As a nutritionist, registered dietitian and healthy cooking expert, I am a huge advocate of a “whole person” approach to nutrition that goes far above and beyond a well-balanced diet. Sure, filling your plate with lean protein, veggies and healthy fat makes for a healthy meal, but if you’re super stressed out, consistently finding an excuse to skip your sweat sesh, or have trouble getting quality zzzz’s, your health is definitely suffering.
This is why Nutritious Life was founded around 8 Pillars that contribute to your health: Drink Up, Eat Empowered, Living Consciously, Love More, Nurture Yourself, Stress Less, Sleep Deep, Sweat Often. And, believe me, there is no leading role here, they all play equal roles.
This time of year, it’s too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday themed drinks and frosted desserts. Whether it’s cutting yourself another slice of pumpkin pie, putting your workout on pause until you make your new year’s resolution, or even being privy to the stress that the season puts on us, it’s easy for all of our daily routines to slip. Big time.
Here are the ways that I keep myself in check during the holidays:
‘Drink water and stay hydrated’, is something you’ve heard time and time again, but it’s easy to put this piece of advice on the back burner, especially during this time of year when hydration is often synonymous with eggnog, hot chocolate or a hot toddy. Drinking water throughout the day will help you eat less, improve your skin, help you feel more energetic and even boost your metabolism.
Can’t get yourself to drink the recommended 8 glasses? No worries, a few of my secrets below:
Don’t leave home without your bottle. Always carry a 32 oz water bottle with you – that way, you can fill it twice and you’ll always hit your hydration goal.
Pop in some color and flavor. Adding seasonal fruits like cranberries, grapefruit or orange slices will add flavor (helping you to drink up!) and the bit of infused antioxidants will help boost your immune system and help your winter skin glow. Not into the fruity flavor? Try herbs or spices like cinnamon, or even a pinch of cayenne.
Tea counts too! I always have a cup of green tea as part of my morning routine and herbal tea – usually chamomile – as part of my nightly routine.
Now is not the time to “save” your calories or skip meals because of that big holiday dinner coming up. And, it should never be – this is always a recipe for overeating!
Eating real food throughout the day is a MUST. Serving or attending a holiday dinner that evening? Have your normal go-to healthy breakfast. I like a hard boiled egg over a thin layer of avocado mash on Ezekial toast topped with a dash of cayenne or overnight oats, followed by a healthy lunch of greens, protein and a little healthy fat (you can skip the bread or other starch you may normally add but don’t skimp on the protein – it will help you stay satisfied and get through the day without overeating), then have a little snack with healthy fat and/or protein to ‘ruin your appetite’ at dinner. I usually go for a handful of nuts such as pecans or raw veggies and a few olives.
Living consciously refers to the world at large but also your personal surroundings. And, Tis’ the season to make conscious choices all around from food to our environment. Take time during this season to create space that inspires you and also works for you. Put up that wreath, light calming candles and keep your refrigerator stocked and organized with healthy foods.
Having positive relationships with your partner, friends, family and colleagues is a huge part of your Nutritious Life. These connections not only give us pleasure present day, but they also influence our health long-term. Studies have shown that people with satisfying relationships are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. There is no better time than the holidays to focus on your relationships. Schedule in quality festive time and make traditions! I have a few traditional holiday get togethers (with girlfriends, family, kids) that I look forward to all year long. As cliche as it may sound, these traditions spent with the people I love most are what I love about the holidays most. It is fuel for my soul for sure.
Gift yourself some pampering this season. Especially with the winter weather working against you, take time to indulge in you. My favorite quick ways to pamper myself during a busy holiday season are taking a lavender salt bath (you can make on own or buy pre-made) or taking 15 minutes extra at the gym for the sauna. Schedule in something – at least one thing each day.
Stress not only wreaks havoc on your health emotionally, but it also affects everything from your digestion to your hormones, to all metabolic processes. Stress can also lead to overeating and a decrease in energy – all factors that along with the holiday eating, negatively affect your waistline.
This is not my best pillar. I admit it. I do however, meditate. My time is early mornings when no one else is awake and it changes my day. Even if you are a meditation virgin, you can start NOW – don’t wait until January. Try an app like OMG I Can Meditate! to guide you through a quick meditation that focuses on exactly the aspect of life that might need a little extra attention.
How many hours you sleep affects your wellness and waistline as much as your diet, your workout regimen and your stress levels. When you’re sleep deprived, the hormones that regulate hunger are all out of whack and your appetite increases and you’ll have more cravings for high-carbohydrate and high cal foods.
The recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can be tough for many people – including me. Here are some tips on how to get a better night’s zzzz’s:
Meditate. Even doing an 8 count breath (breath in for a count of 8, and out for a count of 8) for a couple of minutes pre sleepy time can help relax you, decrease stress levels, and reduce insomnia. Namaste!
Bedtime isn’t just for the kiddos. Pick a time you want to be in bed by and stick to it. It will motivate you to finish your meal planning, laundry, and Instagram scrolling in time to hit the hay.
Remember to unwind. Turn off your electronics – and yes, that includes the iPhone and Netflix, 20 minutes before your designated bedtime. You may have heard this before, now make sure to do it. It works.
Drink a cup of herbal tea every night. Getting into this healthy habit itself is relaxing, but specific herbs like chamomile have been shown to be just as effective as medication when it comes to helping you fall (and stay!) asleep.
Exercise not only burns Christmas cookie calories, but it also increases blood flow, causing your circulation to improve. Hello, healthy glow! Exercise can also help reduce stress, which as you now know will help you sleep better – all coming back full circle to living a Nutritious Life. Keep your exercise consistent this holiday season. I promise, everything else (eating well, sleeping well…) will all be easier. If you’re having trouble try these tips out:
Grab your girl (or boy). Head out for a long walk with your friends, partner, sister, neighbor, whoever! I have girlfriends keep me accountable all the time by signing up for a class together or meeting in the park.
A workout doesn’t have to be one hour of intense, non-stop physical activity. Get in what you can to keep you in the exercise mode. When you’re pressed for time, here is a 5-minute workout – no equipment required. Skip any excuse that might come to mind and start the workout, you’ll be done in 5.
45-minutes on the elliptical sound dreadful? Download an audiobook or a few new podcasts – use the time wisely and you’ll feel doubly productive.
For more ways on how I stay balanced, follow me on Instagram: @nutritiouslifeofficial!
*Illustration by Billur Kazaz.