healthy snack before going to a party so you’re not tempted to eat everything you see.

Though these tricks may feel most applicable closer to Christmas, I encourage you to put these practices in place from now.

Indulgence should be all year round. If throughout your entire year and life, you can indulge and enjoy and not feel deprived, then you don’t get to this one month where you feel like you want to throw it all out.

What we eat during the holiday season goes much further than weight gain. With weather turning bitter and viruses on the rise, it’s important to not only find balance, but also ensure our bodies’ nutrition and defence systems aren’t sacrificed along the way. That protection begins in the gut. We know 70% of the immune system is located in your gut.

Most likely you will feel the effects of dietary changes during celebrations. What we will see is changes in digestion. Heavier foods, more alcohol and dinner parties can show up in terms of gas, bloating and [stomach] rumbling, Abdominal pain, Feelings of tension and An increase in bowel movements, sometimes with pain.

The good news is simple adjustments can help keep your gut health strong even while enjoying holiday fare. To find balance in your gut try these tips:

Eat a small meal full of fruits and vegetables before you go to holiday functions. It will ensure you’re getting nutrients and that any festive foods being served won’t have as large an impact on your overall diet.

Consume fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombuchas ,sauerkraut and home-pickled vegetables in your everyday diet. Consuming fermented foods consistently and frequently can help with the minor digestion issues that come with heavy holiday foods.

Exercise and move your body to help your blood pump and move food through your digestive system.

Eat foods with fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help move things through your digestive tract.

Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated to help move nutrients through your body as well.

Get enough sleep to support overall health and gut health. A lot of repair and work happens in your body when you sleep. If you’re not getting enough, your body can’t rebuild. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can also impact the foods you choose to eat, which can then impact gut health.

Another simple way to promote gut health this holiday season is considering the incorporation of probiotics. This type of good bacteria is proven to have a particular benefit in both gut health and immune-related functions. Probiotics can be consumed via foods or supplements.

The holiday season can demand flexibility, which makes maintaining routines difficult. But just because physical activity might look different during this time doesn’t mean you’re not reaping the same rewards. Walking is an easy way to move without equipment or classes. It can also be done in a group when time is tight and family activities take priority over gym sessions. Just grab your sneakers and go.

When the phone starts to ring and plans begin to scribble their way onto the calendar this holiday season, take a moment to find your ground. Amid the shopping and trips to the supermarket, find moments of peace in your body and mind. Indulge in your favorite flavors, nourish your body, find joy in movement, seek pleasure in small moments and remember that a little balance is all it takes to have happy, healthy holidays.

Happy healthy Holidays Everyone !

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