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6 Ways to Maintain Health Through the Holidays

Updated on December 12, 2016

Many of us have a hard time with the holidays for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest issues being staying healthy over the holidays. Now is the time of year for cookies, chocolates, eggnog, pies, and mountains of food. All of that compounded with it being cold and snowy outside making it much more difficult to get out and about, being active.

Here is a list of 6 ways that you can maintain your health through the Holiday season.

Stay Hydrated

Winter doesn't just bring the cold and snow, it also brings dry, dry air. All of that lack of moisture around you can have adverse effects on your health. Dehydration is a sneaky thing because, in most of our busy lives, we don't even realize that we are dehydrated. Dry and flaky skin, headaches, sticky mouth, sleepiness, constipation, low blood pressure, and several other symptoms can occur when dehydration gets severe.

Keeping hydrated through the winter and especially through the holiday season is vital. Here are some tips on how you can stay hydrated.

  • Water Bottle - The single best way to hydrate is with water itself. Get into the habit of carrying around a water bottle with you and refilling it often. A lot of people ask "how much water should I be drinking every day?" and the answer is that it varies from person to person. One method which works very well is to take your current body weight and multiply it is 2/3 (or 67%). The result is the number of ounces of water you should be drinking. For example, I'm about 285, so 285 x .67 is 191 ounces. So 191 ounces is equal to about 5-1/2 liters or 1-1/2 gallons. That is a lot of water but especially through the holidays and in the winter, it is very much needed.
  • Water from Foods - There is a large number of foods that provide the water you need. Many fruits and vegetables are loaded with water. Here is a great article with a large list of foods that help hydrate.
  • Starting Your Day - For many people, the day doesn't even begin unless they've had their coffee. I on the other hand, am not a fan of coffee but would love to have a warm pick-me-up in the morning. For me personally, most tea is rather bland and uninviting; there is more out there than the weak, basic teas that many think of. From sweet to fruity to highly caffeinated, there are plenty to pick from. All you have to do is find the one you love, warm it up before you leave in the cold, brisk morning air, and your hydration will begin for the day.
  • Rounding Out Your Day - Even though caffeine is a must to start your day, it is also a diuretic, meaning that by its nature, it will dry you out. So it is entirely counter-productive to try and stay hydrated when you're pumping a diuretic into your system. So the best thing you can do is to just make it a rule that after lunch, don't have any caffeine the rest of the day. This has an additional bonus in that limiting your caffeine intake for the latter half of your day will assist in making that nights sleep much better.
  • Check Your Urine - The single best method you can use to determine how hydrated you are or are not, is by checking the color of your urine. The more clear and pale it is, the better. The darker it is will indicate you are more dehydrated. Have a look at the infographic below for more details.


Eat Before Going Out

Whether you are traveling across town to be with family or heading out to the company party, eat before you go. You may be saying "wait just one minute, you want me to eat before I go eat?!", yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. The reason I say that is because with many family gatherings, many people will get lost in conversation, laughs, and good times and not realize how much food they actually ate. By the time you're done enjoying your company, you have already had 2, 3, maybe even 4 plates full of food. It is not out of the realm of possibility to consume well over 4,000 calories at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner alone.

The same thing goes for the holiday party. In many households, both partners may have a company party to attend. That means there are several opportunities to stuff your face with delicious yet less than healthy food choices like cheese-covered anything, bacon wrapped something, butter-infused dips, and desert options as far as the eye can see.

Before leaving for a family gathering or work party, have a sensible, simple, and protein packed salad. Sometimes even having a very basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be enough to help satiate your hunger so that you don't overindulge on the tasty yet fattening options. Maybe even bringing that bottle of water suggested above could help reduce your hunger both before you leave and while your at your event.


Glorious Greens

Above I wrote about things you can do before going to a holiday event, but what about when you're at the event? Drowning in gravy; smothered in fried onions; stuffed by stuffing; prevail over pie; conquer the foods by focusing on the greens.

At most holiday events, be it a family gathering or a holiday party, there will inevitably be fruits and vegetables available. By no means am I saying that you shouldn't partake in all the delicious offerings, but exercising control of your choices is the difference between consuming a sensible amount of calories and downright gorging. Set your sights on the vegetables and dip, the fruit salad, the leafy greens, make those your primary focus while keeping the meats, the potatoes, and the sweet treats a secondary delight.

If your family is anything like mine, then bringing a dish for all to partake in is not out of the ordinary. So feel free to ensure that a healthy option will be on the table by making your own leafy dish.

Diet Slip-Ups

Whether you are on a diet for specific health reasons (i.e. celiac or gluten-free) or you are just doing a diet for whatever reason (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, etc..), the worst thing you can do is to beat yourself up for slipping up on your diet. The primary point regardless of any diet is to make sure that you make the best decision for yourself. For many people, they don't have a certain food or dish but maybe once or twice a year, so there is no harm in having that extra scoop.

A lot of people have a thought that at holiday dinners, diets are put on hold. And there is nothing wrong with that in the big picture of things. Following the advice above, you can still have a delicious eating experience during holiday events and not just fill your face with gravy and pie. And at the same time, you can still enjoy all the tastes and foods that surround you.

Celebrate Responsibly

Hydration, food, and diets; oh my! The holidays often result in people celebrating and having a good time. Those good times will often involve beer, wine, and spirits. Celebrating responsibly should be a rule all year around, but around the holidays it becomes especially hard. One of my former employers had a holiday party last week and one of my former coworkers was so inebriated that he couldn't even get out of his chair to go to the stage and get the prize he had won. Although I can appreciate having a good time and enjoying yourself, there is a point where a person should be able to consciously think to themselves that they have had enough and it's time to stop.

  • Loud Music - When people are in a loud bar or nightclub, they often tend to drink much more heavily. According to one study, alcohol actually tasted sweeter to people listening to loud music.
  • Location - Where you celebrate the holidays can have an impact on how much alcohol you consume. Being surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues can be a major catalyst to overindulging.
  • Selection - The type of alcohol you drink can also have a huge impact on your holidays. I worked for a liquor store some time ago and during the holidays, the sales of champagne and wine would shoot through the roof. One time, in particular, a customer had come in and purchased nearly $2,000 worth of wine, beer, and hard alcohol. My point is that you know yourself best and know what choices of adult beverage will affect you the most. Making a good decision is not just best for the outcome of your evening, but will also impact your overall health.


Rest and Relaxation

Some days I just can't seem to shut off my brain. If you're anything like me, then you are almost always thinking about something that could cause unwanted stress. Whether it's pondering on what gift to get the kids, how those gifts are going to get paid for, dealing with the weather and lack of sun, or whatever other stressors you may experience this time of year.

Mental health is just as vital as your physical health. Mental strain can absolutely have an impact on your body and manifest itself in physical forms. Even though the holidays are meant for celebration and happiness, many people silently suffer internal struggles of depression and anxiety. For more information specifically on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this is one of many articles that can help. Here are some tips I think are very helpful.

  • Citrus - As I write this, I have a small vial of Brain-Aid from Plant Therapy sitting directly beneath my monitor. Research shows that the smell of citrus can have a very positive impact on your mood and can help you remain calm and focused.
  • Go Walking - Physical fitness is one of the key reducers of stress, anxiety, and depression. Getting a chance to go for a walk is incredibly valuable around the holidays. It doesn't just give your body a chance to move, but it allows you to process your thoughts. Check out this great Harvard Health article for more information.
  • Sleep - Catching up on your sleep is incredibly valuable for you both physically and mentally. Most people should get 7-8 hours of sleep or more every night. Between family, work, and whatever other factors, few people actually get 7-8 hours of sleep any given night. When you have a day off because of the holidays, maybe plan those days events so that you can capitalize on sleeping in and getting the rest you need.


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