The holiday period is naturally a time for feasting and parties, the time of year where our habits go a little haywire. While it is a great time to shut your normal rule book for a couple of weeks, if you want to try and keep your health goals a little on the track, there are some little things you can do.
Have a snack before a big meal
Now, this might sound a little counterintuitive but snacking an hour before a large meal can mean you don’t overstuff yourself by the time the feast rolls around. “If you’re keeping some room for later, your brain will be firing for energy intake, and that’s when we don’t make the best food choices,” Dr. Alisha Damani, Founder of The Medic Today, explained. “Having a nutritious snack an hour before you eat out can curb that hunger so you can enjoy your meal and not regret it by the end,” she clarified.
Practice ‘Hara Hachi bunme’
We all know that horrible feeling where we have overstuffed ourselves. It’s neither comfortable nor enjoyable. Pete Williams, Functional Medicine Practitioner and founder of Functional Medicine Associates suggested the Japanese concept of Hara Hachi bunme, the idea of only eating to 80% fullness. “This practice reduces inflammation, oxidative stress and importantly gives your immune system which predominantly resides in your digestive tract a bit of a rest,” Williams explained.
Try to limit your alcohol
Going cold turkey over the holidays isn’t realistic for many people so try to drink sensibly wherever possible instead. “Drinking too much could result in you are making poorer, unhealthier food choices, and studies have even found that more calories are consumed the day after a drinking session,” Weiner pointed out. Cut back on drinking by alternating each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink, and make sure you drink lots of water both before and after.
In a similar vein, make sure to keep prioritizing water. “This time of year is filled with plenty of eggnog, hot chocolates, and spiced lattes. As such, it can be easy to skimp on your water intake,” Dr. Damani pointed out. Keep a large two-liter bottle on you to ensure you know you have drunk the correct amount throughout the day.
Walk off a big meal
While your usual exercise routine may have gone out the window, walking is a great way to include some easy movement in your day. It also helps that it’s a social activity that can be done with family and friends. “Walking after a large meal has multiple benefits,” Williams explained. “It effectively reduces elevated blood sugars and inflammation. For those who get a little constipated through this time, fast walking is highly effective in getting your bowels moving. The extra stimulation of your digestive tract gently bouncing up and down allows food to move down more effectively,” he added.
Make workouts social
Suppose you plan to keep working out over the holiday period, rope in friends and family to make it a more social affair. “This will motivate you to complete the workout and you most likely will not even realize you are working out as you will be too busy catching up with your loved ones,” David Wiener, a Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics, suggested. You can even make a game for the whole family that involves running around. “One of the most stimulating ways to keep fit is by using Uno or playing cards to plan out your exercise routine. By allocating each suit or color to an exercise, and the number on the card dictating how many reps you do, you have the thrill of playing a game and getting fit at the same time,” Weiner recommended.
Hit the gym first thing
If you’re looking to schedule fitness sessions over the holidays, the best time to work out is first thing in the morning before the festivities and socializing begin. “Your workout is done and dusted early, so there’s no time to make any excuses. Working out early also allows you to have the rest of the day off, and sweating it out early also means you’ll feel better and more energized throughout the day,” Weiner highlighted.
Don’t wait until January
We are often sold the message of indulging at Christmas and then detox in January, but there is no reason we have to follow this pattern. It is easier to take a more balanced approach throughout instead. “Every day is a new opportunity for your health. Although a new year can bring about new beginnings and renewed energy, every day presents a chance to own your health: body, mind, and spirit. So why wait to enjoy yourself and your health?” Dr. Damani noted.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
A healthy balanced lifestyle is all about accepting that sometimes things aren’t that balanced. “It’s fun to get — and that’s okay. Being mindful about this and not letting it derail your health is what is important. Indulge proudly and then get back on track,” Dr. Damani suggested.
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