By. Garrett Guzman
When it comes to the holidays, we typically do not associate it with optimal health. Whether it’s poor food choices, excess alcohol, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, family drama, or perhaps even additional financial stress from all the gift purchases; the holidays can take a toll on our health. But is there anything we can do to offset some of these health challenges? Absolutely! Here is my top five list to make it through the holidays with your health and happiness at its peak.
1. Don’t allow one poor food or one poor meal decision turn into an all-out week or weekend bender. Eat the food or meal that you really, really want (don’t eat out of family or friend peer pressure) and move on, without any feelings of guilt or remorse. Then, get immediately back on your healthy food choices. But with this, I feel I should add one large caveat: limit added sugar in all forms (and poor sugar substitutes; whole fruit being your better choice due to ample fiber and high nutrient value). Not only is sugar heavily addicting and often leads to overconsumption, it can also lead to metabolic derangement (specifically insulin resistance, but also a host of other hormonal health challenges). And, to put it bluntly, this glucose mismanagement can also contribute to a hefty holiday fat gain that we are all trying to avoid.
2. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Overconsumption of alcohol not only adds empty calories (unfortunately, not empty in the sense that they don’t count, but in the sense that they provide nearly zero nutrient density), and most often causes one to make poor food choices he/she wouldn’t normally make in sobriety. If you will be drinking alcohol, make sure you are also drinking plenty of high-quality water. Before any drink, between every drink, and after drinking alcohol, have a full glass of water (this will dramatically reduce dehydration; you’re welcome in advance).
3. If there is one recommendation that I lean on most heavily during the holidays, get optimal sleep. This means getting to bed and rising from bed at similar times every day (even the weekends; these circadian rhythms control our sleep quality). Per the above, better food choices and less alcohol also improve the quality of our sleep (avoid heavy, late meals and the overconsumption of alcohol). Aim for seven to nine hours of solid sleep every night, as even one all-nighter can have massive health implications. And with this recommendation, I would also add making daily stress management a primary focus. This can come by way of daily meditation/mindfulness, gratitude journaling, or prayer. The power of quiet time spent alone cannot remotely be measured in the ways that it will positively affect your life.
4. Get in daily exercise and/or activity. This does not have to be high-intensity cardiovascular training or resistance training. This can be as simple as taking a long, brisk walk with your family or dog. This can be a simple fifteen-minute calisthenics and mobility workout out of your house or garage. Whatever you choose, don’t overcomplicate it and simply focus on moving your body every day.
5. Finally, enjoy the present moment. I have heard too many stories lately of individuals passing far too early. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, and yesterday is already gone. The only time we have is the here and now. Enjoy your time with your family and friends; and be in the moment. Tell them (and better yet, show them) that you love them, care for them, and appreciate them. One of the greatest regrets people have on their death beds is that they didn’t fully treasure the time they had with their loved ones. Don’t live with regrets; cherish every minute!