Your Daily Guide for a Healthy Holiday

One year, just as the Holiday Season started, my sister called and told me she had read an article that said women were evolutionarily predisposed to gain weight during the winter as part of our body’s protective response to the dreary winter months of famine and hardship. 

This made me feel all better about my Winter Weight Gain—it was evolutionary science! How can I fight that? Actually, we can fight those pesky extra pounds.  Rather simply, too.  Just follow this hour-by-hour guide to stay healthy each and every day through the Holidays. 

8:00am: Manage Stress Levels

Holiday Stress

When I was a single-mom, I got in the really bad habit of doing two really stupid things as soon as I woke up: checking my calendar and checking my bank account.  Oof.  Guaranteed to make your blood pressure go from 100-140 in 42.8 seconds. 

Then, I spent the rest of the day under the ever-present shroud of stress.  I eventually worked my way out of this habit, but it was a challenge to do so.

Take it from someone who learned the hard way: don’t tackle your day’s challenges until you’ve given yourself time to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit.  For me, this looks like yoga, meditation, and reading scripture.  Those three things give me a positive, firm foundation from which to operate through the rest of my day.  

If you jump first thing into your stressors: never-ending to-do lists, finances, over-booked schedules, health concerns, you’ve willingly jumped into a deep hole that you’ll spend the day struggling to get out of while the normal stresses of the day cause the hole to grow deeper and deeper.

Before the crush of the Holidays starts, decide what you can do every morning to strengthen your body, mind, and spirit—and come back to those things periodically through the day, if needed. 

10:00am: Water

A few years ago, I had a kidney stone, and even though I’ve given birth four times—twice without an epidural—I thought the kidney stone was going to kill me!  Since then, I’ve become overly cautious (read: psychotic) about making sure I drink plenty of water. 

But there are always those days that throw us off our normal routine, and those days that I don’t get all the water I need, I can feel it!  I feel tired, my skin is dry, my thoughts are lethargic, and worst of all…I get a pounding headache.

The last thing you need during the Holiday festivities is a debilitating headache!  So, remember the adage: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Or, in other words, 64 ounces of water is worth 1000mg of Extra-strength Tylenol!

My briefly-conducted research turned up that 8-8 oz. glasses of water a day is still the generally recommended amount.  To get slightly more specific, you can calculate your water intake as 1/2-1 ounce per pound of your weight.  Or, if you’re really into your water calculation, I found this ridiculously specific water intake calculator

Remember…

  1. These numbers are based on normal to low activity schedule, so whether you’re hitting the slopes or indulging in the Sauna this winter, increase your water!
  2. Coffee and alcohol are diuretics.  If you indulge in either, you’ll have to proportionally increase your water intake, too!

12:00pm: Make Holiday Treats

I’m really not a baker.  I’ve discovered it’s too exact and precise for me.  I’m more the “let’s throw in these seasonings at whatever amount I feel like and see how it tastes” type. 

But, I do get into baking a little more during the Holiday Season, especially those nostalgic family recipes that remind me of home.  

The best thing to do with those wonderful sugar-filled family recipes?  Spread the wealth! 

If you get the Holiday Baking urge, by all means, indulge it!  But, instead of leaving the pantry overflowing with sweets, fill a couple plates of treats and pass them out to friends, coworkers, neighbors—do people ever pass out neighborhood treats anymore?   

Holiday treats

This way your joy is compounded:

  • Make Holiday Treats
  • Indulge Childhood Nostalgia
  • Taste & Enjoy (not binge & regret) Holiday Treats
  • Share Yummy Goodies
  • Feel Happiness from Adding Sunshine to Another’s Day

3:00pm: Plan Active Activities

When I think of cold winter days and nights, the first activities I think of are: sitting by the fire, sitting watching movies, sitting stuffing my face with delicious food.  Get where I’m going here? 

So many of our Holiday activities are anything but active!  If you live in a cold-weather climate, don’t let the ice and snow slow you down.  Here are some ideas that can get the entire family up and moving:

  • Sledding
  • Ice Skating
  • Building snow forts
  • Snowball fight
  • Ice Sculpture competition
  • Skiing
  • Shovel walks for neighbors in need
  • Winter Scavenger Hunt
Holiday walk

Actually, my favorite thing to do during the winter is go for a walk.  Super simple-no prep work.  There is absolutely nothing more peaceful in the world than walking right after a snowfall.  The entire world seems muted and peaceful.

LAST TIP: Have some Holiday Shopping to do?  Here’s a crazy idea… stop driving around for 10 minutes to get a spot close to the door.  Park intentionally further from the entrance and walk.  I’m not pointing any fingers, because I’m just as bad about this, but next time I park far away from the door, I’ll feel a little better about eating my gingerbread cookies and eggnog. 

5:00pm: Feed Kids before parties

Going to a Holiday party tonight?  Consider giving kids a small meal before the party starts. 

You know how it is: kids see something different and they don’t want to try it, and you’re not going to force them to in a social setting, so what do they end up loading their plate with? Bread, crackers, maybe a few carrots, and then…8 servings of dessert. 

Chances are, if they’ve had something good to eat before the party starts,

  1. Their carbed-up plate of Ritz crackers and Cheetos is just an after-dinner snack! and
  2.  Maybe they’ll be full and will only have 4 servings of dessert 😉

In all seriousness, model good eating habits for your kids to see, and set limits—before the party—on desserts. 

7:00pm: Choose your indulgences

Just like with the kids, we need to set our own limits.  I said “limits”, not restrictions

Practice moderation in all things, including your eating habits, this Holiday season.  Practicing an “All or Nothing” mindset isn’t productive.  Most of us are not highly-skilled in the art of self-deprivation.  So when we set unrealistic limits, what happens?  We go overboard when we inevitably break those limits

Avoid the cycle of restrict-overdo-regret.  If you know your day is going to end with a Holiday Party, be mindful of what you eat the rest of the day.  Once there, and you see the spread of cookies, pies, chocolate, candy, choose something you enjoy.   There’s no point in choosing a dessert that looks like a “healthy” option if you’re just going to be unhappy with it and then head back for what you really wanted in the first place!

Great joy in little pleasures.

Choose your small indulgence, be happy, and then call it quits.  Side-step all the other emotional turmoil. 

10:00pm: Get Plenty of Rest

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Matthew 6:34

From about October 15 to Jan 2, we have so much to keep us busy all through each day. Don’t add to the weight of the day by dragging through it exhausted, artificially propped up with caffeine.

While it might seem that with so much to do, it only makes sense to burn the midnight oil to get ahead of your to-do list, late nights are counter-productive. They leave you mentally and physically drained the next day, leading you to be less efficient overall.

Set yourself a bedtime and follow it. And as inviting as our soft, warm beds may be, don’t oversleep! Much to every teenager’s chagrin, sleeping too much is just as bad as not getting enough rest.

Again, allow yourself the indulgence of a late night once in a while, but be consistent with getting plenty of rest every other night.

Don’t forget that drinking water, meditation, and going for a walk will all help reinvigorate your body when feeling sluggish. Not to mention a nice wintry blast of air! Feeling tired, open the front door when it’s 30 degrees outside. That’ll wake you right up!

FINAL THOUGHT

Don’t start a crazy, restrictive diet to keep your health on track through the Holidays.  Just follow these simple tips each and every day:

Peaceful Holiday
  • Show Moderation
  • Stay Active
  • Get Plenty of Rest
  • Take it easy with the Stress
  • Drink your water!

Sounds easy enough, right? 

For more information on how to keep your MENTAL HEALTH strong during the Holiday Season, check out “Mental Health Toolbox”, and “4 Crucial & Contemporary Self-care Helps”.

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