Well, here we are right after Thanksgiving. Hopefully you filled up on your favorite foods, all the dad jokes you can handle, and some good football. Now get back to what you were doing before. No seriously, back to regular life and out of the holiday spirit for a month, doctors orders.
Every year I see a huge uptick in patients in January saying that they’ve never been more tired, overweight, out of shape, and with that are experiencing more GI distress, worsened allergies, weaker immune systems, etc. This is because it is so easy to end Thanksgiving season with the idea that Christmas is right around the corner so there’s no reason to take care of your health. In the winter months (aka the height of flu and stress season) this couldn’t be further from the truth. No one wants to enter their next year in a state of depressed health having to make the same resolutions over again, so here are my recommendations for enjoying a healthy December while still enjoying your holidays.
Be Smart With Leftovers
There is nothing worse than wasted food, so send the mac n cheese and mashed potatoes home with Granny. Keep the turkey and roasted veggies for yourself to make into dinner the next few days. Oftentimes the hardest thing about clean eating during the holidays is finding time to cook during the hustle and bustle. Start your first few days successfully by having pre-packed the healthier Thanksgiving options so you’ll start on a good note. The more habitual off-plan eating becomes, the harder it is to give up.
Pick Your Battles
Start NOW by looking at your calendar and seeing what’s coming your way in December. Chances are there are a lot of holiday parties that make a healthy December look impossible. Pick two of your favorites and let loose with no regrets at those parties. Drink the peppermint martinis, eat the gingerbread cookies, and have a blast. There’s no reason to completely miss out on the season all together, but when you think about it, do you really need more than two nights filled with gingerbread cookies? Lay low during your other holiday events and maybe offer to bring a dish that you know fits with your health and wellness goals.
Don’t Drink At Home
Speaking of holiday parties, they all seem to involve booze. Alcohol slows your metabolism, is tough on your liver, is full of sugar, and gives us hangovers. Even if you are killing it with healthy eating during December, chances are your alcohol intake can increase without even realizing it. Avoiding drinking at home and saving it for nights out can help reset this pendulum for the month.
I know that everyone is busier during this season, but the busier you are, the more sleep you need. When we sleep, our bodies reset, our immune systems are nourished, our hormones replenish, and we’re better equipped to tackle the stresses of the day without getting sick or completely burnt out. Christmas morning with the kiddos will be way more fun if the past month hasn’t been spent pulling your hair out trying to make everything perfect. Go to bed, it’s worth it.
Move every day
The colder months at the end of the year make everyone want to snuggle up in front of the TV, but try to give some time to moving your body every single day. I love lazy football Sundays as much as the next girl, but an entire day on the couch with no movement can depress your entire system. Moving around gets the lymph flowing, improves the immune system, helps balance the blood sugar, and stretches the muscles. This does not have to include high intensity work every single day, and it shouldn’t. A great split is doing high intensity work (zumba, crossfit, bootcamp, insanity, weightlifting, or whatever your favorite is) four days per week and saving yoga, stretching, dog walks, and bodyweight exercises for the other days. Whatever is right for you, you’ll be glad you sweat out some of the extra toxins you’ll inevitably take in this month before New Years Resolution time comes around.
Avoid the Guilt
So you ate everything on the Thanksgiving table and then went back for thirds. So what. Don’t let one day that’s off of your current plan cause a downward spiral of only eating take out for the next month. For some reason, we tend to have this mentality that one gluttonous meal means that we should just eat an entire package of oreos because the week’s ruined anyway. Don’t resolve to ruin your body for an entire month because you’re planning to crash diet on January 1st. Your body does not work properly when it’s not fed properly, and there are a whole host of health problems that come with overindulgence in the season. It’s not worth it. Instead, let yourself have your two parties and your holidays with your family, then wake up the next morning and make your acai bowl for breakfast and have a killer day.
Pro Tip: It’s not about weight
I see weight motivate my patients to make change, which is great, but weight is only a side effect of what’s going on in your body. When someone tells me they can’t lose weight, I’m thinking about their hormones, digestion, adrenals, and stress levels first. I see so many patients who feel utterly defeated when they gain a few pounds during the holiday season. Guess what, these winter months involve gaining a little. Our bodies are programmed to save up for the cold and that’s natural, acceptable, and beautiful. Try throwing away your scale this month and worrying about how you feel instead. Grumpy? Go for a run. Stressed? Sleep more tonight. Hungry? Cook a delicious veggie-filled meal. Nourish your body and listen to what it needs. Start thinking of your body as a complex machine that needs to be nourished, not a set number of pounds that you are constantly trying to battle. I promise, if you take care of health first, your weight will follow.