As the holiday season approaches, maintaining your health goals can become a challenge, but it doesn't have to be! In this blog post, we'll discuss five simple, yet effective tips to help you navigate festive indulgences while staying committed to your well-being. From mindful eating to staying active, these strategies will empower you to celebrate the season with joy and health in mind. Let's dive into the five ways you can keep your health goals on track during the holiday season.
1. Eat Sufficient Protein Throughout the Day
A balanced diet that includes an adequate amount of protein is essential for overall health and proper energy. Majority of our diets today are too high in carbohydrates causing low energy, cravings, frequent hunger, poor sleep, and weight gain. Carbohydrates are not a good source of lasting energy because when consumed by themselves, they are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream causing a rapid spike in blood sugar followed by a crash shortly after. This is what causes dips in energy levels or rapid changes in mood throughout the day. On the flipside, protein is an excellent source of longer lasting energy because it's much more slowly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. For this reason, it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels when consumed with carbohydrates. Protein also has a satiating effect, meaning it helps keep you full and satisfied for longer than carbohydrates would. This helps to minimize cravings, frequent hunger, and constant snacking throughout the day. To help keep your energy levels up and keep cravings at bay, aim to eat 0.8-1g per lb of lean or goal bodyweight per day. For those who are more sedentary, aim for the lower end range, and vice versa for those who are more active. An easy way to make sure you're getting protein throughout the day is to simply eat a palm-sized portion of protein with breakfast, lunch, and dinner while adding in balanced protein-rich snacks if needed between meals.
2. Prioritize Getting Enough Sleep
Adequate sleep is crucial for our well-being as it plays a significant role in our nutrition choices. Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of two hormones that regulate hunger and fullness—ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone," increases with insufficient sleep, leading to an increased appetite. On the other hand, leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, decreases, potentially resulting in overeating. Additionally, lack of sleep has been associated with increased cravings for carbohydrates and sweets which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic issues. Lastly, it's been studied that getting inadequate amounts of sleep can impair cognitive function and decision-making, which makes people more likely to make poorer, less nutritious food choices when tired. It's also likely to impact your desire to workout the next day causing you to skip the gym. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night to help you feel your best. To improve sleep, set a regular sleep-wake schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, begin winding down 30 minutes to 1 hour before you need to be asleep, limit electronics during wind down time, and avoid alcohol consumption which disrupts sleep. Opt for relaxing teas like chamomile, lavender, or passionflower to help you unwind and supplements like melatonin, CBD, and magensium to help with sleep if needed.
3. Stay Active
While the colder weather and shorter days may make it more challenging to stay active during the winter months, maintaining a consistent exercise regimen is important to keeping up with your health and wellness. Naturally we become more sedentary during the colder months, making it even more crucial to make time for exercise to avoid adding on extra pounds. Sitting more and eating more is a recipe that can lead to weight gain if an exercise routine is not maintained. It's also common for people to experience seasonal sadness with less time outdoors soaking up vitamin D from the sun. Exercise is an extremely beneficial way to boost your mood as it stimulates production of your feel-good hormones. This can help you stay postive, uplifted, and motivated even when the days feel shorter and colder. All-in-all, even if you can't make it to the gym, finding other ways to keep moving is beneficial for your health and wellness such as, taking the stairs, parking your car further away, shoveling snow, doing push-ups or air squats at your desk, going for a 10-15 minute walk on the treadmill, spinning indoors, or at-home yoga or pilates through YouTube.
4. Manage Stress
High stress is one of the main causes of many health issues. When stressed, your body's nervous system enters the sympathetic state, also known as fight-or-flight response. In this state, your body produces stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in response to a stressor. If stress is not managed, it can become chronic which causes your body to consistently pump out these stress hormones without any relief. Because cortisol levels are directly proportional to insulin levels, excess cortisol causes excess insulin production, and insulin is what contributes to weight gain. Additionally, stress can contribute to unhealthy habits like overeating or binge eating. This is why managing chronic stress is highly important to supporting a healthy weight. Stress also impacts your sleep and energy levels. High stress can cause trouble sleeping leading to fatigue and a feeling of constant exhaustion or burnout. Managing stress allows you to maintain more optimal energy and sustainable healthy lifestyle habits. Healthy ways to manage stress include, meditation, deep breathing, positive affirmations, laughing and having fun, spending time in nature, exercising, and hobbies like painting, skiing, dancing, or gardening. Try to find what works best for you to manage stress and schedule it into your daily or weekly routine to support you during stressful times.
5. Don't Completely Restrict Yourself
Life is about balance. Healthy doesn't mean always eating salads or chicken, broccoli, and rice. When you restrict yourself from everything you enjoy, it only backfires, typically causing a binging cycle or falling off track with a healthy lifestyle completely. Instead, it's important to maintain a balanced, yet healthy diet in order to keep things sustainable long-term. A simple recommendation is to follow the 80/20 rule where majority of the time (roughly 80%) you're eating healthy, nourishing, yet enjoyable meals, and the other portion of the time (roughly 20%), you're enjoying foods and treats you love. This helps create a balanced diet which is sustainable and manageable not just temporarily, but for life. A recommendation during the holidays is to try to eat nourishing meals when you're not attending or hosting special occassions, and to enjoy other foods you love on special occassions. If you do go a little overboard during the holidays on certain days, try to get right back on track to better eating habits the following day so that things don't continue to spiral downward. The longer you procrastinate getting back to a healthier diet, the harder it is to get back on track thereafter. Most importantly, try not to feel guilty or shame yourself for enjoying the foods you love, simply find a balance and you'll feel better physically and mentally.
Maintaining health goals during the holiday season can be challenging, but is crucial for overall well-being. By combining mindful choices in nutrition, lifestyle, and self-care individuals can navigate the holiday season while continuing towards their health goals.
If you’re interested in receiving further guidance on how to improve your nutrition and lifestyle to help you achieve your health and fitness goals, inquire today! Click below to book a free consultation or learn more about my 12-week Nutritional Therapy program.
Jenn Horowitz, FNTP, CPT, CES, CECP is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Emotion Code Practitioner who works to address the root cause of illness. Jenn is the founder of JTH Wellness, a holistic nutrition and wellness practice, specializing in helping people improve their relationship with food, optimize gut health, and regain confidence in their bodies through 1:1 fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle counseling. Jenn works to teach others how to live a balanced lifestyle that allows them to achieve their goals while enjoying life for results that last. Learn more about Jenn’s nutrition counseling services and schedule a free 15-minute discovery session by visiting her website, http://www.JTHwellness.com.