Keep Your Health this Holiday!
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
With the holidays fast approaching, many people start to feel the end-of-year anxiety of throwing their healthy habits out the window. From later nights, more food and alcohol, indulgences, and less time for exercise-- the festivities can indeed throw a wrench in your goals to stay healthy. This article will highlight ** ways for you to keep on track, no matter the time of year!
1. Don’t over-commit. The holidays can be a time for more social activities, but learning to say no to everything and anything will help you mitigate stress during the holidays. Be realistic with what you can achieve and do, and cultivate the capacity to say no to things that will lead you to burn out.
2. Set boundaries. Saying no to too many social events is one type of boundary, but even when you are in a social situation, get clear on things you will and will not do. This may look like talking politics around the dinner table. If you know that a particular topic of conversation always ends up in an argument, or there is something personal you would rather not discuss, make it clear that you are not willing to engage.
3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness practices like short meditations, yoga, tai chi, or qi gong can help you ground and be present. During stressful times, having a short routine that can bring you back into your body and melt away the mind-chatter can be a great tool to avoid reaching for sugary foods instead. 1
4. Book in a therapy session. Whether you have a regular therapist or not, booking in a preventative session mid-holidays can help you get it all out in a safe place without necessarily taking it out on a family or friend. For example, you could opt for talk therapy or a more somatic practice like somatic experiencing.
5. Eat protein and fat first. Extreme deprivation can lead to binging, so don’t necessarily avoid all sweets or carbs during the holidays. But you can fill up on protein and fats first, which are more satiating. Focus on the nourishing, good foods, and after taking a break to socialize and digest a little, enjoy other foods in moderation. 2
6. Use smaller plates. Using smaller plates is an easy way to eat less. Even if you go back for seconds or thirds, a smaller plate automatically portion controls!
7. Slow down. Eating more slowly also helps you realize when you are full (never mind stuffed to the brim!). Take advantage of being around friends and family to engage, catch up, and enjoy the human connection. Try placing your fork down in between bites too, which will help you slow down.
8. Bring healthy options. If you’re going to a buffet or family gathering, consider bringing food to share that you feel comfortable eating. That way, if nothing suits, at least you know you have something to eat that works for you.
9. Eat first. If you’re going out to a restaurant you already know won’t have options for you, eat before you go. You can find something suitable to graze on or simply stick to bubbly water while others eat. Don’t get caught in a situation where you have to starve yourself or eat food that will severely derail your goals.
10. Don’t be too worried. Get clear on the non-negotiables when it comes to your diet, but give yourself more permission to be flexible than usual. Some of the worst offenders are vegetable oils because the inflammation lasts in the body for a very long time. Sugar, on the other hand, causes short-term inflammation.
11. Ask yourself, “am I still enjoying this?” to check in and see if you are mindlessly eating or genuinely enjoying your food. If you are enjoying it, enjoy! But if you are mindlessly eating and not even present with the experience, take a break.
12. Dietary variation. Variation forces adaptation in the body, so having a cyclical diet prevents you from hitting a plateau. This might look like five days of keto, one-day high carb, and one day fasting within a week. You can use dietary variation to “indulge” and benefit forced adaptation in the body.
13. Intermittent fasting. Limiting your daily eating window is a great way to prevent packing on the extra pounds during the holidays. If you finish dinner at 9 pm, fast for the next 16 hours, or simply skip breakfast. Since more of the holiday gatherings tend to be lunch or dinner, skipping breakfast is a great way to balance out the holiday indulgences. 3
14. 24-hour fasts. Once a week, you could also do a 24-hour water-only fast. These longer fasts are a great tool to induce autophagy and give the body ample rest from over-eating. They also help manage blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
15. Ditch the scale. Your weight fluctuates wildly within the day, and especially throughout the month for women. Weighing yourself will just add to the anxiety of the holiday season and does not even provide an accurate metric to track. Avoid weighing yourself, and focus on how you feel.
16. Stick to clean alcohol. Avoiding preservatives and pesticides helps reduce your toxic load when drinking alcohol and may also help mitigate the worst hangovers. Instead, stick to organic, preservative-free alcohol, and avoid too many sugary mixers with your spirits.
17. Hydrate. For every alcoholic or caffeinated beverage, you drink, have a glass of water. Since both acts as diuretics, it’s good to ensure you drink more water than normal when you consume more alcohol or caffeine than usual.
18. Take binders. You can take binders while you drink as well as the following day to prevent a bad hangover. For example, popping a BIND capsule while you drink and another one (or two) the following morning will help bind to the toxins that make you feel terrible the next day.
19. Try a non-alcoholic cocktail. Many fantastic companies are making mocktails for those who want to partake in holiday celebrations without drinking alcohol. Whether or not you drink alcohol, sneaking in a few mocktails will help lower your overall alcohol load and help reduce the likelihood of a killer hangover.
20. Nourish yourself. Before indulging in alcohol and the following day, opt for a balanced meal full of healthy fats and proteins so that your body is not slammed with a glycemic spike from alcoholic drinks. If you are hungover the next day, avoid highly refined sugars and fats (stay away from the fast food), which will only dig you into a deeper hole.
21. Get morning sun. Late nights take a toll on your circadian rhythm, but getting exposure to the sun first thing can help reset you for the day. Whether or not it’s sunny outside, getting the sun on your bare face for 10 minutes will help set you up for healthier hormones and deeper sleep that night. 4
22. Avoid blue light at night. Exposure to artificial light after sundown disrupts your circadian rhythm and sleep quality. Although it can be hard to avoid, consider opting for a candlelit dinner instead of having bright lights on. Salt lamps and red lightbulbs are also great options, which also add festive ambiance! 5
23. Get barefoot. Putting your bare feet on the earth does wonders for your health. Grounding balances your energy by taking up negative electrons. Bonus points if you can get your morning sun and get your bare feet on the earth simultaneously! 6
24. Be mindful of caffeine. Although caffeine has its benefits, make sure not to overdo it during the holidays. You may be tempted to reach for more coffee than usual after more late nights and social engagements, but coffee is not free energy. When possible, opt for an afternoon nap instead.
25. Get moving. Movement and exercise are not about burning off the calories you consume. The benefits of moving to go much deeper than calories in calories out! A little bit of gentle movement right after a meal helps balance your blood sugar levels, which is especially important after a high glycemic (more sugar) meal.
26. Active catch-ups. Try coordinating family and friend catch-ups over a long walk, hike, or other fitness-inspired activity (instead of consistently over food).
27. Walk after meals. Going for a 10-minute walk after a big meal is a great way to support digestion and balance your blood sugar levels. Although it might be tempting to slip into a food coma, try rallying up your family and friends for a walk in the neighborhood. 7
28. Don’t ditch your exercise routine. Keeping to your exercise routine is not just about physical health but also mental health. Regular exercise helps you mitigate stress, which promotes mental health. Anxiety is usually heightened during the holidays, so make some time to get moving and prioritize your mental well-being. 8
29. Start your day with water and minerals. Starting your day with a big glass of filtered water with some lemon juice and a pinch of salt is a great way to start your day well hydrated. Dehydration zaps your energy, will interfere with sleep quality, promote food cravings for salty foods, and won’t do your hangovers any favors.
30. Hydrate with food. Remember that fruit and vegetables are another great way to stay hydrated. Loading up on the two throughout the day will help you stay hydrated even if you’re not drinking as much water as you should be. You can get the best of both worlds by keeping a big pitcher of water with fruits or sliced cucumbers and lemon to encourage more water throughout the day.
31. Take adaptogens. Adaptogens are great to support you through stressful times. Adaptogens help the body find homeostasis and are an excellent bridge during more chaotic times. Some of the top contenders for stress mitigation include ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, and Rhodiola. 9
32. Boost digestion. Digestion and gut health are essential for whole-body health. So during the holidays, when you may be indulging a little more than usual, some digestive and gut supports can come to the rescue. Some good supplements for digestion include digestive enzymes, betaine HCL, and probiotics. 10
33. Boost your immune system. General supports for the immune system are always good when stress is increased (because stress lowers the immune system’s capacity). Some of the top general immune supports include vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc. 11
Staying healthy during the holidays is possible with some easy mindful tips and tricks. Giant pillars include mitigating stress, curbing overeating, managing hangovers, balancing out the effects of late nights, moving more, and staying hydrated. By following the tips from this article, you will be able to enjoy your holidays without completing derailing your health goals into the new year.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
1 “Mindfulness Meditation: A Research-Proven Way to Reduce Stress.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation.
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4 Blume, Christine et al. “Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood.” Somnologie : Schlafforschung und Schlafmedizin = Somnology : sleep research and sleep medicine vol. 23,3 (2019): 147-156. doi:10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x
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9 Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,1 188-224. 19 Jan. 2010, doi:10.3390/ph3010188
10 Guilliams, Thomas G, and Lindsey E Drake. “Meal-Time Supplementation with Betaine HCl for Functional Hypochlorhydria: What is the Evidence?.” Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) vol. 19,1 (2020): 32-36.
11 Team, Wellness. “8 Vitamins for an Immune System Boost.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 3 Aug. 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/eat-these-foods-to-boost-your-immune-system/.