The Holidays are a time for love, gratitude, and celebration. It is NOT a time for guilt, anxiety, and fear. People struggle with this time of year, every year, and I’m here to give you some pointers that have helped me embrace the holidays with more grace and ease. As the celebrations near, the best thing you can do is approach them with both a calm mind and with gratitude, as it does bring our loved ones together. Honestly, you could be eating the most organic, local, and nutrient dense foods available, but if you’re stressed out your body will respond as if those nutrient dense foods are Big Macs. Truth. Now, let’s start with my tips for food and drink!
Don’t ever eat with guilt. If you’re gonna go for it, accept and commit. You can always resort back to the foundational bases like taking a few deep breaths beforehand, chewing thoroughly, eating slowly, and eating while connecting with others. All of these will help digest that decadent slice of Aunt Susie’s 27-berry pie. So, in no particular order, here are some of my top tips to keep healthy during those holiday parties…
- Choose homemade. If you’re at the dessert table and it’s obvious there is a tray of cookies from Wal-Mart, keep looking. If there is no homemade option, proceed with one or all of the foundational bases. But 9/10 times there will be a homemade option, always choose that one. It was made with love and without Yellow #5. Your body already says thank you.
- Know yourself and bring your own dishes! Make a dish that makes YOU feel good after eating it. If nothing else at the party is looking that great to you, at least you have your own to fill up on. This is especially crucial if you have any food allergies. Also, a lot of us struggle with dairy, and there is a LOT of cheese-based dishes this year. Too much dairy will back us up and make us feel really weighed down, so I’d be mindful of this and just have a little bit of the best looking one (or two!) cheesy apps/mains.
- Eliminate those cravings by eating exactly what you want, but just a little at a time. If you don’t put some of that decadent food on your plate, you’ll be thinking about it until you do (and by that time you’ll be more likely to go overboard.) So start small, enjoy it, and if you need to, go back for a little more. Chew it well and with a big ole smile on your face. Man, I can’t wait for stuffing.
- Learn how to politely decline. If you’ve eaten enough, but are being pressured into eating more, practice your polite decline. It makes others feel good about overeating if they see others doing the same, so if you’ve hit your cue and really don’t want anymore, create an exit strategy. Food is emotional, and we all love to share our food with others, but if you’ve reached your max don’t feel pressured to be polite and force anything else down. Your body, your choice.
- Don’t stress over quality. If you eat a high quality diet in your own world, be grateful of what others have brought to share with you. I always say that I don’t have any restrictions if someone else is cooking.
- Take your time between bites/courses. I used to eat so much at holiday parties that I’d feel sick to my stomach and just want to go to bed. When I’d lie down I couldn’t sleep because my heart would be racing and I’d feel absolutely awful. During a time of family reunion, this is the last thing I want. Now I aim to be fully energized, engaged, have mood stability and basically, BE PRESENT, so I’ve started paying closer attention. If you take your time eating, your body will have time to tell you when it’s had enough. We’ve all ignored that “put your fork down” cue time and time again, but what if this is the year you actually listen to it? Any takers?
- EAT THE RAINBOW. I’m serious, fill up your plate with as many colors as you can to ensure an array of antioxidants and nutrients. It’s such a vibrant time of year, your plate should be no exception.
- DRINK cleaner alcohols. I’m a fan of vodka with water, or soda water, and a fresh squeeze of lemon. Tequila also burns quite cleanly. It’s definitely red wine season, so I will usually bring an organic dry red if I can find one. Whites and high tannins leave me with a headache, as well as dark spirits. Knowing what makes you feel good and what makes you feel like garbage is key. Remember, it’s the holidays and they only happen once a year, this is not the time to feel like garbage! The choice is always yours, remember that, so pay attention.
- DIGEST with fresh ginger or peppermint and a nice walk. Try not to eat and sleep. Give your digestion some support! Also, 30 minutes before a large meal try popping a digestive enzyme or combining water with apple cider vinegar or aloe vera. Both will start the digestion engines and get your primed and ready for that big meal.
- If you’ve eaten too much and wake up feeling really heavy and bogged down, load up on water to help detox quicker. Charcoal can help here as it chelates toxins and helps rid them faster. I also like warm water with lemon in the morning to support my liver (major detox organ). Go get some exercise to get things moving and put all those sugars into good use. No need to stuff in a breakfast if you’re not hungry, listen to your body and eat when there isn’t such a back log. If you overwhelm your digestive system with even more food when it’s not done dealing with the previous meal it can lead to some minor to major problemos.
Like I said earlier, enter in a state of gratitude. Utilize deep breathing as often as you need to get yourself back to balance and in your rest and digest state. You could be eating the healthiest foods in the world, but it’ll still cause inflammation and wreak havoc on your gut if you eat it while stressed.
- Get outside. Preferably in nature but the streets work well too. Go for a walk. Growing up all my Uncles would watch or play football, while the Aunts would go out for a neighborhood walk – no matter the weather. I always found this to be a great tradition, it gets everyone outside, chatting, and aligned with their thoughts. Deeper connections are made, stress is lowered, and everyone is out of the kitchen 🙂
- Find the light in Great Aunt Lonnie. Some people (ahem, relatives) can be passive or outright critical, this can be handled brilliantly with knowing that even if it’s directed at you, it has nothing to do with you. A lot of people become critical of others because for whatever reason, that person is bringing up their own insecurities. Instead of dealing with those emotions they put up a wall and begin to target anyone around. So my best advice if you’re a target? Practice empathy and really try to see where their emotion is coming from. Just know it doesn’t have much to do with you and to let it go, unless you’re an asshole – then maybe you deserve it and should try and be a kinder person.
- Post-meal walk. Back outside you go. Studies show that just a 15 minute walk after dinner will help tremendously with blood sugar control. It will also aid in digestion and improve your sleep. Get out there.
- Put on your favorite soundtrack and dance! Enjoy the Holiday prep instead of feeling overwhelmed. Switch your mindset to “I GET to do this” instead of “I HAVE to do this.” It’s a game-changer, I’m not kidding.
- Connect, hug, listen, speak, dance, joke. How often do you get to see these people? Be present and really soak it in. These occasions happen once a year, but not everyone makes it each year do they? You’ve all made the trek to be around for the Holidays, so really, truly, be there.
Probably the most important. Without proper sleep, you won’t have a chance at keeping steady during the Holidays — off the rails you go! Sleeping is the only chance we get to reset our hunger hormones, so without sleep our cravings will quite literally take over our lives. Aim for 7-9 hours each night. Make it a priority. Schedule it in. I’m not kidding.
- A good night’s sleep starts in the morning. When you wake up, make sure to get natural light. Not your phone, not your computer, not your TV. Go outside, or look out the window and at the sun, it signals to our body that it’s time to start the day and puts us into our preferred cortisol rhythm. Trust me, the first light you see should be natural. No.Screens.
- I love chamomile, valerian, or passionflower tea at night. They help calm us down and increase melatonin production. Other ways to get more sleep: no screens 2 hours before bed, black-out shades, no WIFI connection humming in your bedroom, phone either off or in airplane mode, setting an actual bedtime and sticking to it, a relaxing short yoga or meditation sequence before bed.
- Mind-dump. I like to write down the things on my mind that I can foresee keeping me up at night. By getting them out on paper, it helps me calm down. Same goes for to-do lists, write one out for the next day so it doesn’t circle in your head all night! Or if you just had a great time at your holiday party, or let’s get serious, an awkward time or argued with somebody, get it out somehow. Whether you write it down, tell somebody, or say it out loud on your nightly walk, it’ll be super helpful to find and utilize whatever outlet works for you.
- If you’re active or high-stress, you should aim for closer to 9 hours each night. It’s about making it a priority and finding ways to get that done in your situation. Might be impossible for a lot of parents out there, but on the nights where/when it is possible, really capitalize.
Enjoy your people. Pay attention. Eat slowly and with gratitude. Go for a lot of walks. Choose tequilla. Sleep as much as possible. Shift your mindset. Dance. Eat all the colors. Make your own healthy dish. Start your day with warm water and fresh lemon. Move. Laugh. Hug. Be Present.
Let me know what you’d add to the list!
To a VERY Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!