Michelle W. Book is Re-inventing the Holidays With Your Health in Mind
Happy December! The holiday season is officially upon us and many of us have plans for dinners, parties and social gatherings galore.
The holidays are about traditions and making family memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, some of these traditions may not have evolved like our healthy habits have over the years. Although you may love Aunt Martha’s deep-fried turkey or Grandma’s double-chocolate rum cake, neither is helping you move your health goals forward.
Here are some of the ways I’ve incorporated holistically healthier choices into my family’s holiday traditions.
Nobody likes quitting cold turkey, especially when it means no more desserts. The good news is you don’t have to cut out sweets completely. It’s understandable to treat yourself once in a while; the real problem occurs when the line between what’s considered a treat and a “regular snack” becomes blurred. When we try to cut things out entirely, be it sugar or sodium, we sometimes end up with an even worse craving and eventually succumb by binging. After all, we always want what we’re told we can’t have! Instead of denouncing all desserts, choose to only indulge in your top two — and remember to watch the portions.
Get a head start on your goals
A recent poll showed that while living a healthier lifestyle was the top New Year’s resolution among Canadians, only 31 per cent actually stuck it out. That’s less than one-third! It’s not realistic to expect to change your entire lifestyle once the calendar flips from December 31 to January 1.
Instead of convincing yourself you’re going to do a 180 come the new year, plan ahead, take it little by little, and monitor your progress. Give yourself December as a trial period. That way, instead of, “I want to start eating healthy,” your resolution can be, “I want to continue eating healthy.” Start the new year feeling great instead of resolving to feel better.
Take care of your gut
You may not know it, but your gut plays an integral role in your mood. Research has shown that the bacteria in our gut can communicate with the central nervous system. In fact, 95 per cent of our body’s serotonin (also known as the “feel-good” hormone) and 50 per cent of our body’s dopamine are produced in the gut.
Supplementing with probiotics this holiday season can help to keep you feeling healthy and happy! You can also get a dose of probiotics from a variety of fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut. Try incorporating more of these foods into your holiday recipes and meal plans.
Get those Z’s in every day
Getting adequate quality sleep is one of the easiest ways we can help our bodies. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our overall health, as it can increase our cravings for sugary and salty foods, and at its worst can lead to depression, hypertension and other illnesses.
The holidays are a busy time for many people — whether you’re putting more hours in at work or planning more parties than you can count, it’s crucial to remember to snooze. To improve your quality of sleep, try taking a vitamin D supplement. We know it’s important to get enough vitamin D from supplementation for overall bone health, but people who have low levels of vitamin D have also been shown to have shorter sleep durations as well.
Take it outside
An intense and focused workout is important to get your heart rate up and burn any extra calories you’re consuming, especially around this time of year.
The rush of endorphins we get from exercising is another benefit, especially in the winter, as these hormones help to balance out our mood to combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which many experience in the winter months due to reduced exposure to sunlight. Make it a priority to hit the gym, do some yoga at home, or simply go for a run outside.
Don’t get caught up in the little things. Make the holidays about spending time with those that mean the most to you, and live in the present. To do this, try practising mindfulness, and focus on what you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be grand — whatever makes you happy, whether it’s the glow of the lights, hearing your kids laughing or a warm hug from Aunt Martha. You’ll enjoy the holidays so much more when you let yourself breathe in the holiday cheer!
Michelle W. Book is the in-house Holistic Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), an organization dedicated to educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health and happiness. Visit chfa.ca for more tips for healthy living by Michelle.