With the holiday season upon us it’s a good idea to take stock. This is a fun time of year for most of us. We get to spend more time with our families and enjoy reconnecting with old friends.
Many of us have time honored holiday traditions: mom’s special stuffing recipe, Christmas cookies and latkes. We take the time to prepare all of our favorite dishes; we enjoy the rituals and it’s important to us that we pass these traditions on to our children.
Something else often happens at this time of year — we lose sight of our health and then we regret that decision (yes, it is a decision!) when January rolls around. With all the added holiday activities, we don’t take the time to exercise and eat mindfully; our health takes a back seat to the season.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not suggesting you become party poopers by avoiding festive food and drinks. I enjoy the traditions just as much as everyone else!
I’m simply suggesting we look at things a bit differently this holiday season. Instead of eating and drinking with reckless abandon — you know what I’m talking about — why not try setting small daily or weekly goals to help us feel better and maintain our good health over the next two months?
Here’s what can happen when we fumble through the season without a plan:
- Skip morning exercise because you’re tired from a late night holiday party
- Feel sluggish because you skipped exercise
- Not thinking about health because you skipped exercise so stop for a bagel and cream cheese (What the heck? You’ve already blown the day, right?)
- Feel tired because you’ve eaten less than a healthy breakfast so grab a candy bar for energy, and the sugar cycle continues
- Go holiday shopping so don’t have time for a proper lunch (what’s the difference at this point?)
- Go home after work and blow off exercise again because now you are feeling really low energy
- Make something quick for dinner instead of taking the time to eat whole foods you’ve prepared
- Vow to do better tomorrow!
Follow these guidelines to avoid the downward spiral:
- Make your exercise plan at the beginning of the week.
- Stick to the plan no matter what!
- Take time to plan your weekly meals at the beginning of each week; keep it simple by combining lean proteins and produce (see ideas below).
- Create a shopping list and purchase whole foods so you’ll have healthful ingredients on hand when you’re tired and out of time.
- Drink at least 50 ounces of water every day. This will keep you hydrated so you don’t confuse hunger with dehydration. This will also help you avoid the dreaded hangover. Yes, dehydration is usually what causes your hangover — that and too much alcohol!
- Plan what you’ll eat while dining out and at parties. Eat healthy snacks before heading out (see list below). Then stick to mostly proteins like shrimp and chicken along with veggies and fruit at parties and restaurants. Go ahead and sample the chips, dips and other party treats—once, then fill up on the stuff that will help you feel better the next day.
- Try your best to get seven hours sleep. Before downing your third—or fourth–beverage, stop and think about how you’re going to feel tomorrow!
- Wake up feeling good in the morning and proud of yourself that you stuck to your plan. Then go exercise!
Follow the 80/20 rule: Make a concerted effort to eat well eighty percent of the time. You’ll be happy you did!
- 15-20 walnuts or almonds. Count them out!
- A few squares of dark chocolate: anything above 70 percent cacao
- Chopped raw veggies: bell peppers, broccoli, cucumber, radishes, green beans dipped in hummus, guacamole, tapenade or a little nut butter
- A few slices of nitrate-free turkey dipped in mustard
- Half an avocado with a little sea salt
- Two hard-boiled eggs
- One piece of low-sugar fruit: grapefruit, orange, apple, berries, pear, etc.
Meal Ideas: Make extra so you can reheat when you’re pressed for time.
- Chili: Add handful of kale or spinach to leftovers
- Pasta Salad with mostly vegetables. Add cooked chicken too.
- Chicken Stir Fry
Ginny Wright has been a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for more than 10 years. She received her Health Coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York in 2007. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.