The holiday season can see the best of us putting our usual healthy habits on the back burner in favour of silly season festivities and overindulgence. We can very quickly start to feel run down, lethargic, and generally depleted. Of course, we don’t want to feel guilty about enjoying ourselves, or turn down the party invites because socialising doesn’t fit with our usual ‘regime’, but there are definitely a few things we can put in place to avoid feeling decidedly average over this period without being super strict.
1. Support Gut Health
We tend to eat a lot more rich and heavy foods during the holidays and winter in general. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome (the bacteria, yeasts, and viruses that live in your digestive tract) enhances your overall health. Taking prebiotics (the ‘food’ of healthy bacteria) and probiotics (live beneficial bacteria) are great for the gut. Probiotics are naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi and kombucha. We love the variety of flavoured kombucha’s from local producer Conscious Kombucha – a healthy and tasty treat for you and your gut!
2. Be Smarter with Alcohol
It can be hard to avoid drinking altogether at this time of year, but we can definitely be a bit smarter with our consumption. Alcohol can cause damage and inflammation to our cells, poor nutrient absorption, and lead to the dreaded hangover which often results in not so great food choices after a night out. Try to plan your calendar so that you have 3-4 days without drinking per week, and choose good quality beverages such as preservative free, organic wine (we buy ours from Redivins), good quality spirits, or low sugar, kombucha based cocktails. Enjoy a well-balanced fibre and protein rich meal before you head out, avoid changing up your drink order throughout the evening, and always ask for fresh lemon or lime juice over cordials and syrups.
3. Try Intermittent Fasting and Chew Your Food More
We can feel perpetually full over these couple of months, and weight gain seems inevitable. This is a great time to practice intermittent fasting. Cycling between periods of eating and fasting, you consume all your daily calories during a specific window of time. Weight-loss (or maintenance) occurs because you’re generally consuming fewer calories in the day.
Another handy trick is to chew your food more thoroughly. Healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begins with the simple act of chewing. When you chew your food properly, your body releases digestive enzymes in the stomach that help to break down food so that your body can convert it into energy. When food isn’t digested properly, you can suffer from issues such as indigestion, heartburn, constipation, headache and low energy which only adds to the silly season woes! It also takes the brain about 20 minutes to register that it’s full, so by taking your time with each bite, you’re allowing your appetite time to catch up with your mouth.
4. Practice Deep Breathing
Do you breathe? Of course you do! But do you breathe diaphragmatically? Probably not often. Diaphragmatic breathing (aka deep, or belly breathing) is achieved by inhaling through your nose while focusing on expanding your belly without moving your shoulders or chest, then as you exhale feel your belly fall back towards your spine. This type of breathing is particularly helpful during stressful periods (such as hitting the shops when the crazy holiday crowds are out in full force!). Taking a few minutes per day to practice deep breathing helps supply more oxygen to your cells, improve concentration and create a calmer mind, detox and cleanse the body, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows our bodies to go into rest and repair mode.
5. Dedicate Some Time to Gratitude
It’s impossible to feel down in the winter induced dumps when you’re feeling grateful. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Keep a gratitude journal, practice mindfulness, or even write what your grateful for on a piece of paper when something springs to mind, and pop it into a ‘gratitude jar’ to read back at a later date.