How to Savour the Holidays While Still Staying Healthy

journalMy friend just gave me an inspiring book to read: Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

I watched Simon’s TED Talk and was inspired to add the book to my growing pile of holiday reads (including too many baby books to count!).

The TED Talk got me thinking; am I consciously aware of the WHY behind everything I am doing on a daily basis?

I do believe that I have incorporated more mindfulness and gratitude in my day-to-day life than even a year ago, especially since hearing about The Five Minute Journal from Tim Ferriss. He inspired me to incorporate a daily journaling practice into my morning routine, which has been crucial in allowing me to set intentions for and aim to get the most out of each day.

I created my own questions to answer each morning in my journal, with inspiration from The Five Minute Journal that you can buy online. I printed off a word document with these questions and pasted them into the front of a regular notebook to answer daily:

1. What would make today great?
2. List 3 amazing things that happened yesterday.
3. What are your weekly challenges?
4. What are you grateful for:

a. Relationship? Name one person.
b. Opportunity you have today?
c. That happened/you saw yesterday?
d. That is simple and near you?

5. Affirmation/Intention
6. How could you have made yesterday better?

I have recently added 2 more questions:

7. What do you love about yourself?
8. What is the message of the day for baby (since I am 27 weeks pregnant)?

It literally takes me less than 5 minutes to answer these and I feel armed and ready to take on my day in a way where I am more proactive and less reactive to any drama that may arise. It does make it easier to savour the small things that happen and not dwell on the negative parts.

So how can we apply “Start with Why” for the holidays?

Many of us get stressed out about hosting a party. We want everything to be perfect, from the linens and table setting, to the h ‘or d’oeuvres and wine selection. It is often easy to get caught up in these details and forget about the WHY of the party in the first place, which is a gathering of loved ones to share a fun, relaxing and entertaining collective experience. Instead of mulling over hundreds of recipes (unless that is something you truly enjoy), you could spend that time visualizing and planning what would make the party meaningful and memorable. You could have everyone at the table stand-up, one-at-a-time, and say one thing that they are grateful for/one good memory together from the past year. You could all play a fun game of charades or look over pictures of past holidays for a good laugh or cry. Yes, people may remember if the meat is overcooked, but the emotions and memories will last much longer and leave a bigger imprint on the guests’ hearts.

How can we apply “Start With Why” to stay healthy over the holidays?

Many of my patients struggle with keeping up their health habits over the holidays. They may exercise less or stop completely; they may eat out too often or get too busy and end up skipping meals. They may overindulge in alcohol, sweets, or that tempting cheese tray.
In these moments or struggle, the WHY may be: to get through a busy time, to treat ourselves, to save time. But, if we can remember WHY we started these health habits in the first place, we are more likely to stick with them.

If someone is aware that they are going to get heartburn (that will keep them up most of the night) from having too much alcohol or eating dessert, then they may be able to step back and moderate their intake, realizing that a lost night of sleep is just not worth it. If they just think of the short-term reward, then they may overindulge and suffer later.

If someone forgoes their workout to sleep in after being out too late, then they may not sleep as well that night and have less energy to exercise the next day. The vicious cycle can continue.

I recognize that we can’t be perfect over the holidays. You can modify your health habits over the holidays to avoid the “all-or-nothing” mentality. Even if you get up earlier to do a 10-minute workout (as opposed to your regular 30-60 min one), then you have succeeded.

If you set the intention before going to a party to not allow yourself more than 2 drinks (as opposed to several cocktails plus a half bottle of wine), you have won the battle.

Here are some simple tips to stay healthy over the holidays (and always remember the WHY!):

1. Don’t go to a party hungry. Have a snack before, such as a hardboiled egg, some nutbutter spread on a sliced apple or pear, or have some vegetables and hummus. You will be less likely to overindulge and make poor food choices when presented with the bread basket and dessert platter.

2. Always keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand, such as sparkling water, herbal tea, or water with splash of punch/juice if you are craving something sweet. Staying hydrated will make you feel full and prevent you from picking at the endless trays of appetizers.

3. Continue to exercise. You may not be able to get to the gym, but ask your trainer for a short workout that you could do at home several times per week. Or, schedule a family or friend get-together around a physical activity such as a walk, building a snowman, playing Wii fit, snowshoeing or skiing.

4. Don’t skimp on sleep. The less sleep you get, the more stress hormones are released the next day, leading you to feel anxious and irritable, tired and wired, and reaching for more sweets than usual. Do your best to have a set bedtime and don’t feel bad about leaving a party early.

5. Say no to parties or get-togethers that you are not going to enjoy. Don’t spread yourself too thin and over schedule. Choose those activities and gatherings that will feed your soul.

And, before each day starts (and before each party), ask yourself WHY to remember what is truly important so you can get the most out of it.

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