The season for gluttony has begun and as your resident fitness experts, we want to encourage you to enjoy it. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the earth’s bounty and be grateful that we live in a world of plenty, not to feel guilty about a piece of pumpkin pie. The December holidays, along with Thanksgiving, are a time when after all the pre-holiday hustle and bustle, people typically sit down to share a meal together, which we know benefits overall health and well being (allthingsfit 8/10/10). It’s also a time when routine is disrupted, and stress escalates. Social engagements surrounding food and libations are plentiful and taking care of one’s self is more easily overlooked.
In the interest of simplifying at least part of the holiday season, and hopefully maximizing your experience of this festive time of year, here is list of tips and reminders that might come in handy.
• Get good sleep – never underestimate the impact of good rest on mood and efficiency. Although 11 p.m. might seem like the only time you can prepare this or wrap that, getting good sleep will improve your stamina. You might find tasks take less time to accomplish and you enjoy doing them more. Additionally, you will have more energy to keep up with the next day and the day after that.
• Stay hydrated – regular consumption of water is not only good for overall health, it also increases your sensation of fullness making you less inclined to reach for whatever goodies might cross your path. Carry a water bottle with you when you are out and about.
• Enjoy the goodies – rather than thinking of I can’t have this, and I shouldn’t have that, go ahead and have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Not every day and not at every opportunity, but rather taste mindfully. Savor the taste, hold it on your tongue, imagine tasting whatever it is for the first time and think about how you would describe it. Much like a new article of clothing or a gadget you look forward to owning, holiday treats are worth indulging in, but should be special and not taken for granted.
• Look out for your own best interests – keep quick, healthy snacks on hand and around the house. It’s impossible to experience the months of November and December without feeling more rushed than normal, so plan for it. Keep a bag of nuts and some beef jerky in the car. Keep the house stocked with fruit and cut veggies so you can grab something on the fly. Package leftovers in individual containers so you have ‘one pot’ meals readily available. If you are bringing a dish to a gathering, make it something you will feel good about eating as you can safely bet someone else will bring treats. If you are heading to an open house or cocktail party, be sure to have something to eat before heading out.
• Remove the food or remove yourself from it – the longer food is available the more likely you are to eat it. While most people enjoy sitting around the table and enjoying company, most do not enjoy the discomfort of overeating. Clear the food off the table or move the gathering to another room.
• Ensure that the good food is REALLY good – seek out heritage, organic and/or sustainably raised turkey. Not only are these birds more flavorful, they are better for you. You can find a local supplier by visiting (http://www.eatwellguide.org/search/advanced/). In my experience, you can typically order locally from Whole Foods and Mollie Stone. Whenever possible, stick to local, seasonal produce. If you belong to a CSA, you can typically request extra items but beware that even the farmers may take a little time off so you may have to place your order early. Mountain View and California Ave farmer’s markets are year round but go early the week of a holiday as they get crowded fast.
• Lighten it up – not by using low calorie substitutes, but by utilizing nutrient dense alternatives. As a substitute for traditional mashed potatoes, try cauliflower mash. Or breadless stuffing made with vegetables, squash and/or beans. Serve crudités with appetizers and fresh fruit with dessert.
• Take time out – as easy as it is to get swept up in the excitement, the key to maximizing enjoyment of the holidays is to take a few moments for you to reflect and relax. Go for a walk, sit by yourself in a quiet room, take a few deep breaths . . . whatever you do, don’t let the holidays pass by in a flurry of events and activities – enjoy the connections you have with others (which is believed to be central to longevity), savor the delights of the season and take time to truly be grateful for the gifts in your life. This may be the best gift you can give to yourself. The expression of gratitude is believed to be vital to the quest for happiness.