Naturopathic Tips to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays
The holidays represent gatherings of colleagues, friends and families that often revolve around cocktails, delectable sweets, starchy meals and tempting comfort foods. When you combine the thousands of calories consumed with more time off and no regular exercise, it can be a recipe for disaster.
North Americans take in triple the amount of calories (approximately 6,000) during the holidays explaining holiday weight gains ranging from one to five pounds. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine 2016 showed this as a worldwide issue, starting from Halloween through to New Years (Helander et al. 2016). Further studies show that holiday weight gains represent over 50% of yearly gains and may take you over five months to lose (Diaz-Zavala et al. 2017). Additionally, your holiday diet can also weaken your immunity, causing fatigue and brain fog.
Here are Tips to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays and Prevent Holiday Weight Gain:
Don’t Party Hungry. Don’t Starve Yourself for the Big Dinner or Party
Keeping your blood sugar balanced is key to approaching your holiday party or dinner with a mindful approach. Make sure to have your regular meals that day with more protein & vegetables and less carb to stabilize your hormones. People who skip meals to save calories often end up binging due to a blood sugar crash. It’s hard to make mindful choices when you’re starving.
Intermittent Fasting over Holidays
This is the alternative to the above. When meals are skipped strategically, studies show that it can have powerful effects on the body & brain. Intermittent Fasting has been linked to weight loss, muscle gain & fat loss (Ho et al. 1988) cell repair (Alirezaei et al. 2010), disease prevention & long life (Zhu et al. 2013), and reduced insulin hormone with improved insulin sensitivity (less fat storage, more fat burning)(Heilbronn et al. 2005)(Barnosky et al. 2014). There are various forms of Intermittent Fasting that can be implemented, but this is different than skipping a random meal to binge at your holiday party later.
Drink Water Not Sugar; Don’t Drink Your Carbs & Calories
It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday festivities. Remember to drink your daily water consumption despite the party. Choose wisely when it comes to holiday drinks. Opt for Sparkling Water over Soda Pop or Juice, Club Soda over Tonic Water. Sugary beverages will escalate your carb and calorie intake. Make your own holiday drinks such as Coconut Milk Eggnog or Caffeine-Free Chai Latte. If you do consume alcohol, drink an extra two cups of water per alcoholic drink. Opt for Spirits like Tequila, Vodka, Gin over Beer, Wine & Liqueurs which have more carbs. If you are Gluten-Free, Opt for 100% Agave Tequila as other spirits have grain alcohol. Mix your drinks with Sparkling Water instead of Juice, or mix with fresh lime juice for a Tequila Martini. Sweeten drinks with Xylitol or Stevia, instead of Fruit Juice or Sugar. When you make your own drinks, you avoid your food allergies, preservatives, excess sugar and carbs. Alternate your alcohol with water to stay hydrated, and then take Stress Formula with food, to address vitamin deficiencies that drinking alcohol causes.
Bring Your Healthy Dish To Holiday Potlucks
When you attend a potluck, it gives you a chance to contribute a dish that you can have, like sharing the health. Also it provides something you know you can have, especially when you have food allergies or dietary modifications.
Research & Strategize for Parties
Plan for where you’re going. If you have food allergies, eat before you go so you will not starve or be tempted to eat your allergies. Bring snacks or a meal if it’s a long event. Always be prepared. Bring your own healthful dish to a potluck.
Wear a Form Fitted Outfit rather than Loose Clothes
Wear clothes that will affect what you will eat. Form fitted clothes not only can make you feel slim & svelte but can prevent you from overeating or choosing allergenic items that can cause bloating.
It’s Okay To Say No
Remember it’s your body, that you live with. You are going to feel the after effects of the holiday hangover, whether from food or alcohol. Holiday dinners often bring pressure from family or friends to conform or partake in certain foods. Just know it’s ok to refuse with politeness and a compliment. You can explain that for the sake of your health, certain dietary adjustments are consistently necessary. For example, you would not ask an alcoholic to drink, or a diabetic to eat sugar.
You Wouldn’t Ask an Alcoholic to Drink
Holidays: Refocus On Family Not Food
Make your holiday gatherings about the people, not the food. Encourage social interaction through games, conversation and festivities. Plan fun things to do together at the social event, whether to decorate the tree or exchange gifts with Secret Santa. Celebrate with your family, not with food. When you see food as medicine, your relationship with it can change dramatically.
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food” ~ Hippocrates
Eat Protein & Fat First
When you eat protein first, you slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream. The fat within the protein helps you feel full sooner, so you eat less. Protein should be the star in your holiday meals & snacks. Examples of good fats are coconut oil, nuts, olives, olive oil & holiday treats made with nut flour.
Exercise & Stay Active
As busy as the holidays are, try to take the time to stay active. Regular exercise can help to destress you, keep your circulation flowing, keep your heart healthy and help to burn the carbs you’re consuming at holiday parties. Holiday weight gains have been shown to be difficult to lose, and accumulate over the years.
De-Stress & Relax
The holiday season is chock full of family, socializing, shopping, cooking and planning. Don’t forget to take the time for yourself, whether to exercise, meditate, journal or walk. Taking your me-me time throughout the holidays will help you feel mentally rested to conquer the New Year.
Healthy Diets Don’t Get Taunted By Desserts
When your diet is void of your food allergies and balanced for your metabolism, you don’t crave carbs or sugary treats. If you approach the holidays with a healthy diet, it will be easier to be moderate and mindful when seeing the table full of carb-rich confections, cookies and cakes. Healthy substitutions can further strengthen your resolve. Opt for Pureed cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes and Guilt-Free Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Low Carb, Vegan, Paleo, Keto Goodies.
Choose Your Carbs: Those for Dinner OR Dessert
Everyone has a preference when craving; salty, sweets, carbs or candy. You don’t need to sample everything, binging on carbs because it’s the holidays. Be selective and pick what you truly enjoy, whether chips, candied yams, cakes or cookies. Sugar, whether from candy, carbs or excess fruit, weakens your immunity, which takes six hours to rebuild. Amidst the worst cold and flu season ever, keeping your immunity strong will make for happier holidays!
Don’t Congregate By The Snacks
Mindful eating is the key to maintaining a healthy weight over the holidays. Socializing near the food can promote thoughtless grazing on things that you may not really want or should eat.
Enjoy But Then Get Back On Track
It’s the holidays, and you’re not a robot. You may want to eat that amazing butter tart that your mom makes, or that soft gingerbread cookie. Enjoy your indulgence, skip the negative thoughts and guilt, and get back on track to healthy, hypoallergenic eating.
Make it a Sleep Fest, Not a Junk Fest Over the Holidays
Use your holidays to plan a sleep fest, not a junk fest. In fact, the more busy your holiday season, the more sleep you should get. Sleeping at least seven hours per night is critical to support your immunity during the cold & flu season.
Minimize Caffeine & Alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol use do not support healthy choices, as they dehydrate you and stimulate carb cravings. Caffeine and alcohol burden the liver, which can compromise your digestion, causing bloating, skin breakouts (acne) and rashes.
Probiotics for Holiday Prevention
Probiotics strengthen your immunity, influence your mood, reduce inflammation, balance your blood sugar, improve your skin and help to maintain a healthy weight. These are great reasons to take probiotics especially during the holidays and cold & flu season. Supplement with Human Strain Probiotics: Not all probiotics are the same, and unfortunately vegetarian & dairy forms through food & supplements are rejected within 48 hours as your body knows you are not a plant or a cow. Human strains allow long term implantation of bacteria for long lasting effectiveness. This improves Dysbiosis.
You may need Probiotics if you have:
- ADHD & Autism
- Autoimmune Disease
- Allergic Sinusitis
- Candidiasis, Yeast Infections, Fungal Infections
- Celiac Disease
- Diarrhea, Constipation
- Food Allergies
- Gastrointestinal Infection (Gastroenteritis)
- Heavy Metal Toxicity
- Intestinal Dysbiosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Lactose Intolerance
- Leaky Gut or Compromised Intestinal Permeability
- Malabsorption (Nutritional Deficiencies: Iron, B12, Vitamin D)
Make Your Own Holiday Treats
Avoid store bought holiday treats to avoid food additives, including hidden allergens, sugars & artificial sweeteners, artificial colours, artificial & natural flavours. Make Dr. Jiwani’s Guilt-Free Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Low Carb, Vegan, Paleo, Keto Goodies.
Naturopathic Baking Tips
- Nut Flour or Coconut Flour instead of Grain Flour
- Coconut Oil instead of Butter
- Soy, Almond or Coconut Milk instead of Dairy Cow/Goat Milk
- Xylitol or Stevia instead of Sugar/Agave/Coconut Sugar
- Flax Egg, Chia Egg, Egg Replacer instead of Eggs
Alirezaei M, Kemball CC, Flynn CT, Wood MR, Whitton JL, Kiosses WB. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy. 2010 Aug 16;6(6):702-10.
Barnosky AR, Hoddy KK, Unterman TG, Varady KA. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research. 2014 Oct 31;164(4):302-11.
Díaz-Zavala R, Castro-Cantú M, Valencia M, Álvarez-Hernández G, Haby M and Esparza-Romero J. Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. Journal of Obesity. 2017:1-13.
Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005 Jan 1;81(1):69-73.
Helander E, Wansink B, and Chieh A. Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016;375(12):1200-1202.
Ho KY, Veldhuis JD, Johnson ML, Furlanetto R, Evans WS, Alberti KG, Thorner MO. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1988 Apr;81(4):968.
Zhu Y, Yan Y, Gius DR, Vassilopoulos A. Metabolic regulation of Sirtuins upon fasting and the implication for cancer. Current Opinion in Oncology. 2013 Nov 1;25(6):630-6.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a licensed naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan. For further information, see Terms of our Website.
Follow Dr. Jiwani