It can be incredibly hard to stick to a holistic diet during the holiday season. The fridge is filled with leftover holiday foods, there are cookies around every corner in the office, and the list of dinners and parties just gets longer and longer. Traditional holiday meals are typically packed with sugar and unhealthy fats. And, no matter how strict you are, you’re bound to give in to temptation if you’re surrounded by delicious and sentimental foods 24/7!
The holidays are a time to celebrate the joy of life with friends and family. This isn’t necessarily the time of year to start a new diet or turn down your favorite specialties. But there are steps you can take that will help you stay on track with a holistic diet instead of devolving into a month-long binge after Thanksgiving. This week we will explore some of the best tips and tricks for sticking to your holistic diet over the holidays.
The last thing you want to do after a big holiday meal is hop on a treadmill. But maintaining your regular exercise schedule will help you stay on track during the holiday season.
Exercise produces endorphins, feel good neurotransmitters that boost mood. If you’re feeling tired or blue after eating too much sugar, the endorphin kick from a workout may be enough to get you out of a rut. Not only will your energy levels improve; you will experience healthier digestion and fewer cravings for unhealthy foods, making it easier to stay on track with your holistic diet.
It can be hard to fend off feelings of guilt after eating a heavy meal. Those negative feelings can make it harder to motivate yourself to exercise. Instead of beating yourself up, focus on the value of food as fuel. Schedule a hard workout for the day after a big meal and imagine how the foods you are eating will fuel your body during exercise. Some of the best long runs or heavy leg days follow large meals because your muscles have so much glycogen readily available.
Too tired and heavy to brace the cold for an outdoor run or make it to the gym? Try popping in an exercise DVD or performing body weight exercises at home. Whatever you do, try to exercise within 12-16 hours of a large meal. Doing so will burn through glycogen held in your liver and muscles before it is transferred into fat cells.
But Don’t Over-Exercise
Remember, though, that there is such a thing as excessive exercise. Exercising too hard for too long can actually hamper your metabolism and cause cravings and fatigue, which is not what you want during the holiday season! Instead, stick to an hour of moderate exercise and listen to your body. If you’re feeling unusually exhausted, don’t feel bad about taking the rest that you need.
Most holiday meals are loaded with sugar, starch, and salt, all of which encourage the body to retain water. If you find yourself five pounds heavier after a holiday meal, don’t panic; 95% of that weight is probably just water! Avoid the scale for a few days after a holiday meal. Instead, drink a lot of water. It may seem counterintuitive to drink water in order to reduce water retention, but it’s effective. Drinking more water allows your body to use or flush out whatever was causing water retention in the first place. Consuming potassium rich foods like bananas and avocado can also help reduce water retention.
It’s okay to indulge in hot cocoa, apple cider, and alcohol during the holiday season. But be sure that water is still your beverage of choice. The calories from sugary holiday beverages can add up quickly. Further, they cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that only exacerbate sugar cravings. Water, on the other hand, will keep the body hydrated and fight hunger and cravings.
Most of us fall into one of two camps after a big holiday meal. Some of us feel like we’ve blown our diets, so we say, “screw it” and keep on bingeing until the New Year. Others panic at the small spike on the scale and begin rigorously exercising and restricting to “undo the damage.”
Neither of these behaviors reflects a healthy attitude toward a holistic diet and body image. Remember: one day of eating will never wreck or reverse a month of consistent, healthy eating and exercise. You would have to eat 3,500 calories more than your daily calorie needs to gain a mere pound of fat. That’s over 5,000 calories a day! And though it’s not hard for most of us to eat that many calories on Thanksgiving, one pound is just one pound. It would take several Thanksgiving dinners to produce any visible change in your weight. It’s not what you do one day that matters; it’s what you do everyday.
Instead of allowing guilt to drive you away from a balanced, holistic diet, try to resume your normal eating schedule. Toss, give away, or freeze sweets to reduce unhealthy temptations. Avoid leftovers, which contain “ama,” toxic substances that cause poor digestion and illness. Opt for complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and lean protein, which together will restore normal blood sugar patterns, reduce water retention, and curb cravings.
Certain foods are particularly beneficial after a holiday meal rich in sodium and sugar. Asparagus, greens, pineapple, cucumber, and papaya all have cleansing, diuretic properties. Eating lots of light, clean plant foods for a few days after a large meal is a great way to reset energy levels and digestion.
Enjoy The Experience
It’s important to maintain a holistic diet throughout the course of the holiday season. But it’s also important to indulge and enjoy life during this busy and special time of year. Remember: indulging is actually an integral element of a healthy diet because it prevents feelings of deprivation, which can lead to binge-purge cycles. Ironically, it can also help to prevent the metabolic slowdowns that cause weight loss plateaus.
Take your time while enjoying holiday meals. Chew your food thoroughly, enjoying the unique textures and flavors. Be present in the current moment and savor the laughter and camaraderie characteristic of the season. Holiday meals with family and friends nourish not only our physical self, but also our emotional self. And a healthy emotional self is just as integral to maintaining a holistic diet and healthy life as a healthy physical self.