With the holidays in full swing you’re probably feeling many emotions from excitement to festive to warm and fuzzy. You may also be feeling insanely stressed, completely disorganized, and a bit overwhelmed (when someone gently tells you that Halloween is over and it’s time to put the Einstein hair away, you know it’s time for a reboot). For most of us, it’s A-OK and totally acceptable to feel a bit crazed during the holidays. It’s also admissible to overindulge, whether it’s alcohol, sweets, or social time. After all, what’s to worry about when we have new year resolutions just around the corner? The first day of January signifies new beginnings—a time when we can finally come up for air, take some “me-time,” and focus on our physical and mental health. What happens prior to the new year is often the antithesis of health — we neglect self-care of our bodies and our minds. Somehow, throughout the years, it’s become acceptable that the holidays are a time of stress and indulgence and the first day of the new year is when we will start treating our bodies well again. But, why wait?
Health Starts Now
What if you started to focus on your health right now, while you’re deeply immersed in the holiday craze? What would that look like and is it even possible? We are here to tell you, yes, it's absolutely possible! Not only is it possible, but you don’t even have to give up what you love to feel well now. Starting new healthy habits doesn't have to require major sacrifices. In fact, you may find that you thrive during the craze of the holidays once you implement some of these habits. And, to answer your question (we hear you loud and clear)—yes, you can have health while still drinking a glass of wine or indulging in that tasty dessert. Phew!
Here’s what you can expect after applying one or two of the healthy habit suggestions:
You may have more energy to juggle work, kids, and holiday shopping.
You may be more focused, organized and clear about holiday planning.
You may connect more deeply with family and friends at family and friend functions.
You may be happy to attend the 20th holiday party. (We can’t guarantee this and really hope you don’t have 20 parties to attend this season.)
This is just the short list.
Also, after adopting some of these habits, when someone says “happy holidays, how are you?” your response may be “I feel amazing!” instead of “I'm completely exhausted and can’t wait for these [bleeeeeeeeeep] holidays to be over.” Okay, maybe we’ve gone too far with the “I feel amazing!” exclamation, but it’s entirely possible. Just saying, be open. You never know!
The point is to start some simple healthy habits now. To begin feeling good today, fuel your body with energizing foods, take a few minutes to breathe or say no to at least one commitment that really doesn’t feel soul-fulfilling. Don’t allow society to declare when it’s time to start being healthy (looking at you, New Year’s Day). You have the power to start today. (Yes, it’s true, you have the power! In fact, we would go as far as to say, you have superhero powers and if it helps to envision your Wonder Woman or Superman self to embrace these habits, then manifest it, friend!). [Virtual Fist Bump]
Diet Culture, Be Gone
First, let’s set the record straight with diet culture—you don’t have to do a complete diet overhaul or start a diet to be healthy. In fact, most diets are UNhealthy. Want to make a (virtual) pact? Let’s all say this together:
“Starting today, the “d” word will be removed from my vocabulary and I will not entertain the “d” word again. I will not restrict myself, feel guilty or beat myself up for enjoying something that may or may not serve my health. I have the power and knowledge to choose what fuels my body best. And, if I choose to eat something that doesn’t serve my health then so be it. There’s always the next meal and, man, that cookie was good!”
Did you feel that release of letting go? Diets create a mindset of restriction. They often restrict whole foods or food groups and are insufficient in essential nutrients. Many of them are designed to be short-term to reach a goal that is also, well … short term. Instead, creating a healthy lifestyle that includes mindful choices with mostly good-for-you foods and the occasional sweet treat or glass of wine is called balance. It’s balance for both the mind and the body and built for long term mental and physical health.
So, before we move forward, are you with us? Let’s create this healthy lifestyle together, knowing that restrictive or unhealthy diets (it’s the last time we’re saying the “d” word, promise) will not be lurking around the corner for us after the holidays, throwing our bodies into a tizzy. Instead, we’re about to feel good TODAY by implementing some simple tips and tricks that don’t require us to sacrifice our beloved holiday cookies, festive glass of wine, or traditional family dinner.
Simple changes often lead to long-term habits and make a huge impact on health. Let’s face it, change is challenging. Think of health as a journey, or as an evolution rather than the resolution that is typically declared for the new year. Lifestyle changes are a process. Be gentle on yourself. Throughout life, you’ll continue to learn about food and nutrition, and what foods help you to thrive at your best. Heck, what once served you at thirty may no longer serve you at forty. Erase what’s been ingrained for years (“you should eat this” or “don’t ever eat that”) and take note of the foods and lifestyle habits that currently bring YOU to life. Every individual is different. What makes you thrive and feel your best?
That said, research does show that, overall, consuming more plant-based foods, and less meat and dairy, is best for the general population’s overall health. Plant-based foods can reduce inflammation, boost cognition, promote skin health, lift mood, improve digestion, and reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases, just to name a few. Below are some simple food-centric lifestyle practices you can introduce today to begin cultivating healthy habits.
Use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. Vegetable broth has vitamin C and lots of phytonutrients, or nutrients specific to plants that help us heal. We pinky promise that the flavor of what you’re making will not be altered when using vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.
Substitute a flax or chia egg in place of a regular egg. The formula is simple: Add one tablespoon of flax meal or one tablespoon of chia seeds plus three tablespoons of water to a small bowl. Whisk well then set aside for 5 minutes to allow it to gel into an “egg” that will bind everything from baked goods to veggies burgers. Both flax meal and chia seeds are packed with nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids for brain health, calcium for bone health and magnesium for sleep health. Tip: To make the flax “egg,” make sure you use flax meal and not flax seeds. If you’re starting with flax seeds, simply grind them in a spice or coffee grinder (after you’ve cleaned out the spices or coffee, of course! You don’t want a curry-flavored banana nut muffin.)
Swap plant protein for meat protein. What happens when you replace meat protein with plant protein? You ditch much of the saturated fat found in meat that can cause inflammation and lifestyle diseases. You omit the heme iron, the type of iron found in animal products, that’s been associated with heart disease. You avoid antibiotics and hormones that disrupt gut health and hormone balance, respectively. You add healing nutrients through plants including fiber, which is essential for gut health, digestion, hormonal balance, blood sugar control, weight maintenance, and disease prevention (don’t get us started on all of fiber’s benefits). You also get phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, that are powerful health compounds. There are over 25,000 of them and they’re only found in plants. An example of this tip could be swapping out meat from your family dinner chili with black beans or crumbled tempeh. For more on fiber, grab The Fiber Effect (it makes the perfect stocking stuffer and is all about adding, not omitting, foods to the plate).
Make healthy renditions of your staple traditions. Think about your family’s favorite dishes. Is there anything you can do to keep the tradition alive and flavor unchanged while reducing some of the ingredients that don’t serve your family’s health? Instead of dairy milk, choose unsweetened plant-based milk. Substitute plant-based foods for the meat, whether it’s beans, tempeh or a meat substitute available at your grocery store. Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock. Stir in leafy greens or colorful veggies like orange peppers or red onions to the dish for a boost in nutrition.
Cut sugar back by 25 percent. Of course, with the holidays comes the sweets. It’s one of the things we know and love about the holidays. Not to be a Debbie Downer during the most festive time of year, but here’s a (un)fun tidbit about sugar: Research has found that sugar meets the criteria for a substance of abuse and may be addictive to those who binge on it. Not sure about you, but our inner Cookie Monster always seems to rear its head during the holiday season giving permission to binge away! Sure, one or two cookies may be okay on occasion. But cookie after cookie can be disruptive to physical health (hello, weight gain and inflammation) as well as mental health (oh hey, moody grinch). When a recipe calls for sugar, you can, in most cases, reduce the amount of sugar by 25 percent. You could also consider replacing sugar with a whole food plant-based sweeteners like bananas, applesauce, or date paste. Another way to reduce sugar is to eat well-balanced meals and enjoy a cookie or two afterwards. But if you lean into that cookie with an empty belly, that one cookie may likely lead to ten before you know it. Eat well, treat well.
While eating well and including more plants may be a big component of health, there are other lifestyle habits that can create immense happiness, joy and gratitude. Below you’ll find some of our favorites.
6. Drink plenty of water
Water is important. This is not new news. Yet only twenty-two percent of adults drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water each day. Signs of dehydration (beyond thirst, which, by the way, means you are extremely dehydrated and need water ASAP!) include constipation, headaches, lack of focus, body aches, mood changes, and fatigue. (Ever try to get through the holidays feeling foggy, achy, miserable and tired? Been there! It’s not fun. Drink up, buttercup.) Staying hydrated is the cornerstone of Wellness 101. A simple way to calculate water needs is to take your body weight and divide it by 2. For example, a 150-pound person will need 75 ounces (or about nine to ten 8-ounce cups) of water a day just for maintenance. If you exercise often, or sweat lots, you may need a higher intake. One helpful, fun and eco-friendly way to stay hydrated—invest in a good reusable water bottle (just a moment, while we add this to our holiday wish list). Carrying a water bottle is a gentle reminder to drink water throughout the day. Another tip is to add fresh fruit or lemon to give water a natural flavor burst while boosting the nutrient content.
7. Take a moment with Insight Timer. We absolutely LOVE this FREE app. Anything that can include the words love and free in the same sentence is a keeper in our minds. Insight Timer is so good that it’s been labeled as the “happiest app in the world.” It has the largest free library of meditations, yoga, mindfulness practices, breathing, peaceful music and more. This might sound simple, but, really, how often do you tune into your breath and notice the sound, feeling and the air entering your nose, lungs and belly? Listen to this 90-second ambient peaceful music and take a moment to breathe, rest, and reset. (No excuses, surely you have 90 seconds!)
8. Create a morning routine
Morning routines don’t have to be elaborate. The simple practice of having a routine that is solely YOURS can harvest a sense of peace and compassion for yourself. Plus, it’s an incredible way to begin the day. You deserve at least 5 minutes in the morning. One example of a practice that takes less than 5 minutes of your time, but has an all-day lasting effect includes starting the day with a positive affirmation. What negative emotions do you feel? Whatever negative thoughts pop into your head, try saying the exact opposite. Some examples might include:
Instead of "I'm not good enough" try "I am enough."
Instead of "I look awful" try "I am beautiful" or "I love my ____" (insert what you love about yourself).
Instead of "I'm afraid of the future" try "I embrace change and have everything I need to move into the future with confidence and strength."
9. Say no to what doesn’t feel good to you. This is your official permission slip to say “I’m sorry, we can’t make it.” Period. No explanations, no going back and forth, “Should we go? They came to our party last year. We should go. But I’m just so tired and have to work the next day. Maybe just for an hour. But then that’ll turn into three hours. Ugh, it’s supposed to be rainy and cold that night. Maybe we shouldn’t go.” Friends, if you have to think about it that much, it’s not serving your highest self. Just say no.
10. Move, even if for only 10 minutes.
Whether you’re feeling stressed, moody, or in a rut (we’ve all been there!), movement can help. You can literally move the negative feelings or energy out of you. Take a walk outside (bonus if you have a dog), play your favorite music and dance (we are dancing with you!), clean your home (move and feel delightful at the sight of clean space), or simply shake your body.
Fun fact: there is actually a practice called shaking meditation. It’s called TRE (trauma releasing exercises). The idea is to loosen up and shake out all the built-up tension in your mind and body. While most meditation techniques ask you to be still and aware of your body, shaking meditation is the act of letting go. You literally shake off the old energy and tension as a way of resettling. Shaking can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and signal the brain to feel calm and relaxed after letting go. Bonus that it only takes a few minutes to shake and let go! Ready to stand up and shake like nobody's watching? (All of a sudden, dancing doesn’t sound so bad, right?)
Are you inspired to start your healthy habits journey TODAY? Remember, simply adding just one of the practices above will help to cultivate a healthy and balanced body and mind. When building healthy habits, consistency is key. Choose one that feels doable and resonates with you. Commit to practicing it for just two weeks. Then watch that two weeks turn into three weeks before it turns into a month. Before you know it, you’ll have a healthy habit that you no longer think about doing — it’s just a part of you! The next step is to choose another healthy habit to implement. Remember, small steps can have a major impact and lead to lifetime habits. Start today and walk into the new year with confidence, vitality, strength, and ease.
What healthy habits do you plan to start today?
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