“The Holidays” (whichever combination you happen to celebrate in your household!) are typically a joyful and celebratory time of year. Family, friends, special traditions, and good food—woohoo!
But, the holiday season can also be a challenging time of year for some people, for different reasons:
Staying focused on a healthy lifestyle goal, such as diet, fitness, or sobriety may be particularly tough with the barrage of holiday treats and drinks and big meals.
Celebrations can be much less festive for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, or with estranged family relationships.
The busyness of the holiday season, combined with end-of-year work obligations can create a particularly stressful time.
The cost of gift-giving and holiday-related travel can be a financial burden (and perhaps financially impossible) for some—another cause of holiday stress.
And this year, COVID-19 is greatly impacting the ability to travel and celebrate the holidays in gatherings with loved ones.
Healthy living is all about looking for opportunities for joy and well-being, while also understanding where we may feel or encounter barriers to that. So, this holiday season, give yourself the grace to enjoy as much as you can, while still maintaining your larger healthy lifestyle goals.
Here are our tips for staying healthy while enjoying the holiday season:
1. Follow public health guidelines on COVID-19
It’s not the most festive, but this one has to be our top priority! With the COVID-19 pandemic still taking a major toll on our healthcare system, it’s essential to follow public health guidelines to mitigate the spread and effect of this devastating disease. Public health guidelines are there for a reason, and it’s not to ruin the holidays… nobody likes wearing a mask or not seeing our friends, but we need to do it because it saves lives.
Stay home if you can, wear a mask and practice social distancing in public, and wash your hands often. Don’t host or attend large gatherings. You know the drill!
(And, note that any reference to gatherings below refers to safe gatherings based on the recommendations of the CDC. The safest gatherings this holiday season are at home, with the people you live with.)
2. Enjoy holiday treats with the 80/20 rule
We may be a wellness company, but we’re all about balance and enjoying life! 🍪🥛
You can have a Christmas cookie and not ruin your otherwise healthy lifestyle. It’s not worth stressing about the negative impact of enjoying a small to moderate amount of the not-so-healthy holiday food and drink. As long as that’s not your primary diet, you can enjoy special seasonal traditions in moderation, guilt-free.
We like following the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, maintain a healthy diet of whole foods, rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains and ethically raised organic animal products. And 20% of time, enjoy yourself!
This tip is also predicated on the assumption that the 20% “fun foods” you’re consuming are things you’re consciously choosing because you enjoy them. They key thing to remember about treats is that they should be enjoyable. (In other words, you’re not just eating Christmas cookies because they’re there… you’re intentionally choosing to eat treats you truly enjoy and look forward to.)
3. Enjoy alcohol in moderation
We’ve discussed this before, but even though alcohol is not necessarily “healthy” for you per se, it’s also not necessarily “bad” either, if consumed in moderation, and if it’s reasonable for your body and lifestyle.
Note: Of course, if you have a health condition or take medication that would not mix well with alcohol, or if you have a history of addiction, moderation is too much, and you should refrain from alcohol per your doctor’s recommendation.
But, if you do drink alcohol, a few tips for maintaining “healthier” alcohol consumption over the holidays:
Don’t feel the need to drink just to drink—though we may feel peer pressure at holiday parties or other events at which it’s common to drink, it’s totally okay to save it for beverages you actually enjoy, or times you actually feel like drinking.
A glass of water after each alcoholic beverage is a good practice to stay hydrated, help your body process the alcohol you’ve consumed, and avoid hangovers.
“Moderation” is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. (This recommendation refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.)
Take days off! Be careful not to get into the habit of drinking daily—always good to give your liver a healthy rest. This will also make the days you do imbibe more special and enjoyable.
4. Take your daily probiotic
To help with the combined effect of holiday travel, stress and dietary changes (perhaps more sweets or alcohol than you typically consume), it’s a good idea to prep your body and boost gut health by taking a daily probiotic supplement, if you don’t already. This helps keep your gut microbiome (your immune system’s first line of defense!) healthy and fending off any unwelcome bugs that may come your way.
This is our favorite shelf-stable (aka easy-to-travel-with!) probiotic.
How to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays // Four Wellness Co. is written by Melissa Norton for fourwellness.co