Naturopathic Guide to a Happy, Healthy Holiday

By Dr Lily Hoang

The winter holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. From expanding waistlines and shrinking wallets to balancing social commitments, it can leave one overwhelmed and exhausted and can take away from the spirit of the season: to celebrate and reconnect with loved ones.

Below are some simple ways to celebrate this happy season while staying healthy!

Maintaining the Waistline

Good and ample food is the hallmark of any holiday and the winter holiday is no exception. Many people attribute their weight gain or digestive discomforts to the few days surrounding Christmas; unbeknownst to them, it actually began much earlier. Hint: once you hear a song or see anything remotely resembling a holiday decoration of any kind, the treats have made their appearance. So what to do?

Food Matters

1)   Stay hydrated For many, dehydration is often confused with hunger. So when in doubt, reach for that glass of water. Furthermore, optimal water intake will help metabolize and flush your system of toxins.  The simple rule is – the more you eat, the more water you need to drink .

2)   Ensure adequate fibre intake Having enough fibre in your diet will help reduce cravings, especially sugar. Fibres are found in vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains. Alternatively, take 1 tablespoon of either pysllium husks or flaxseed daily, with plenty of water.

3)   Eating out Most restaurants nowadays post their menus online. To avoid having a ‘one-off’ indulgent meal, check out menu of the restaurant you wish to go ahead of time (when you are not hungry) so that you are more likely to select healthier choices.

4)   Family/Buffet dinner: The one common mistake people make when it comes to family dinners or buffet dinner is they skip meals to make up for the feast ahead. The result is an overindulgent meal, which is overwhelming to the body. Therefore, stick with regularly scheduled meals and have a snack (such as nuts, fruits and vegetables) shortly before the actual feast to facilitate healthier choices and that food is eaten in moderation.

5)   Healthy, Colorful Hosting With the various dietary restrictions that exist, it can be challenging to meet the special needs of each guest. So if you’re hosting a party, always assume that you’ll have one guest that is a vegan and one that is food-sensitive (that means no eggs, dairy, gluten, sugar etc.) and keep It colorful – try to have a mix of green, yellow, red and orange fruits and vegetables to add vibrancy to your meal while ensuring a healthy intake of vitamins and minerals.

Get Physical

Exercising can be difficult during the holidays especially when you’re busy with shopping, family obligations, potential travel and of course, the limiting holiday hours. However, it is much better to exercise some of the time than to not exercise at all. In fact, by maintaining a certain level of activity, you’ll feel better and have more energy. Here are some ways to shift the focus from food to fun and keeping fit!

1)   Get Walking! Walking is one of the easiest ways to stay active, anywhere and everywhere. For example, when you go out for holiday shopping in the mall, start off with a brisk walk around the mall before you begin your shopping. Alternatively, don’t park near the door. Instead, park in a spot a little farther than your normal comfort zone (be it at work or shopping centre, etc.), and use the extra walk to gain physical activity. Or, consider a brisk family walk to view neighborhood holiday decorations.

2)   If you’re hanging out with kids, set up a game of hide and seek or street hockey, tag or rent a pair of skates and go skating. Whatever the game, kids have boundless energy and you’re guaranteed a great workout and sound sleep.

3)   Be an awesome neighbor Consider performing yard work as a gift to an elderly neighbor. They get their yard spruced up, and you get your heart pumping.

4)   Enjoy holiday parties. Get up and dance!

Staying Healthy During and After the Holidays

There is nothing worse than getting a cold or the flu during the holidays. The combination of cold weather, eating and drinking too much and having too little time for oneself can worsen the symptoms and lengthen the recovery time. Furthermore, it is also not uncommon for people to fall sick after the holidays. Below are some supplements to help manage the effects of stress, boost the immune system and keep you healthy during and well after the holidays.

1)   Vitamin C:  Take this regularly throughout the day to allay the effects of stress and to give your immune system that extra boost. Note: Vitamin C has a short half-life, therefore take it in divided doses. For example, take 500mg 3-4 times per day.
2)   Vitamin D: To avoid deficiency and to give your immune system boost against infections and increase vitality, consider taking 2000-4000 IU/day.
3)   Fish Oil: The benefits of taking fish oil are numerous. It is reported to protect the heart, improve mental function, is anti-aging etc. Consider taking at least 1000mg per day.

A Time for You

Take a breath and pause. Often time, we let our actions be dictated by what we perceive as the “tradition” otherwise known as the “must and should” of the season. Make your holiday special and relevant by celebrating it in ways that are meaningful to you and your loved ones. And always remember to dedicate some time to take a breather, take some time to listen to music, do something that relaxes you and brings you back to yourself. In doing so, you’ll find yourself more focused and empowered.

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. It is an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family and reflect on the past year and to plan for the year ahead. However, it can also be a demanding time for the body, mind and spirit. So try out the above suggestions. And as always, speak with your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor regarding any medical concerns you may have for a more individualized plan to a happier, healthier holiday. Best Wishes!

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