Hi, my friends! We are heading on a cross-country journey tomorrow with the entire clan in tow. Wish us luck. But right now, it’s time for a healthy-living-for-the-holidays-coming-up-on-the-end-of-the-year post. And this isn’t your usual “how to navigate a Christmas buffet and keep your waistline slim” type of post. I promise. That’s not my thing.
I’m not going to tell you how to eat healthy all day and fill up on salad before you go to a Christmas party so you don’t end up overdoing it on pie and egg nog. I will most likely overdo it on pie and egg nog at least once, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. 🙂 But I do want to be … healthy!
So what I’m going to tell you is that there are things you can start doing RIGHT NOW, so that you feel great over the holidays and through the rest of the year — no dieting — no restriction — no avoiding the food table and skipping fun — just spending time on the things that matter. And these things are simple. You’ve heard them all before. But now, before life get busy, we all need to lay the groundwork … (And we can thank Dave for this post, because he came up with the idea for me a couple of weeks ago, and I’m finally writing it!)
Also, as a note, I’m not a doctor or a registered dietitian or even a health coach. I’m giving you information, which you can research and consider for yourself, and you can do this all at your own discretion and risk. You do you, boo!
10 things you can do right now to be healthy and happy for the holidays
Here we go …
1. Truly aim for quality and regular sleep — real quality.
Why is it that when we get stressed or about to get sick that we think THAT’s the time to fit more stuff in before bed-time and stay on our phones late and watch one more Netflix show? It’s not.
It’s so hard to do, but sleep is the key to everything healthy, that’s why it is point numero uno. If you do one thing for the rest of the year to make a big difference in how you feel, it’s focus on your sleep — improving the quality of it. Turn technology off at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour before bed. Buy a slumber mask. Keep your room cold and dark. Avoid caffeine and intense exercise in the late afternoon. Set an alarm clock to remind yourself it’s time to get in bed each night. Create a wind-down routine to help you relax. Then go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Give yourself a few minutes of natural sunlight first thing in the morning to get your circadian rhythm synced with nature. And aim for quality sleep, not just quantity. It will be a game-changer, especially as you start to feel the stress of the season, sleep will be there to keep you grounded.
2. Consider a magnesium supplement.
If you find yourself struggling to get a good night’s sleep, you could try supplementing with magnesium, which a lot of people are deficient in. Magnesium is responsible for tons and tons of processes in the body, and according to a lot of research, supplementing with high-quality magnesium could help keep you regular (your bowels, cough cough), improve your mood, improve your sleep and help ease muscle pain and much more. Check out this article for more research and details.
A few ways to get magnesium? Add this magnesium powder to your water bottle in the evening. Try this topical magnesium treatment. Take an Epsom salt bath, which has magnesium in it. Check with your doctor to see if they can run a magnesium deficiency test if you want, but the supplements are over-the-counter. I’ve used this before and loved it, but this is in my Amazon cart, because apparently topical magnesium is the way to go (or so says my health professional friend and favorite podcaster, Shawn Stevenson). Most experts say that magnesium is quite safe, but use a small amount at first, otherwise it will make you more-than-regular, if you want what I mean.
3. Actually drink enough water.
Even though I’m not a registered dietitian and I can’t tell you what to eat, I feel pretty confident that I can tell you to drink more water. I literally do not know anyone around me that drinks enough water. I also have to remind myself on the daily to chug, chug, chug.
When we did the A Lady Goes West Hydration Challenge back in April, so many of you said you had NO idea you weren’t drinking enough. Then you started to and you started to feel better. Most people don’t know they aren’t drinking enough. Just because you aren’t thirsty or craving it doesn’t mean you don’t need it. If you reach the point of thirsty, you are way behind on your hydration levels. This post tells you how to figure out how much water you may need each day, because everyone is different.
Here’s what drinking enough water does for your body:
- It lubricates your joints so your body feels more mobile.
- It helps your body to get rid of toxins more easily, and it replaces the water lost through regular bodily functions.
- It helps your skin to look and feel hydrated.
- It helps your digestion and metabolism to work efficiently.
- It supports your energy levels, brain function and so much more.
We need all of these things, especially during the busy and stressful final months of the year. Get after that H2o.
4. Load up on dark leafy greens.
The reason veggies are good for you is because they are full of vitamins and nutrients. These vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients enrich your bodily processes, give you the right amount of iron (so important) and improve your digestion and more.
If you want to feel healthy and stay healthy, you need to do yourself a favor and eat veggies — lots of veggies — a few servings a day. If you’re not already having a couple servings of dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach or collard greens to name a few, start now. Fresh green juices are good too, but that shouldn’t be your only way of getting in greens. Maybe one big salad a day at a minimum? Or adding a side of sautéed spinach to your breakfast or dinner? An extra two handfuls of kale in your morning smoothie? Whatever you need to do, add those greens and soak up the benefits.
Fun fact: If you’re going to eat kale, make sure you massage it — rub olive oil or dressing into it in a plastic bag or rub it with your bare hands and let it sit and soak. It’s a kale, game-changer.
5. Exercise your right to say no.
This is a hard one for people pleasers, but “no” is a full sentence. And when it comes to the holidays, busy times of year, you have to protect your own time, your own sanity and your own mental capacity. That means sometimes you need to say no.
Perhaps you only want to go to one holiday party a week, then you have to say no to all the others. Perhaps you only want to be part of one gift exchange. Perhaps you don’t want to help cook for a holiday office party. Who knows what it is. But as long as you are a kind and giving person most of the time, it’s okay to say no here and there, especially when you need to protect your own fatigue levels. Just say no. It’s okay. Nobody is going to hate you for it.
You can also say “no” other things in your life … like feeling the need to be perfect. Perfect is boring.
6. Smartly utilize the right vitamins and probiotics.
I don’t actually take a probiotic, because I eat a lot of sauerkraut, kombucha and occasional yogurt too (which all contain naturally-occurring probiotics), however, I think that probiotics are a good choice for a lot of people to give you an extra dose of goodness. (I’ve heard very good things about this brand though and may take it one day.)
Probiotics help to keep the good bacteria in your system, and they also help to keep your immune system in check. Who doesn’t want both of those things? So it’s something to look into, if you’re not currently doing it.
What I do take is a daily prenatal (this one) and a daily fish oil supplement too. But that’s it for now. I’ve gone through phases of taking many more things, but this works for me in the moment. By the way, the best choice for vitamins is real-food sources and some vitamins are made from real food, like the prenatal I love linked above.
Basically, if you’re not a vitamin person, maybe you could consider starting to give yourself an extra boost? I wouldn’t do the cheapy-synthetic-gummy vitamins (which I totally used to use, so no judgment), I’d go for high-quality stuff to truly make a difference. I like to peruse the vitamin section of my local Whole Foods, because they usually have great options, as does Sprouts. Vitamins and probiotics may not be life-changers, but they can offer a few additional nutrients and vitamins and minerals that will help your body to operate just a bit smoother. It’s worth a shot.
7. Create a stress management plan and do it often.
What does a stress management plan even mean? It means you need to have a few things in your life outside of work and working out, that you can do that provide enjoyment and “light” in your life. I guess a stress management plan will look different for everybody. Maybe you have some hobbies, like knitting or playing the piano, and when you do these things, you instantly feel a bit more relaxed and are able to step back and see the world and your problems/life with better perspective.
Maybe you meditate. I know I’ve told you guys before that meditation has been on my list of things I want to do for forever and ever. Could I make it work right now? Maybe, but I haven’t yet. I know that many people I respect and admire are into meditation just a few short minutes every morning, and they all claim that this is a game-changing activity for them. I want in on this. I hope to be part of it one day, but not yet. But I will encourage you to jump in and give it a shot for the stress-management benefits.
We can’t go through life as a big ball of stress. Especially not when we’re in the happiest holiday-est time of the year. So find a hobby. Snuggle your pet. Read fiction books. Go for leisure walks. Meditate. Make a quilt. Find something to do (which isn’t working out, because although that helps with stress, I think people need a separate release) to make you step away from your problems and step into a better spot.
8. Move daily, move regularly, move joyfully, but don’t do too much.
Did you get that? Move daily. Move regularly. Move joyfully. But don’t do too much. I know there are a lot of you who read this blog who are over-exercisers, just like I used to be. It’s SO hard for you to take a rest day, to enjoy lighter exercise, to give your body time to recover. I understand. But I want you to trust me that too much exercise is not doing you any favors. And you certainly can’t add on more exercise and run around super busy and think that high-intensity sweat session is your chance for a “release.” Tough exercise just adds more stress. Exercise is stress. Give yourself a day off at a minimum a week, maybe two. If you are struggling with health issues, cut back on your exercise a bit and see if that helps your body fight the issues. And if you need assistance for how to take a rest day, read this one.
As far as daily movement, I think a daily walk is great for everyone. I think taking the stairs, getting up from a seated position at least once an hour and setting active dates with your friends and family — this is all organic movement that is safe and should be done a lot. If you aren’t already wearing a fitness tracker and you think you want one, get one, so you can make sure you’re hitting at least 10,000 steps a day — yes, that’s just a number, but it’s a great benchmark to aim for.
Then there are workouts, and these should mostly be joyful. Joyful workouts mean you are actually enjoying the way your body feels doing the movement. No, you won’t always love your workouts, but overall, you should feel strong and mobile and like you are doing something good for your body.
I think it’s totally okay to take a few more days off of exercise than normal around the holidays. I don’t think you should stop working out though. Try to hit the gym a couple times a week, paired with home workouts if you are pressed for time. Do a streaming workout from your laptop if you’re traveling. Just do a few a week, to keep your body mobile and happy. And I mean, exercise gives you endorphins, and happy people are happy people.
9. Be kind to yourself, think grateful thoughts and be kind to others.
Oh hey you, perfectionist you. Hard on yourself much? Me too! Well, truth be told, I used to be a LOT harder on myself and a lot stricter with myself too. Yes, this brought me some successes with some things, but I’ve found I much prefer to give myself at least a little bit of grace when it comes to life. I’m a mom. I’m busy. I’m me. I’m imperfect. That’s life. I will never do everything as greatly as I want. I will, however, keep trying to keep my thoughts on the positive side, because positive thoughts are SO important.
Right now, I encourage you to think about a few things you are grateful for. Write them down. Come up with a mantra to tell yourself in the mirror reminding you all the good things you are. Not just appearance, but about you at the core. Practice this daily, and you will soon believe the words that you say.
Being grateful, being kind, having good relationships with genuine people — these are part of wellness. Because if you achieve the perfect body and you’ve alienated everyone in your life, what do you have then? Diddly squat.
Life is about people and you can’t forget that on your quest to be fit and healthy. And kindness always wins!
10. Leave room to indulge. Life is too short to be strict.
Being healthy for the holidays does not mean avoiding processed sugar and being super strict with what you eat. Sure, you don’t want to have a ton of it every single day and you don’t want to eat every holiday store-bought cookie that comes by your desk at work if they aren’t even that good. But if you keep up your workouts within reason, eat mostly healthy, then you are WELCOME to have the carrot cake, the egg nog, the wine, the champagne, the garlic bread, the whatever you want here and there.
Life is WAY too short to be the most disciplined person at the party when it comes to your diet. You know? Maybe it’s just me, because I’ve always loved my sweets and wine so much, even if I’m also a supplement-taking-group-fitness-instructor-who-loves-kale-and-sauerkraut-too, but I think constantly avoiding situations in which you could potentially have processed food and alcohol will backfire, and you’ll end up binging later. And nobody wants that. Don’t deprive! Treat! Within reason.
So there you have it! A super-long list of 10 things to think about.
I know there’s a lot of pressure on us all during this season. To be festive. To be social. To buy the perfect gifts. To host. To attend. To volunteer. To finish projects. To meet deadlines. To take care of family. To visit family. To travel. To cook. To do it all. But you don’t have to do everything well and you don’t have to do everything at all. But I promise you, if you focus on your health, everything else will seem much better and much more doable. Health is the most important thing. You know what they say … health is wealth.
Have a MOST wonderful day and Thanksgiving, my friends! I’m so grateful for YOU! And please check back here on Friday, because there will be a new post. Take care! xoxoWant to be healthy and happy for the holidays? Here are 10 simple things to focus on on A Lady Goes West ... Click To Tweet
Questions of the day
How are you going to strive to be healthy this holiday season?
Are you traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas?
What’s the one thing about your health you want to improve?
What’s the one thing about your health you know you’re really succeeding with?