As we rev up for the holiday season, and chaos starts to reign supreme, don’t forget the most important thing: your health! Many of us throw our health to the wayside when family, friends and celebration abound. But, you shouldn’t! Instead, be a bit selfish about maintaining your health as the holidays roll around—because if we don’t maintain our health, we can’t enjoy the things and people that we love.
Below, find some of the more uncommon health tips that will help save you this holiday season.
#1 Embrace sugar.
Stay away from aspartame and all other fake sugars. That includes those fake sugars from low-fat packaged goods, sugar-free candy, and diet sodas. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that overweight and obese adults tended to eat more calories if they drank diet soda verses regular soda. When we eat or drink aspartame, we often end up taking in more calories. That is because we fool ourselves. We think, “because aspartame doesn’t have any calories, I can eat more of it!” This is a trap many of us fall into that could actually lead us to consuming more than we normally would.
According to research from Harvard, artificial sweeteners change our brain’s association between sweetness and calorie intake. “As a result, we may crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight.” They pointed to a study conducted by San Antonio Heart Study. Participants who drank more than twenty-one aspartame-sweetened drinks per week were 200% more likely to become overweight.
Real sugar satiates your sweet tooth which actually can curb your hunger for sugar. Plus, real sugar gives you endorphins, dopamine and the energy to keep up with your in-laws!
If it still pains you to eat sugar, stevia is probably the best sugar-alternative out there. Stevia won’t affect your blood sugar levels and can be eaten by diabetics.
#2 Don’t hit the gym.
Instead of leaving your family and friends to go to the gym, get your sweat on with your family. Make being active fun by organizing a race or a game of family flag football. By spending some time playing with your family, you’ll have an easy way of breaking up the day to day monotony of the gym. Not only will you have the chance to bond with your family, but you will also give everyone a boost of endorphins to last throughout the day. Even just a friendly game of kickball can burn 79 calories in just ten minutes! Check out other great ideas for backyard activities here! If you want a more organized event, sign up for your local Turkey Trot and donate to a cause!
#3 Don’t calorie restrict to “save up” for big meals.
Sometimes, when we plan on sitting down for big holiday meals, we feel like we shouldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Harvard says this can be a bad practice. Instead, eat small, protein-packed snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism up.
We also suggest eating a healthy breakfast before a big-meal day. We know this sounds counter-intuitive, but when we eat breakfast, we actually start up our metabolism. Not only that, but it leaves us less room to binge eat during our big meal!
#4 Dictate your health by what you drink (or don’t).
Science seems to frequently change its mind on alcohol. One day, drinking is a one-way ticket to weight gain and other complications, and another, it can be a helpful way to elongate our lives. In reality, alcohol’s effects on each of us are individualistic—our genetics, body composition, exercise levels, and what and how much we drink all work together to determine what alcohol does to us.
So, this holiday season, we aren’t necessarily taking a stand on whether you should drink or shouldn’t drink. Instead, we are urging each individual to examine how drinking (and what you drink) affects you. It can be negative, positive or a little of both.
One of the only strict facts we have about alcohol is that it is nutritionally lacking. So, make up for those empty calories by drinking something truly nutritious—like a smoothie or a green juice.
Drinking a green smoothie or juice in the mornings is an easy way to get all your nutrients in at the beginning of the day. So, even if you spend your holiday only eating sugar cookies and grandma’s stuffing, you will have already gotten the most important vitamins and minerals in your system. While you’re at it, load up on the Vitamin C-heavy fruits and veggies to keep yourself from catching the sniffles that go around this time of year.
Lastly, drink a lot of water! This should be common sense, but often it isn’t—especially when we are eating a lot and our stomachs seem to be too full to take in anything more. Drinking water is a great way to combat bloat and indigestion those heavy meals often present to us for dessert. The typical rule of thumb is to drink “between a half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, everyday.” If you weigh 150 pounds, that means you should drink between 75 and 150 ounces a day. For reference, a typical water bottle is about 17 oz. During the holidays, however, meals can be saltier, so up your water intake a little higher—maybe to 110% or 125% of your recommended intake.
#5 Holidays are a vacation—don’t forget it!
It’s unfortunate that holidays have become synonymous with stressful travelling, missed deadlines, and intra-family squabbles. We couldn’t even think of a family Christmas movie that didn’t have some sort of family drama as a main plot device (Facebook us if you can think of one!).
But, your holiday season doesn’t have to be like that. After all, you get to be out of the office. And any time away from the office should be treated like vacation time.
Like on any good vacation, we need to recharge. It might seem a little harder to do that with activities filling up your calendar and family members wanting quality time and attention, but it’s essential you plan “you” time.
Define what scenarios help you replenish your energy level. If that means getting in some alone time, then set that alarm clock to go off ten minutes before it normally would. Then, use the time to read, meditate, listen to a podcast, or even review your goals. This ten minutes could be beneficial in dealing with stress. As Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, says, “Alone time enables you to be more in touch with yourself and can better give and receive,” Lombardo says. “In addition, it reduces stress and anxiety, which could also contribute to relationship strains.”
Conversely, if relaxation means spending more time in your REM cycle, set your alarm clock to go off a little later than normal. If you can’t spare that time in the morning, then sneak away to take an afternoon cat nap. Vacations are meant for you to catch up on the sleep you miss throughout the year. So, don’t feel guilty!
There is no “right” way to be healthy during the holiday season. However, if you are like one of the millions of Americans whose New Year’s Resolution involves bettering your health or slimming your waistline, why start after the holidays? You can start knocking down the small dominoes now so that a new healthful life won’t be such a shock to your system come the new year. A great lead domino would be to hit your daily recommended water intake, or to make sure your plate is half full of veggies.
You could even start a 66 Day Challenges doing something simple—like taking a walk or drinking eight glasses of water each day—so you get yourself into the habit of getting into habits! Have any helpful tips or tricks for keeping yourself healthy during the holidays? Let us know at our Facebook page!