The Holidays can be a minefield for your health. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and indulge a bit too.

Here are 5 health tips that will help you get through the holidays without the guilt and regrets in the New Year.

1. Sleep!
Hands down the most crucial action to keeping health over the holidays is proper rest. We exist in a time and place where we ‘run to the finish line’ (the holidays) only to get sick and run down when our bodies finally catch up. Sleep is the only time when some of the more crucial health processes take place. So, if you are lacking sleep, you can assume that your immune system and physiology in general will not be working at their prime. This leaves us susceptible to illness and general feelings of malaise.

Sure, there will be a few late nights, but try to follow those up with more consistently good sleep. Naps are great too! Set your alarm for 25 minutes, sleeping any longer will affect your night time sleep and will leave you feeling groggy and cranky when you wake up.

2. Exercise
If you are one of our clients, you know it doesn’t take much time to get a potent dose of proper exercise. Don’t let that change during the holidays! Prioritize your workout, regardless of your ‘holiday schedule’. Nothing is more important than your health, and getting a strength training session in will help to boost your immunity, energize you, and help to regulate blood sugars, mood, and hormones through your holiday season.If the holidays are crazy for you, make this a priority as it will help to decrease stress and enhance mental wellness and cognitive function. If the holidays are relaxed and laid back for you, you still need to workout! Keep your immune system healthy: lift heavy things and then put them down and then repeat for 20-30 minutes.

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3. Eat well
Avoid sugar. Need I say more? This isn’t about perfection or deprivation, it is about choosing wisely if / what you are going to indulge in. As an example, you go to a party and there is a spread of M&M’s, potato chips, cheesecake, peanut butter balls and deviled eggs. If you chose the eggs you are getting healthy protein, fat and vitamins. Mind you, there may be other ‘hidden’ ingredients that make them less than healthy, but of the choices, it is the ‘least bad’. If cheesecake is homemade from scratch, you might choose to indulge in a slice because it is homemade, you’ve already eaten a healthy meal before, and cheesecake is one of your favourite deserts.

So, have a reasonable piece, savour and enjoy it with a nice hot beverage, and save yourself the guilt.On the other hand, if you mindlessly shovel M&M’s into your mouth all night (as I did when I was a child) you can easily overdo it; you likely won’t enjoy or savour them; you may end up feeling sick to your stomach afterwards; and you will very likely feel guilty for the mindless snacking on empty calories.Smart choices always start with planning ahead.

  • Eat a decent meal before heading to the social engagement;
  • plan to bring something to the party that you’ve made that is healthy and you can snack on;
  • make smart choices about your indulgences.

Last piece of advice, as this is a big topic, is to eat lots of produce. Cram as many veggies, raw and cooked, on to your plate as you can. This often gets overlooked during the holidays with so many quick, pre-made meals and snacks on the go. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will help to keep you healthy over the darkest time of the year.

4. Vitamin D supplementation
Speaking of darkest time of year…Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) has been spoken of for years and you likely have already heard about its benefits: immune boosting (think staving off and even fighting colds and flu), bone strengthening, blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, and even cancer preventing properties, just to name a few.Bottom line is: we don’t get any significant UV radiation in Nova Scotia from the months of October through to May, meaning your skin is not producing any natural Vitamin D.

If you are not supplementing, you very likely are deficient. In Canada, the RDA for adults is 4,000IU’s / day (that’s 4 small capsules of a 1,000IU supplement). I recommend the brand ‘SiSu’, which is available in all grocery stores and runs about $10 for 200 pills. Small investment = big impact.

5. Balance activity with rest
For most of our clients this is the time of year to rest and recover or at least, it should be. Leading a busy lifestyle with careers, family and other obligations can be draining. This should be one of the times of year for those people to unplug, literally put your phone away, and relax. At least, that is the idea. If you have children and other responsibilities this can be a challenge, but I still suggest making it a priority to plan out times of your day / week to do nothing. Go so far as to put it in your calendar! I am reminded of a Buddhist quote at this time of year: “don’t just do something, sit there”.

That said, there may be some of you whose children have grown up and moved out and the holidays are, in fact, quiet, slow and peaceful. In this case, it may be hard for you to motivate yourself to stay active due to short days, and colder, wetter weather. Make the point to get out for even a 15-minute walk every day. Especially if the sun happens to be out. Studies do indicate that sun exposure in the winter can help to keep the winter blues away.

So, here it is again:

  1. Prioritize sleep and rest
  2. One or 2 hard strength training session per week
  3. Avoid sugar / eat lots of produce
  4. Supplement with Vitamin D (4-6,000IU’s / day)
  5. Move frequently, go for walks and know when it’s time for a break (and take it)

That’s it, really simple actually, even these 5 simple things can have huge impacts on your health, mood and energy over the holidays so that you can enjoy the things that matter most to you.

We hope you have a happy and healthy Holiday Season!