Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Tips to Healthy Holidays

This article appeared in the Holiday edition of Elemental Fit's newsletter. While the tips below are great for avoiding holiday burn-out, they are also wonderful to employ during times of stress, too.

You don't HAVE to suffer from burn-out, colds, flu or SAD (seasonal-affective disorder) this winter! Here are my top tips for staying well - physically and mentally/emotionally - during the holidays, so you can sail effortlessly into the new year feeling great! See how many you can incorporate this year.

  1. GET ONE extra hour of sleep on most nights. Sure, you're busy, but if you don't take the time to rest now, you will most likely be forced to take it later - usually at the most inconvenient time! By hitting the sack an hour earlier, you will most likely miss out on some late night news and time on your favorite social sites. What you gain in return, however, is a stronger immune system, improved memory and more consistent moods. Sounds like a fair trade, right?
  2. Aim to feed yourself one to TWO servings of dark green leafy vegetables every day. They are a great source of the "relaxation mineral" magnesium, which is depleted when we consume sugar. Immunity-boosting magnesium also aids in sleep and assists healthy bowel function.
  3. Remember to use these THREE words: "I LOVE YOU". Too often in the busyness of the holidays, we neglect those closest to us for the sake of the parties, shopping, and the specials on TV. Feeling FULLfilled in relationships actually help stave off the mindless eating when we aren't sure what we want, just that we're wanting something...
  4. TAKE FOUR 10-minute movement breaks throughout the day. There is strong evidence  suggesting that even among "exercisers", being sedentary for long uninterrupted periods of time each day can contribute to a host of ills. Set your alarm for movement breaks - walking up and down the stairs, a stroll around the block, dancing around your living room, running in place - at least four times throughout the day!
  5. BEGIN each day with a FIVE minute meditation. By starting your day in a more relaxed state of mind, rather than dashing out of bed after the tenth hit on your snooze alarm, you'll be paving the way to a more relaxed, proactive day. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly while allowing your mind to be present (instead of thinking about the gazillion things on today's to-do list), reading scriptures or something else inspirational, or listening to some soothing instrumental music.
  6. EAT SIX servings of fresh fruit and/or vegetables a day divided among your meals, and for an added "bonus", snack on several servings, too!
  7. Reduce your sugar in-take (I could not figure out a "SEVEN" to go with this one other than the fact that the typical soda contains SEVEN teaspoons in a single 8-ounce serving [that is just one measuring cup full!!!]). Sugar sneaks into your daily diet through a number of sneaky ways. It weakens your immune system, stimulates the production of insulin, and increases appetite without giving your anything beneficial in return. Be VERY choosy about the holiday treats you indulge in. Make sure they are your absolute FAVORITES, not just some random sweets you eat simply because they happen to be right in front of you.
  8. DRINK EIGHT-ounces of water before every caffeinated and/or alcoholic beverage you consume. Both are diuretics, and your body requires adequate water in-take to keep cells functioning properly. Additionally, water can take up valuable real-estate space in your stomach, preventing the opportunity for over-indulging.
  9. At parties, practice the NINEty/ten rule: fill your plate primarily with REAL foods (90%), then accessorize with the other stuff (10%). Reach for vegetables on the veggie tray but forego the creamy dips. Avoid the cheeses and oily crackers, but grab some grapes and other berries. When you see a creamy spread with "chipped meat" (what kind of "meat" is that, anyway?) run in the opposite direction - it will most likely be loaded with TONS of cream cheese, sour cream and butter. Carved turkey or lean beef is a good option, as long as you bypass the mayo and horseradish sauce (it's got mayo in it, too... plain ol' horseradish dose not), opting for mustard instead. Select a small piece of your favorite dessert and limit yourself to one piece. Focus more on the company of those around you than on the spread on the table.
  10. TAKE TEN minutes before you leave your house or go to bed to prepare for the next day. By preplanning, you'll help to eliminate last-minute stress that so often occurs when rushing out the door to the next thing.

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