Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy

This time of year, there are typically a glut of posts related to maintaining weight and making healthy foodSanta Eating a Cookie  choices during the holidays. Many of the recommendations are trite and share the same information that’s been shared for years. We’ve all heard the advice multiple times to eat something healthy before going to a party and to fill your plate with veggies before indulging in other goodies. It’s wise advice, but it’s time to breathe new life into holiday health tips. Eating fewer carbohydrates is a good place to start. For advice on how to eat fewer carbs on a daily basis, please read my post: Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits.

I’m going to share unique strategies for staying healthy during the holidays. My hope is to share tips that will enable you to enjoy the holiday festivities without feeling guilty. Here are my tips for staying healthy – and sane – during the holidays:
  1. Cut yourself some slack: Nothing is worse for your health than having unrealistic expectations of yourself, your family or your celebrations. Unrealistic expectations create a feeling of failure, which leads to beating yourself up for being normal. Negative emotions have been proven to cause health problems by causing inflammation and acidity. These factors can ultimately lead to cell damage and disease. Maintaining a positive outlook is essential to good health. My advice for the holidays is to not be overly strict. I share tips on how to maintain food balance below, but my best advice is to give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday festivities but to make wise choices and enjoy moderate serving sizes. When you splurge, enjoy and savor every bite to the fullest and then move on without looking back. (This advice naturally needs to be heeded with care for anyone dealing with blood sugar issues, food allergies or with health abnormalities caused by foods.)
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  2. Focus on the people, not the food:  Many people focus more on the food they’ll eat during the holidays than on the extra time they’ll have to renew relationships and to enjoy their friends and family. Maintaining the perspective of “living to eat instead of eating to live” can make a huge difference in how you eat and drink during the holidays. Focusing on catching up with friends and family instead of fixating on food will help you make good choices and avoid the buffet table. Instead of thinking about what you’ll load your plate with, choose instead to entertain the little ones (so their moms can enjoy a moment of peace), help the host and hostess, spend time with the grumpy relative no one else dares to, organize a group game, etc. I know from experience that when I focus on the people I’m with, food temptations fade into the background.
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  3. Focus on giving instead of receiving: This is another simple change in perspective that positively impacts body, mind and spirit. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to serve others. Volunteer at a local community agency, offer to help elderly neighbors with holiday chores, babysit for friends who have little children, reach out to people who do not have family nearby, or serve a meal at a homeless shelter instead of eating your own holiday meal at home. The end result is that you will most likely eat less, will drink less alcohol, and will receive an emotional and spiritual blessing that will positively impact your body chemistry. It is an undeniable truth that “he who refreshes others is himself refreshed.” When we tap into the freedom that comes from focusing on blessing others, we inevitably find that we are the ones who wind up being blessed.
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  4. Maintain moderation in all things: One piece of pecan pie isn’t going to destroy your health, but five pieces could definitely have a negative impact. As I said previously, give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite “splurges,” but put boundaries and limits on the frequency and serving size. Let yourself enjoy a single, small piece of pecan pie or whatever indulgence will bring you the most pleasure. Put boundaries around your splurge, enjoy and savor every single bite, and then stop. Research measuring the release of serotonin (a feel-good hormone) during meals found that we enjoy the first bite of any meal more than any other bite. Take advantage of this by accepting a small to moderate serving and putting special focus on that first bite. Chew it slowly, savor it and enjoy it. You may find that you won’t even need to finish the entire piece if you put extra effort into enjoying and savoring the first few bites. (Offer the remainder to Uncle Bob … he’ll love you for it!)
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  5. Counteract the Bad: Taking supplements is not a substitute for eating well, but there are some supplements that can help maintain health during the holidays. My favorite supplements to take during the holidays include (click the links to see examples):
Probiotics: It’s a simple fact that most people eat foods during the holidays that are richer and which may put a strain on digestion. Taking a daily probiotic (or taking one with every meal) will help maintain the correct balance of bacteria in the digestive tract and is known to greatly improve immunity and reduce inflammation. Since 70% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, maintaining a stable balance of good bacteria is essential for good health. The rich foods and wild schedule of the holidays put an additional strain on digestive health, so taking a probiotic can help boost immunity ensure good digestion. For basic digestive assistance, I recommend using Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora probiotic. Taking one with each meal is recommended. For a stronger dose of probiotics, I recommend Renew Life’s Senior Formula, which is fine for anyone of any age. Taking at least one each day is recommended. Renew Life also makes a nice Children’s Probiotic which is chewable. Children can also benefit from using a probiotic.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known to greatly improve immunity and reduce inflammation. Most experts recommend that adults take at least 2000 IU/day. Recent research found taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily was more effective than a flu shot in preventing the flu. Some people need much higher amounts of Vitamin D, especially anyone who lives in a region where it is difficult to get daily sun exposure. I recommend starting with 2000 IU per day and having blood levels checked every 3 months. I like Carlson’s 2000 IU Vitamin D3. Please read my article, 20 Surprising Facts About Vitamin D for more information. . 
Green Food (Powder or Capsules): A “green food” is a combination of dried superfoods containing high amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Green foods are a good source of foods which alkalize the body. They contain trace minerals and many other nutrients that boost immunity and counteract the negative effects of holiday eating. My favorites include Green Vibrance Capsules and Green Vibrance Powder. Each of these contains high amounts of probiotics in addition to dried grasses and other superfood. If you want a green drink that does not taste like grass, I highly recommend Amazing Grass’s Chocolate Green Superfood.
  1. Do the obvious: You know the drill … drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, wash your hands frequently, avoid the sour cream dip that’s been unrefrigerated for eight hours, eat more veggies, don’t have unrealistic expectations of friends and family about a “perfect holiday,” etc., etc.  Do what’s best for you, not what’s best for everyone around you. Make your health a priority.
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  2. Detox after the holidays:  One of my standing traditions is to use January to cleanse and detoxify. I choose a different approach and use different techniques based on what my toxic exposure was each year, but know that starting the year off right with a detox definitely improves my health and helps eliminate any harmful toxins consumed during the holidays. Even doing something as simple as eliminating all coffee, alcohol and sugar for 3 – 7 days can be very beneficial. I will soon launch a Life Transformation Cleanse which will be a 30-day detox regiment you can easily incorporate into your schedule. Stay tuned for details! 
How do you maintain balance and health during the holidays? Please share your tips!

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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7 Responses to Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy

  1. […] Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Holidays Healthy:  More strong advice and helpful tips on ways to remain healthy during the holidays. […]

  2. I’d love to learn more about detoxing/probiotics. Any great posts you can share to get me started?

  3. Very helpful. Would like to talk with you. A class maybe?

    • GWWR says:

      Hi, Deborah. Thanks for your message. I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Would a “healthy holidays” class be helpful?

  4. Randy Clark says:

    This year I’ve added two 5K runs to my holiday festivities and plan to make this a tradition, which I can build upon. There’s a lot of excitement, camaraderie, and fun.

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