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By Katie Jenson-Hull / The Radiant Nutritionist
It’s Christmas time! Time to be merry and bright. A time for giving and receiving presents and snuggling up with Christmas films. Eating all the mince pies and having non-stop fun. As wonderful as this time of the year is, it is also the season of overwhelm and excessive consumption of just about everything!
The festive period can be a difficult time for so many of us for various reasons. I thought that it might be helpful to share a few of my favorite tricks I have in my toolbox that I use to navigate my way through the season. With a couple of things that aren’t up for debate, it means I get to enjoy myself, while still getting my much needed R&R. This allows me to hit January fresh faced and ready for a new year of possibilities. Non-negotiables are healthy habits that you have developed in the last year that make you feel good, allow you to be your most radiant self and feel energized.
Here are a few of my favorite ways of navigating the festive season:
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is so very important around the Christmas holidays. I like to keep to some form of sleep routine, trying to stick to a schedule allowing me to gain at least 8 hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep can increase emotions in some. It is also important for dealing with stress. For those that find spending time with relatives tough or particularly hard work, sleep can help to enhance mood and therefore ability to deal with that difficult relative (let’s be honest, there’s always one).
Enough sleep will also aid blood sugar and hunger hormone balancing. Lack of sleep increases our hunger hormone Gherlin making us feel even more like we want all the sugar or be tempted to over-indulge. This leads to blood sugar imbalances and increases the desire to eat sugar and to drink more caffeine and alcohol. I don’t know about you, but once I start on this roller coaster it is difficult to get off!
Movement is always a good idea! I’m not talking an hour on Peloton or an intense HIIT class. I’m talking about a simple movement which gets the blood gently pumping, the endorphins flowing and warms the body. I for one like to take a gentler approach to exercise around Christmas. Conscious of being a little more considerate and patient with myself. Walking out in nature for at least 30 minutes slows the nervous system allowing it to come into rest and digest. I also find walking means not only gaining fresh air, but often a fresh perspective. 20 minutes of light stretching or yoga is also a wonderful way to move.
Eat plenty of wholefoods daily
Even during Christmas I focus on a seasonal whole food diet. I make sure that on a daily basis I have my nutrient basis covered. I enjoy the treats, in small amounts, but I know what makes me feel good. Eating a diverse and colorful real food diet gives me the energy I need to have the best time possible with my friends and family.
Don’t forget the veggies
I aim to eat 6-8 portions of colorful fruit and vegetables a day. This is so easy at this time of the year! Filling at least half of your Christmas plate with colorful veggies provides plenty of fibre, minerals and vitamins.
My favorite tip is to eat your veggies first before any other food. Then I go back for more once I’ve finished and if I need to.
I like to cover all bases and start my day well with a green protein smoothie. The greens contain magnesium which aids relaxation in stressful times. I make sure to add healthy fat such as avocado, fibre in the form of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds to support the digestive system. Finally, I include a source of protein such as a good quality protein powder to help balance blood sugars.
Before the party
I do not show up to anything hungry. This is a recipe for disaster. Making sure I’ve had a snack before showing up at a party or a gathering ensures that I don’t over indulge on food or alcohol while I’m waiting. You’ll also find you may make wiser choices at the buffet table. I like to have some rainbow vegetable crudites and hummus or apple and nut butter. Or maybe even my green smoothie.
Take a breather
I don’t know about you, but it can all get a bit much. Everything from the food, the people, the alcohol, the pressure of making the best roast potatoes, social overwhelm with all the parties, to have the best laid table, and to provide the most perfect thoughtful gift to your special someone.
It’s important to schedule daily you time. To make time to take a breather from it all. I make sure I schedule in 20 minutes a day that I take time for myself and do an activity I know will leave me feeling grounded or rejuvenated. Choose whatever you like that will help to reduce stress levels, soothe the nervous system, clear the mind and restore inner calm.
This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. It could be meditation, or a simple breathing exercise. For example, try breathing in for three seconds, hold for four seconds and breathe out for five seconds. When your out-breath is longer than your in-breath, you reduce the activation of your stress state and encourage your body to move into a thrive state. You can do a few rounds of this breath or extend it to take five minutes. Listen to your body and see what works for you.
Other nourishing activities to incorporate are:
- A mindful activity such as sketching or adult coloring books
- Enjoy a warm drink without any technology
- Read a chapter of a nourishing book
- Journaling, writing thoughts and worries from the day or record your hopes and dreams for the coming year
I know, I know, this is so cliche, but 1.5-2 liters of water is so very important for keeping yourself hydrated. Don’t fancy cold water when it is cold outside? Experiment with herbal teas. My favorites to sip at this time of the year are cinnamon tea which can help with blood sugar balancing. I also love hibiscus and rosehip tea which contains vitamin C beneficial for supporting our immune system over the cooler months. If I am feeling bloated after a large meal I like to make my own mint tea using a small handful of fresh mint leaves (approximately 15 leaves) and place them in a cafetiere with warm water. I find this tea rather soothing for my digestion.
My last tip is to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water for every caffeine drink or alcoholic drink to avoid dehydration. It keeps you glowing from the inside out.
I hope you’ve found a few of my tips helpful. Please remember, above all, that Christmas is only a short period in time. Allow yourself to relax, have fun and enjoy all the magic it brings.
Merry Christmas all and a very healthy and happy new year,