“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” as the lyrics to the old Andy Williams tune remind us. And yes, while the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are wonderful and filled with celebrations, family togetherness, and good cheer, it can also have some less than healthy effects on us.
To help you make the most of the holidays without ending up a stressed-out mess, stuck in bed coughing and sniffling, or gaining 15 pounds, we’ve come up with a few tips to take you into the new year as healthfully as possible.
Skip the Non-Essential Activities
Passing up a few invitations does not turn you into the Grinch. Between office parties, opportunities to volunteer, gatherings at friends’ homes, and visits to and from family members, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted. Rather than lose your enjoyment for everything, simply choose a few of the celebrations in which to participate and politely decline the others. If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll risk spending your holiday time cranky, miserable, not to mention over eating and overweight.
Maintain Your Exercise Routine
You are most likely extra busy this time of year, between socializing, shopping, and tending to your own tree trimming and home decorations. But don’t use that as an excuse to take a break from working out. In fact, you need exercise more than ever now to combat the additional calories from festive meals and office candy, as well as to counter the stress of your family’s impending visit. No matter how hectic your schedule, you can find at least 20 minutes a day for some kind of physical activity.
Stick With a Nutritious Diet
Are you laughing at the very thought of that suggestion during the holidays? We know it sounds a little unrealistic, but you can avoid overindulging and maybe even weight gain if you employ a few healthy strategies. Start by cooking ahead of time and freezing several meals. When you come home pooped after a marathon trip to the mall, you’ll be so happy to have a nutritious dinner ready to be reheated rather than resorting to pizza delivery. Keep fruit and cut up vegetables handy to snack on at work or home to help you withstand the cookies and cakes in the kitchen area. And eat before going to a party where you know the offerings will be fried, saucy, and very caloric. That way, you’ll only pick at the junk food. The trick is not to make every meal healthy (not really possible) but to make the meals BETWEEN the unhealthy meals low calorie and healthy (which is possible).
Avoid Colds and Flu
Spending hours indoors in crowded places like department stores, parties, theatres, and even your office can result in the transmission of lots of nasty germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and scrub not only your palms but your nails, between your fingers, and the backs of your hands to ensure you’re rinsing all the illness-causing bacteria away. Get your rest, as a 2013 study at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that several nights with a short duration of sleep can increase inflammation and lower your immune response.1 Aho, Vilma; et al. “Partial Sleep Restriction Activates Immune Response-Related Gene Expression Pathways: Experimental and Epidemiological Studies in Humans.” PLoS One. 23 October 2013. Accessed 5 December 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0077184. If you’re traveling by airplane, touch as little as possible to avoid the multitude of germs living there. And whether you’re home or away, take immune boosters and natural antipathogens daily to further protect you from getting sick.
Limit Your Libations
Who doesn’t like a nice glass of wine or eggnog during the holidays? The problem is, those drinks will give you roughly 125 and 350 empty calories, respectively. And often during a celebration, one drink quickly turns into two or three. So you end up with hundreds of extra calories (not even counting anything you’ve eaten) and the alcohol has negative effects that include disrupting your sleep. If you like having a glass to hold while talking with others, choose club soda with a twist of lime instead. But if it’s the alcohol you really want, at least limit yourself to one or choose which nights you’ll indulge and which will be sober evenings.
|↑1||Aho, Vilma; et al. “Partial Sleep Restriction Activates Immune Response-Related Gene Expression Pathways: Experimental and Epidemiological Studies in Humans.” PLoS One. 23 October 2013. Accessed 5 December 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0077184.|