Have you ever told yourself (and others): Once I get through the holidays, I will get "back on track" with my healthy habits?
Of course you have. Because you're a human who cycles through the year with different monumental moments that define our routine...that's just what we do.
And the holiday season is one of those times that almost dictate what our day(s) look like based on what parties we *must* attend, who is making dinner, which happy hours we RSVP'd "Yes" to... But if you're anything like me, you find that while this "treat yo'self" mentality during all of the holiday hustle and bustle can be exhausting on both your mental and physical state.
As someone with a sensitive stomach as it is (IBS suffers, unite), I find it crucial to keep myself in [somewhat] check during the holidays, as lame as that may sound.
Don't get me wrong: I am alllll for treats and cocktails over the holidays (sometimes TOO much, ya feel me?) But I have had my fair share of upset stomach, sluggishness, and quite honestly, depression, when over-indulging for 10 days straight.
Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Get over it. It's the holidays. Let loose and enjoy yourself." And I TOTALLY get that and appreciate the mindset you've come to this post with. Quite honestly, we need more of you in the world ;) The ones who remind the regimented that life is short and the cake is worth eating...for breakfast.
However, if you're also someone who struggles with gut health, energy levels, and sticking to a routine during and/or post-holiday season, you NEED to read this.
After a few too many years of yo-yo-ing through the holidays myself*, I have had enough. *(ya know: eating great and working out before Thanksgiving and then letting the flood gates drop, allowing myself to eat and drink all the things because the New Year was right around the corner and I am sureeeee I will magically wake up with ambition to revert to my healthy habits come January 1st).
And through this trial-and-error that is life, I've found 5 tips that I truly utilize myself to help me stay sane and feeling pretty okay through the war zone that is the holidays.
Shocker, right? I am going to start off this tip trail with a ground-breaking tip to hydrate yourself on a regular basis. I am sure you're a great water drinker as it is ;) but justttt in case you need a reminder: it is so important to keep that routine up over the holidays. Between the cocktails and super salty, savory foods we will no doubt be inundated with during the holiday dinners and happy hours, our bodies are craving some hydration to keep things flowing. Even if you are not someone who consumes alcohol, staying hydrated to balance out the sodium intake is huge. Not to mention, the inevitable stress we will experience during this bustling time will for sure take a toll on our physical bodies (our energy, our digestion, our regularity). Drinking plenty of water can help our system flush free-radicals (those pesty "invisible" stressors in our everyday lives) and keep our bodies balanced and working at it's best when we need it to most.
If you aren't already drinking half of your weight in ounces, now is the time to start. If you're afraid you're going to be peeing all day with this new water drinking habit, you're welcome. At least it will be a great excuse for you to excuse yourself from Uncle Norm's embarrassing stories of the time you went to summer camp and got in trouble for peeing in the pool.
Take this a step further: when you first wake up each morning, try having a glass of lemon water...yes, even before coffee. Lemon is a great PH balancer, and does wonders for detoxifying the liver. After a night of holiday wine mixers or a feast big enough to feed you for a week, your body will be begging for a mini-detox each morning.
2. Stay Active
Okay, I realize I am probably scaring you away with the second tip already telling you to workout over the holidays, but bear with me! This tip is so important and often scoffed at--I get it. The last thing I *want* to do is get out of my comfy pajamas and into workout clothes just so I can sweat and gasp for air while my family binges on yet another Hallmark movie. But! The reason why staying active is one of my top 5 tips on this list is because it offers consistency, it gives your body a break (I know that seems counter intuitive), and it boosts your detoxification during the most gluttonous time of the year.
Before getting into the details, let's make something clear: no one is suggesting you run a 5k before a big holiday meal (I'm looking at you, Turkey Trotters...) or lift heavy weights in your parents' basement for an hour. If you can just find time to do a quick yoga flow, go for a nice walk outside, or take your nephews to the trampoline park for some fun jumping around, you're doing way more good for your body than you may realize.
Consistency: if you're someone who already works out on a regular basis, this gives your body the comfort of routine and keeps your digestion in check, as your gut health highly depends on consistency.
Gives your body a break: even though physical activity may be viewed as putting stress on your body, it tends to do quite the opposite (when done right and in a comfortable way, of course). Giving your body a healthy level of endorphines from physical activity is one of the greatest things you can offer yourself during such a stressful time of the year.
Detoxification: much like the previous two points, moving your body here and there over the holidays can give your body a natural boost of health. Through physical activity, your elevated blood flow allows your body to detox in the natural way it is intended to.
If you're looking for a free, quick way to get moving over the holidays without leaving the house, check out my 2 favorite workouts you can do right from home for free:
Barre Workout (FREE)
High Intensity Workout (FREE)
3. Bring A Dish
I am sure you're already planning on bring a dish to pass at your holiday party. And if you're not, you should definitely consider it because it's not very fair to make Aunt Ruth responsible for the green bean casserole, apple pie, ham, AND hor d'oeuvres...but I digress...
In addition to lightening the load of your loved ones this holiday season, bringing your own dish to pass can also help you control some of the foods floating around that evening. If you're truly concerned about over-indulging on chips and dip or a few too many helpings of grandma's best ever chocolate cake, bringing a healthy appetizer or dessert option can be a nice way to give you (and your family) some respite from all the uber filling foods.
Personally, I love to bring my Autumn Kale Salad or my Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies as a dish to pass, but am considering my Vegan Mac And Cheese this year (found here in my free recipe eBook)!
When you can bring your own plant-based meal that tastes good but still offers some nutritional value, you feel a little less guilty going for seconds o or thirds at dinner.
Okay, I PROMISE I am not just showing up with another tip to tell you to hydrate. Well, kinda. But not exactly the same thing as tip no. 1.
This time, I am just offering a quick tip to remind you to drink a full glass of water before each meal. Yes, this will help keep you hydrated like tip no. 1 suggests, BUT it will also help keep you full and focused before filling your dinner plate.
Why is this so important? Well, I know I am not alone in feeling like I have to eat anything and everything during the holidays because it's a once-a-year kinda thing (and that's okay!) But I personally feel shafted when I fill my plate and inhale the first few things, realize I never really left room for my favorite sweet potato casserole or my mom's roasted potatoes.
By having a glass of water before you even fill your plate, you fill your belly with *something* so you can focus your mind on what you truly want. This will, in turn, fill your plate with all the good stuff your truly craving AND cause you to eat a few less calories as you will only be eating what your belly can fit.
5. Give Yourself Some Grace
I realize this last tip may sound like a contradiction to the last 4 tips on this list, but it is just as important.
While staying hydrated, moving your body, and offering a healthy dish at family dinner are great ways to keep yourself from spiraling into the holiday abyss, it is so important to remember: these are the holidays. This is not forever, so cherish the time you have with your family and friends. Yes, you will get back to yourself and your routine when the bustle slows down. No, you will not combust from eating too many Christmas cookies (at least I don't think that's possible...)
As you navigate through this holiday with as much control of your healthy routine as you'd like, remember to give yourself some grace through it all. If you can't workout, if you eat too much," if you forget to drink your water before dinner, it is OKAY. You are living and breathing and celebrating another year's end.
These tips are only intended to give you some peace of mind in knowing that you can still feel great and not sluggish after the holiday craziness. I truly hope you and your family have a beautiful holiday season and find these tips to be a bonus to your holiday, never a burden.