HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS (AND STILL ENJOY THEM)
The holiday season is here! The temperature is dropping and willpower and sustainable, healthy lifestyles practices almost always begin falling at the same rate. It starts with an evening holiday party substituted for a Crossfit class, buying (just one!) Christmas chocolate at the supermarket, skipping the morning outdoor run because it’s cold and the bed is much warmer.
Then by the time Christmas has passed, the New Year’s reboot to a healthy lifestyle feels like climbing up a mountain… getting up a little earlier for training, skipping the dessert, and cutting back on the alcohol consumption. But there is a way to find a middle ground, where you can enjoy the holidays without throwing out all of the years’ worth of hard work to build up a healthy lifestyle only to rebuild it up again come 2019. Here are ten easy tips that you can integrate into your schedule over the course of ten days to maintain sanity and well being while indulging in the holiday festivities.
EVENING: SCHEDULE WIND DOWN TIME.
The night before, set your alarm for 30 minutes, 20 minutes and 10 minutes before you need to go to bed. Create your own daily wind down routine that calms your mind down ready to sleep; use the alarms as tools to ensure you actually get to bed when you aim to. An example: at 30 minutes, start preparing all the stuff you need to get done for tomorrow morning (pack bag, coffee, etc). At 20, brush teeth, shower etc., dim the lights, and limit technology screen exposure. At 10 minutes, read a fiction book or do a short evening breathing exercise or meditation. Prioritize your sleep: you owe it to yourself! Sleep is akin to the foundation of a building; without a stable base of sleep, the other pillars of health can’t stand for long.
TRY TO GET 12 HOURS BETWEEN DINNER AND BREAKFAST
The most basic and easiest level of time restricted eating, giving your body at least 12, if not 14 or 16, hours between meals means the digestive and hormonal systems are allowed to rest and cellular cleanup mechanisms can occur. People with digestive issues such as IBS will greatly benefit from extended periods of time overnight where digestive metabolic processes are paused and inflammation associated with digestion can recede. This will also help train your body to be able to utilize stored fat for energy more readily, which can help with weight loss.
FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: DRINK A GLASS OF (WARM) WATER WITH LEMON
The first thing you put into your body in the morning lays the base for the rest of your day. Lemon water, once metabolized, alkalizes in the body, and also benefit the immune, nervous, lymphatic, and digestive systems. Hydration is key in the morning, and in Ayurvedic medicine, warm water is recommended for aiding the digestive system, improving circulation, weight loss, and clearing toxins from the body.
ON THE WAY TO WORK: GET OFF YOUR TRANSIT METHOD 3 BLOCKS (MINIMUM) BEFORE THE CLOSEST TO DESTINATION.
Likely you’re spending less and less time outdoors as the cold, windy, winter weather is creeping in. Spending time outdoors (ideally) is crucial for maintaining health; connecting in nature and disconnecting for a short period of time greatly helps reduce stress and anxiety, improving your mood, reducing inflammation and benefiting your gut health. If a short weekend walk in a park isn’t possible, getting some fresh, non-recycled air for even ten minutes a day can get yo moving and offer health benefits. Park 3 blocks away; get off the bus/s-bahn/u-bahn 1-2 stops before you usually do; or even better, walk or bike to work!
MID-AFTERNOON SUGAR CRAVINGS? DRINK TEA.
The post-lunch, afternoon sweets cravings that we have conditioned for ourselves. Instead of reaching for the sugar assault on your body mid-afternoon, drinking a cup of tea, especially fennel, ingwer or zitrone can diminish the cravings. Replacing tea with coffee after 15:00 also eliminates the potential negative side effect of caffeine on your ability to calm down and fall asleep easily in the evening, as well as the net dehydration effect of caffeine.
BEFORE EATING: DRINK A GLASS OF WATER AND BREATHE 6 DEEP DIAPHRAGM BREATHS.
Oftentimes thirst is mistaken for hunger. And a large percentage of us are not drinking enough water on a daily basis; if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. In the case you are actually hungry, before you take your first bite of food, pause. Breath six, deep, diaphragm breaths. It only takes a minute or two; it takes six deep breaths to calm you: deactivating the sympathetic and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This changes stress hormone responses and enables portion control and better digestion.
DURING DINNER AND DESSERT: TAKE 3 BITES AND PUT YOUR FORK DOWN IN BETWEEN BITES.
It’s more difficult to willpower your way through a temptation when you’re at a dinner party or holiday event, and it is the holidays, so there will be situations where you should allow some indulgence. (tim ferriss: “the best diet is not the perfect one that you can follow for two weeks; it’s the imperfect on e that you can follow for the rest of your life). But that doesn’t mean you need to kickstart a cascade of digestive issues, inflammation and food (or alcohol) hangovers. Take three bites of whatever indulgence you’re choosing to allow yourself. Put your fork down and breathe a couple times. Still need that whole piece of cake, or bowl of pasta? Our taste buds become desensitized after the first three to four bites of anything, so the rest of whatever you’re eating won’t taste as good anyways. Putting your fork or spoon down between bites forces you to slow down, actually taste what you’re eating, and savor the taste, bringing you into the present moment and tuning into your body’s signals and needs.
HOLIDAY PARTY: HAVE A GLASS OF SPARKLING WATER OR CUP OF TEA IN YOUR HANDS.
This means your at least one of your hands is occupied: and therefore, makes it much more effort to put down your drink to reach for one (or two, three, four…) of those tempting appetizers or sweets being offered. If it’s an evening event, this also offers an opportunity to forgo the alcohol without being repeatedly questioned: sparkling water and a lemon or lime could be a gin and tonic. Pause for a moment now and evaluate and set your goals and limits with regard to alcohol consumption during the holiday season. Maybe it’s so alcohol. Maybe it’s two drinks per week. Deciding on this rule now will eliminate decision fatigue at every event you attend over the holiday season because you will have make it in advance: I am going to this party, and I will have one glass of wine/beer and after that drink water. This can be applied to sweets or other temptations as well.
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO MOVE
Sign up for a class in advance that has a penalty for cancelling. Schedule in an appointment with a friend to work out together. Putting money down in advance or making a commitment to friend enables you to outsource your willpower: to hold you accountable when your motivation is waning and you would otherwise skip training. It will be much harder to justify bailing on a friend or throwing away money because your energy is low and you ‘just don’t feel like it’, also alleviating more of the decision fatigue that often grows over the holidays.
HIDE YOUR SWEETS.
The easiest way to reduce unhealthy holiday food consumption is not to buy it. Parties and events become more difficult, requiring more willpower to resist them: but in situations where you have control to outsource your willpower, utilize them! Give your chocolate that you keep at your desk to your coworker. That way every time you want to eat a piece, you have to get up, go over to their desk and ask them for it. At home, put the sweets in a really hard to get to place. The top shelf cupboard in the kitchen where you have to get a chair to reach, way at the back. If it requires that little extra effort to acquire, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly reach for that cookie or chocolate.