Throughout the year we get to participate in various holidays and festivities associated with them. As fun and enjoyable as these times can be, all too often we celebrate them in the most destructive ways, where our health, weight, and wellbeing are concerned. In this article, I will share with you practical tips for what you can do to make the holiday times honor, respect, and nurture your wellbeing, while you have fun.
Depending on which country you live in, there are many beautiful holidays that celebrate various aspects of our culture, history, seasonal, and personal lives. While these can be some of the most beautiful and cherished times in our lives, they can also unfortunately be some of the unhealthiest. It is all too common to overeat, suffer from digestive distress, poor energy, and weight gain during any kind of holiday. The more we stress our bodies this way, the more we also open ourselves up and increase the risk of various respiratory and digestive infections and chronic diseases.
We have to remember that being healthy is a choice you are making to help yourself, and so it does not make sense to put your health on some kind of a “time out” or to abuse yourself during such times. Being healthy also does not mean that we deprive ourselves or do not enjoy delicious foods, specialty meals, or unique dishes. On the contrary, we enjoy ourselves even more because we take an interest in our food and our health, and make creative and delicious dishes using healthy and wholesome foods. We can treat our body and mind, while we celebrate with others and treat our entire being.
Don’t Forget What You Already Know
If you have been serious about your health up to this point, think about how much you have accomplished and how far you have come thus far. Perhaps you have overcome or prevented a serious illness or perhaps you have maintained a healthy weight or lost some needed weight. Many people spend the better part of each year trying to get healthy, only to threaten or destroy their progress when any holiday time comes around. It is a fallacy that we have accepted culturally that the holidays mean that we eat more than usual and eat more of the wrong foods, ones high in sugar, fat, and animal products, and drink more of the wrong things, like alcohol. These are nothing more than emotionally- and societally-driven habits that too many in our society have unfortunately accepted as normal and now flaunt as if they were something to be proud of.
But how can we ever be proud of over-eating and putting tremendous stress on not just our digestive system, but our body as a whole? How can we be proud of eating lots of refined sugars and giving our pancreas, liver, hormones, and immune system a run for their money to work harder than ever to try to keep our body in balance despite this unnatural onslaught. How can we be proud of drinking alcohol, which deteriorates our consciousness and our ability to be coherent and responsible people, in any amounts, but especially excessive ones? Through these actions, aside from the extreme stress that we put on our liver, kidneys, and brain, we deplete our nutrient levels, cause an imbalance in our intestinal microflora, and compromise our immune system. These are hard questions that most people never ask themselves or choose to consider consciously, but those of us who are health-conscious do.
So do not be tempted to throw away your progress and your health priorities due to any social pressure. You know what your body needs and what it does not need to maintain a good level of physical, mental, and emotional health, energy, and weight. You also know what can threaten these areas and cause you suffering. The holidays should not be the time to casually forget that.
Optimal health is our birthright but it is not going to be achieved or experienced by taking two steps forward and one, or more, steps back. Hence, whenever any holiday season rolls around, use it to honor yourself by remembering everything you already know about what a human body needs and what it does not want, in any amounts. Choose to not fall prey to the slew of common respiratory and digestive infections that are most prevalent around the winter holidays by taking extra good care of yourself during these times. Choose consistency in how well you treat your body all year, and not just on some days.
Before you read on, I encourage you to take a mindful moment right now and be really honest with yourself by answering the following question: Is it more important for me to maintain my health by avoiding certain foods and drinks, or is it more important for me to indulge in things that give my tastebuds and emotions a high and allow me to fit in with my social circle(s)? If you chose health and are open to staying on track, then I invite you to read on. If you choose to indulge in foods and drinks that hurt your body, then don’t bother wasting your time reading the subsequent tips, as they will just make you get defensive and judgemental. No point in causing yourself more stress, right? Simply be honest with yourself to choose what you are ready for and then take the appropriate action.
Tips For Having A Healthy Holiday Season
Here are five of the most important tips, for keeping your body, health, weight, and energy in a balanced state and enjoying a healthy holiday season:
1. Be Conscious of Your Portion Sizes
In other words, do not overeat! We are so tempted to do this, especially when at someone else’s house or a work party as if “free” food all of a sudden meant “let’s pack into our body as much as we can.” But this is not what our bodies want or how they thrive. This only causes them stress and sluggishness, which results in you paying for it in one or several ways after your feasting time is over.
For optimal health, less is more. By eating smaller portions, we allow our bodies to do more for us and in turn, keep us in tip-top shape. If you must or want to try many food items, aim for eating in small, staggered portions throughout the day or party, rather than overeating a large amount of food in one sitting.
2. Avoid Sweets, or At least Greatly Limit Them
Whether it is refined or processed chocolates, cookies, cakes, pies, and other such things that are full of bad sugars, bad fats, and various additives like flavors, colors, and preservatives, all of them cause your body stress. Your liver, pancreas, and blood sugar struggle, as well as your digestive and immune system, hormones, energy, and mental and emotional health. You may think that the pleasurable effects of these foods that last only a few minutes are worth it, but you have to remember that their downsides last much longer. The best part, however, is that you don’t have to choose between pleasure and health. Today, we know that there are an infinite amount of ways to make healthy treats that are sweet, delicious, and healthy. It just requires us to move away from the processed conventional junk and recipes based on unhealthy ingredients.
For optimal health, choose sweet foods and treats that come from whole plant foods, where the sugars are bound to the fiber and other nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that help your health, rather than hurt it. From cakes and cookies to puddings and ice cream, you can re-create pretty much anything in a healthy and wholesome way that can be worthy of being called a “treat.”
3. Avoid Alcohol, or At Least Greatly Limit It
It is really unfortunate that so many people in our world are so uncomfortable with being themselves and consumed by so much stress, sadness, and anger that they cannot imagine having a good time or being with others without any alcohol. However, if you are conscious of this fact and if you drink, then you also know that your own reasons for doing so are not rooted in any health-promoting habits because all alcohol types and amounts hurt us on numerous levels.
As most of us know, alcohol is not even a pleasant-tasting substance, unless it is artificially flavored, and ranges in various bitter or acidic flavors and burning sensations. You’d think that would be enough to dissuade us from consuming it, but apparently not. Unfortunately, its powerful addictive properties override most humans’ natural ability to know what is good for them and what isn’t. What is worse is how many sectors of our society from our food and drink establishments to our entertainment promote this substance and ensure people are continually hooked on it. And so, given how much alcohol use has been normalized in our society and how disconnected from their true selves and uncomfortable with themselves and their lives most people are, holidays have become a perfect excuse for indulging in this toxic substance.
For optimal health, consuming no alcohol is the best way to go for your physical, mental, and emotional health and weight. However, if you absolutely cannot do that for whatever reasons you deem as reasonable, then aim to minimize your use of alcohol as much as you can during any kind of holidays and festivities, in addition to other times of the year. Aim to learn how to have fun by being fully yourself, rather than depending on any substance that hurts you and your health.
4. Avoid Animal Products, or At Least Greatly Limit Them
If you are already eating a fully whole food, plant-based or vegan diet, then you are already utilizing the health power and benefits of this tip. However, if you are not, allow the holidays to be a time when you become extra conscious of how much of any kind of animal foods you are choosing to ingest, as most people greatly overdo these foods during these times. All too many people have the idea in their heads that the holidays are meant to revolve around the slaughter and cooking of animal flesh, whether it is turkeys, chickens, cows, pigs, or fish. Yet if one stops to think about this consciously, where did such a barbaric and inhumane idea come from? And more importantly, why are we participating in it if we consider ourselves good, moral, and ethical human beings?
Animal foods, whether any kind of meat, eggs, or dairy, are full of unhealthy fats, risky protein, cholesterol, bacteria, and toxins. They wreak havoc on all areas of our health and weight, and cause our digestion distress resulting in anything from excess or unpleasant gas, bloating, heaviness, and lethargy. Such foods also increase our risk for all chronic diseases and make health weight maintenance and weight loss that much harder.
For optimal health, the less, if any, animal foods and dishes made with them that you eat, the better. Instead, utilize the power and potential and infinite variety of whole plant foods to nourish and treat yourself with.
5. Stop Creating Stress, Let Go, and Have Fun
Do you realize that all of the “shoulds” and “musts” that drive so much of what we do around and for any holiday or special occasion are completely self-generated? Just like you are choosing to do any of the things you do during these times, you can choose not to do them. In fact, you can do as little or as much as your physical, mental, and emotional health allow for. Just check in with yourself for some honest and mindful moments to see how you are handling everything and coping, and if you feel on-edge, tense, or triggered by anything, then you know that things are exceeding your coping abilities or internal desires.
Stress is, perhaps, the most toxic thing to our body. You can be eating all the best foods and have all of the right lifestyle habits, but if you are creating high states of mental and emotional stress in your body, you are working against all of those great habits. So no matter if your baked goods didn’t turn out the way you want or you got an unexpected guest or two or you didn’t find that “perfect” gift you wanted for someone, aim to keep things in a healthy perspective. All of these are so arbitrary and not worth sacrificing our health and wellbeing.
For optimal health, instead of causing yourself stress by reacting to such situations negatively, allow yourself to let go more and go with the flow of what is. Your brain, adrenal, and heart health will thank you for it, and in turn, you will be a much more easy-going person and much more fun to be around. The most important steps here are to stop judging yourself and being so hard on yourself and even more importantly, stop worrying about what others will think. By putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, you are sabotaging your ability to enjoy the times that are meant to be fun and relaxing.
No matter what day or time of the year it is, be sure to take care of yourself and nourish yourself in ways that are in alignment with your health priorities. Celebrate the wonderful mind and body that you have by treating them right!