Six Strategies for Staying on Track with Your Health Goals During the Holidays
IF Insider No. 65
In our last issue (IF Insider No. 64) we examined mindful eating and focused on how adding this practice to your intermittent fasting routine can make your fasting practice even more effective. Today, we will tackle a problem nearly everyone faces at the holidays…how to stay on track with your health goals, without feeling deprived!
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Strategies for Keeping Your Health Goals on Track During the Holidays…Without Feeling Deprived!
The holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and gatherings with family and friends. Unfortunately, it can also be a time when many people go off the rails with their health goals. You need proven strategies for staying on track with your health goals throughout the holidays so that you can enjoy the season without sacrificing your health.
Of course, since our baseline practice is intermittent fasting, we recommend you continue your practice during the holidays. You may want to adjust your hours, however, to accommodate being able to join others for holiday meals. For example, if your usual number of fasting hours is 18 or 19, you could cut that back to 16 hours and then eat normally during the remaining 8 hours. This allows you to enjoy holiday meals while keeping your overall caloric intake in check.
Intermittent fasting can also help to reduce cravings and regulate hunger, which can come in handy with all those yummy holiday treats that seem to be everywhere.
Plus, with all the temptations posed by holiday treats and gatherings, it can be really hard to make healthy choices.
Here are six strategies for staying on track with your health goals during the holidays:
One - Make a Plan - Before you begin your holiday health journey, it is important to make a plan that you can actually keep. Set realistic goals for yourself so that you can stay focused and motivated.
Plan ahead whenever possible for meals and snacks, identifying healthy and nutritious food options you can prepare in advance for easy access. Meal prepping can save you time and energy throughout the week and keep you from being vulnerable to last-minute unhealthy food.
Consider incorporating foods high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help keep you feeling full and energized. Additionally, planning for nutrient-dense snacks can also be very helpful. Be mindful of your portion sizes and the frequency of snacking, as it’s easy to grab a brownie here and a holiday cookie there. They all add up!
When it comes to holiday food, making healthy choices is key. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great way to add nutrition to your meals while keeping calories in check. Lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and beans are a great source of protein and can help to fill you up, while whole grains are a great source of fiber and can help to keep you feeling full for longer.
When preparing meals, try to limit the added sugars and saturated fats so common to holiday dishes, and instead opt for healthier ingredients such as olive oil or avocado. You can also add spices or herbs to your dishes for added flavor without the added calories.
Two - Mindful Eating - Eating mindfully means being aware of your body's hunger and fullness signals, as well as being mindful of how much you're eating. To avoid overeating, it's important to take your time while eating and focus on the food you're consuming. Eating slowly allows your body to recognize when it's full, reducing the risk of overeating.
When you're eating, pause between bites and focus on the sensations of the food in your mouth. This can help you to appreciate the flavors and textures of the food and make it easier to recognize when you're full. Also, listen to your body's hunger and fullness signals.
If you're feeling full, resist the urge to keep eating. Learning to eat mindfully can help you to enjoy your food while still preventing overeating. Completing Jon Kabat-Zinn’s raisin exercise at least once during the holiday season can be an eye-opening excursion into how most of us rarely eat mindfully.
Three - Move Your Body - Exercise is an essential part of maintaining good health and achieving your health goals, especially during the holiday season. Exercise not only helps to improve physical fitness but can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve mental clarity and help you to stay energized. Set aside a specific amount of time each day to dedicate to physical activity.
Choose activities you enjoy, as this will make it more likely that you will stick with your exercise routine. Consider activities like walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, yoga, cycling or even playing sports. This would be a great time to learn the simple and effective P.A.C.E. walking technique.
Four - Stay Hydrated - Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure your body has enough water to keep it functioning optimally, and try to limit sugary drinks. Drinking enough water can help you stay full and avoid overeating, as it can help reduce your appetite. Additionally, drinking water helps your body flush out toxins and keeps your digestive system running smoothly. 6 to 8 glasses of water a day is recommended, but there is no one amount that is right for everyone.
You can also increase your water intake by adding healthy beverages such as herbal teas and natural fruit juices to your daily routine. Eating foods high in water such as cucumbers, celery, and melons can also help you remain hydrated. Staying hydrated can also help improve your energy levels, mental clarity, circulation, and skin health.
Five - Socialize - Spending quality time with your loved ones over the holidays is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Get together with friends and family, engage in meaningful conversations, and create lasting memories.
With all the festivities, however, be mindful of how much food and alcohol you consume, as research shows controlling portion sizes and food choices is harder in a crowd. Eating too much can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable while drinking too much can result in impaired judgment and other serious health issues.
Six - Get Enough Sleep - Getting enough quality sleep during the holidays will help you maintain your energy levels and make it much easier to resist any unhealthy cravings that may arise. Aim to get a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help your body and mind to recharge.
Avoid drinking caffeine late in the day and avoid electronic screens before bed. If needed, you can also use white noise, aromatherapy, or calming music to help you fall asleep. Also, make sure you carve out time to relax and de-stress throughout the day. This can help you sleep better at night and help keep cravings at bay.
The holidays can be a challenging time to stay on track with your health goals. By following the strategies outlined here, you can enjoy the holidays while still remaining committed to your health.
Also, it’s important to be mindful of your mental and emotional health during this time. With a little planning and creativity, you can make your holiday season a healthy and enjoyable one. If you get off track, as all of us do at one time or another, take Denise’s sage advice: Simply begin again. Tomorrow is a new day!
Do you have holiday health strategies that help you stay on track? If so, please share them here in the comments!
Why It Matters
“The groundwork of all happiness is health.”
~ James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859), best known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist and poet.
What We Are Reading 📚
Denise - I’m revisiting The Blue Zones Challenge. My comfort food consumption has gotten slightly out of hand the past few months (too much pasta!). Over the next couple of holiday weeks, I will review the 4-week program and set myself up to kick it off in January. Want to do it with me? Let me know in the comments!
This book is a must-have for anyone looking to explore the world of vegan Chinese cuisine and is an excellent guide to the food and culture of vegan Chinese cooking. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, and the stories accompanying each recipe provide context and insight into the rich history of vegan Chinese cooking. This book is a fantastic resource for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone looking to add more variety to their diet. Highly recommended and would make a great gift!
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