Surviving The Christmas Season With Your Health Intact

Renée Naturally Qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist & Western Medical Herbalist

‘Tis the season to celebrate and I think we’re all ready to toast “Cheers to that”! It’s time to relax, be with family and to indulge in some of the best things in life. An amped up social calendar,  beefed up meals & toasts a-plenty can mean that staying healthy and energetic over the festive season may require a Christmas miracle for some of us. However, it’s hard to be merry and bright when all you want is to hit the sack. Below are 6 tips on how to beat festive stress and stay well this party season.

Prioritise sleep – While this is a year-round health goal for many, it’s something that seems to slip to the wayside over the festive season. However, if you can just prioritise a good night’s sleep at least 5 days of the week, you will find you are better able to cope with late night’s that inevitably come with the season. Surrender to some early nights during the weekdays and you’ll be able to arrive at festive parties with bells on!

Eat before you go out – Avoid arriving at a party on an empty stomach. Try eating a light meal before you go so that first glass of champagne doesn’t go straight to your head and you don’t fill up on high-calorie snack food all night long. Nourish yourself with real, wholesome food first and foremost. Don’t be tempted to skip meals so you can save calories for drinking. Alcohol only supplies empty calories, so avoiding proper meals to compensate for a booze splurge means you’re losing out on valuable nutrients. And remember, it’s the balance of your diet that’s important. Consider applying the 80:20 principle – eating healthily 80% of the time, which allows the space for delicious treats at occasions during the season.

Don’t let healthy habits die – December/January doesn’t have to be a right off for your health goals and intentions! It’s important to be mindful of your choices but also realistic. It’s when we start beating ourselves up about not “sticking to a plan” that our health habits can often veer significantly off plan, or we just give up altogether! Feeling bad about yourself can actually lead to emotional eating and overindulgence too, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Be wise, let your hair down a little, have fun, enjoy some treats…but not at the expensive of the bigger picture. By no means do you have to be a health angel all season, but try to keep some healthy habits you’ve nurtured over the year alive and well and you’ll thank yourself later on.

Regularly hydrate – Staying hydrated might seem like a cliche but it’s even more important over the holiday season when the heat is on in more ways than one! The weather is generally hot, salty snacks are a-plenty and for many, alcohol consumption is increased. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning that maintaining your fluid intake is even more important. Aim for 8 glasses of purified water a day. Dehydration triggered by alcohol can lead to fatigue, headaches, irritability and even the mistaken feeling of hunger which can lead you to snack more. It is important to consume non-alcoholic drinks, such as water,  between alcoholic ones, particularly in hot weather to counteract this.

Don’t deprive yourself but watch portion size – I believe in enjoying all food (in moderation!) made with love. So if Aunty Rose’s “World Famous in Hokitika” Christmas pudding is made with butter, sugar & refined carbohydrates…a little won’t do you any harm. It’s when we indulge with absolutely no hesitation into everything on offer and in mammoth proportions that we can regret it later, possibly while on the couch in a food coma when the rest of the clan is off on a post-lunch walk. Pick and choose what you want to indulge in. Don’t just indulge in mediocre treats just because they’re in front of you. You’re better off getting full satisfaction from the pavlova with all the toppings than mindless handfuls of those salted peanuts sitting next to you. If you’re eating a meal at the home of a friend or relative, perhaps casually offer to serve yourself (and others while you’re at it…after all ‘tis the season for giving!). When you serve yourself up, you have control over your portion size. There’s nothing worse than being given a huge portion and feeling obliged to eat everything on your plate out of concern of offending your host!

Just say no – It sounds contradictory to the word “holiday”, but holiday season burn-out is a very real thing for many in this day and age. An important part of staying healthy over Christmas is saying no to some invitations and requests. Choose the Christmas commitments that mean the most to you and don’t feel guilty about saying no on occasion too. We’re not all built like Santa with superpowers to be in a million places at once!

With all the celebrations, merriment and sometimes chaos of the season, we can easily lose touch with tuning in to ourselves. Listen intuitively to your body throughout the season – it will tell you what it needs to feel optimally nourished. Reward yourself with the gift of good health this Christmas and beyond. Happy (healthy) holidays!

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