Healthy Holidays 2022: Let’s be real: the holidays are often a time of increased stress for most people. Despite having more time off, more parties, and more opportunities to relax… most people end up more anxious, overwhelmed, and unhealthy than during the rest of the year. This guide will cover various topics and tricks you can implement this holiday season to end this year with more health and happiness.
1. Healthy Holidays: Daylight First
Although late-night holiday parties can disrupt your sleeping schedule, start every morning by getting outside within an hour of waking to expose your eyes to daylight. Ideally, hop out of bed and go for a little stroll around your neighborhood. Rain or shine, the high-lux light emitted by sun, will help set your circadian rhythm for the day and promote better sleep that night.1 Sleep quality plays an enormous role in various health markers and should be a top priority even when some nights are disrupted more than others. For example, a single-night bad sleep can reduce insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours… so the sooner you get back to a night of deep, restful sleep, the better.2
2. Healthy Holidays: Drink Smart
There’s no doubt that there are more opportunities to drink alcohol during the holidays, but whether or not you’re drinking more, here are a few ways you can drink smarter too:
- Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is always important, especially as you introduce more burden on your liver due to alcohol. On the days you plan to drink alcohol, focus on hydration throughout the day, including more minerals. Adding a mineral supplement is a great way to encourage proper hydration (plain water is often not enough for cellular hydration). We love Multi Mineral Plus by Systemic Formulas; you can take two capsules in the morning before drinking alcohol and another two before bed after a night consuming alcohol.
- Avoid too much sugar: opt for citrus or bitters with plainer bases like sparkling water instead of tonic water with lots of added sweeteners.
- Take a binder: Binders (like BIND by Systemic Formulas) can help reduce the toxic burden alcohol can place on your body. In addition, taking a few capsules of alcohol prevents the absorption of alcohol toxins.
3. Healthy Holidays: Keep Your Blood Sugar Balanced
Keeping your blood sugar balanced is a vital part of health.3 Blood sugar dysregulation is associated with a wide range of health concerns, whether or not you have diabetes. In addition, keeping blood sugar balanced will help promote a stable mood, reduce cravings, and help reduce inflammation in the body.4 There are many simple ways to ensure that you promote blood sugar balance without cutting your carbs:
- Protein and fat first, before carbohydrates, help keep blood sugar balanced after eating. Carbs aren’t the enemy, but eating mindfully can help mitigate major spikes. If you know you’re going to a big holiday dinner full of tempting foods, opt to have a protein-rich snack before you go so that you can dive right in and already have the protein buffer (which will also increase satiety and reduce cravings).
- Have some apple cider vinegar in water before a meal (1-2 tbsp in a glass of water).5
- Go for a short walk after meals; a walk as fast as two minutes can help balance blood sugar levels after a meal.6
Getting enough protein can be hard through food, especially in holiday periods when you’re on the go. Other options to get enough protein and keep blood sugar balanced to include a high-quality collagen supplement, protein supplement, or essential aminos.
- Collagen ECM for high-quality, flavorless collagen supplement.
- Body Health Aminos are berry flavored and can easily be added to water for a protein kick. Aminos are also ideal for taking during an intermittent fast, for getting in protein without breaking your fast.
- The perfect Amino powder is a nutrient-dense option for a protein-rich powder with all your aminos, low glycemic carbs, high-quality MCT fats, and vitamins and minerals. So, if you’re on the go and need more of a high-protein meal replacement, this is it!
4. Healthy Holidays: Intermittent Fasting
Studies suggest that it may be less about what you eat and more about when you eat it.7 Intermittent fasting is the period of fasting you exercise within a 24-hour window, naturally around the time you go to bed. Some people increase this window by fasting before bed (like having an early or no dinner) or delaying or skipping breakfast altogether.
Finding an intermittent fasting schedule that works for you requires adjustment for your lifestyle. For example, over the holidays, with many later nights and festivities, you may delay your breakfast to give your body an extended fasting window.
The benefits of intermittent fasting include promoting balanced blood sugar, reducing body and visceral fat, improving heart health, and improving cognition.8 Many of these benefits come from being in ketosis, which can happen faster by taking exogenous ketones. Taking ketones is also a way to skip out on the “keto flu” — we like KetoSports by Keto Force.
5. Healthy Holidays: Give Back
Studies show that doing good things for others can improve happiness and overall satisfaction.9 It’s easy to get wrapped up in the festivities, parties, and gift-giving.. But the holidays can also be very difficult for those who don’t have much or are struggling. There are many ways to help others, including reaching out to help someone you know personally or helping a stranger. Whether volunteering at a local food bank, simply donating food or warm clothes in a donation box, or giving blood: there are ways to fit anyone’s capacity to give back.
You could also consider volunteering as a family or with friends to spread the holiday spirit of giving back and connecting with loved ones. Win-win-win!
6. Healthy Holidays: Vitamin D
Vitamin D operates like a hormone in the body and is associated with various health markers like blood glucose control, cognition, and learning, boosting your immune system and heart health and supporting hormone regulation.10 If you’re in the southern hemisphere: time to get outside! With the holidays falling in the middle of summer, there’s no better time to soak up vitamin D naturally than lying in the sun. However, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, odds are the UV index is dropped (or gone altogether), which means finding a high-quality supplement.
An ideal vitamin D supplement will also include vitamin K2 for its synergistic properties that work well together. We like the VitD3 and K2 combo by Systemic Formulas. These potent drops are easy to take and can be used all year round (since many people are deficient in vitamin D, even in the summer months).11
7. Healthy Holidays: Move With Friends and Family
There’s no doubt that the holidays are a time to spend with family and friends. This time of year is typically much more social, although many of these gatherings revolve around food and drinking… it’s also the perfect opportunity to get moving together!
Instead of making all your plans revolve around food and drink, try scheduling social time around activities that get you all moving. For example, you can catch up with a friend over a walk in the park, a bicycle ride, or a fitness class followed by a coffee date. For bigger groups, why not coordinate a sports game in the garden?
There are ways to incorporate smaller bouts of movement with friends and family, too, like going for a walk together after a meal. Some games like charades or Twister also encourage some activity!
8. Healthy Holidays: Exercise Compassion
The holidays can be a tricky time when we’re reuniting with family. The holiday period tends to bring together family members with differing opinions and views (on health, politics, and religion), so there is ample opportunity for debate and conflict. Leaning into compassion for others’ life experiences is one way to lift the burden during these otherwise heated times.
This is a practice; it won’t happen overnight. It may require working with a therapist or modalities like EMDR to explore the roots of our triggers and pain. Why not lead by example if you want to be accepted for who you are? It’s not easy, but by learning to hold space for others’ differences, we also show them how it’s done. Take the opportunity to explore your triggers and how even the most relaxed and conscious person will typically have a hard time being with their family for long periods.
9. Healthy Holidays: Notice Your Mind
It’s often impossible to relax during the holidays. No matter what advice you’re given or habits you implement… We’re our harshest critics. So please take a moment to notice your self-talk and discuss it. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves and judge our lack of self-control. So whether you skipped your workout or had seconds at the dessert table: notice your inner dialogue.
You can take a moment to exercise compassion for yourself from that place. Connecting with your inner child can be helpful by thinking of yourself as a kid and speaking to that small person. We can be so harsh on ourselves in ways we never speak to others. So when you find yourself being hard on yourself, talk to the child version of you instead. This can help soften our inner dialogue and realize that we are still worthy no matter how much we eat (or how little we exercise).
The holiday period often forces us to switch up our routines and factor in the wants and needs of others more than usual. Give yourself a break!
Although the holiday period is a time with more opportunities for rest and play, it’s also often a period full of stress and health-depleting activities. However, focusing on a few pillars allows you to leave the holiday period with greater health and vitality than when you started it. End the year with a bang by getting daylight exposure within an hour of waking, drinking smarter, keeping your blood sugar balanced, intermittent fasting, getting enough vitamin D, giving back, moving with friends and family, and practicing compassion.
- “Effects of Light on Circadian Rhythms.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/light.html.
- Spiegel, Karine, et al. “Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985) vol. 99,5 (2005): 2008-19. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00660.2005
- “Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.” The Nutrition Source, 25 July 2016, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/.
- Penckofer S, Quinn L, Byrn M, Ferrans C, Miller M, Strange P. Does glycemic variability impact mood and quality of life? Diabetes Technol Ther. 2012;14(4):303–310. doi: 10.1089/dia.2011.0191
- Ousaaid, Driss et al. “Beneficial Effects of Apple Vinegar on Hyperglycemia and Hyperlipidemia in Hypercaloric-Fed Rats.” Journal of diabetes research vol. 2020 9284987. 10 Jul. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/9284987
- Buffey, A.J., Herring, M.P., Langley, C.K. et al. The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med52, 1765–1787 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-022-01649-4
- De Cabo, Rafael, and Mark P. Mattson. “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 381, no. 26, 2019, pp. 2541–2551., doi:10.1056/nejmra1905136.
- “Intermittent Fasting: What Is It, and How Does It Work?” Intermittent Fasting: What Is It, and How Does It Work? | Johns Hopkins Medicine, 20 Oct. 2022, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work.
- Lawton, R.N., Gramatki, I., Watt, W. et al. Does Volunteering Make Us Happier, or Are Happier People More Likely to Volunteer? Addressing the Problem of Reverse Causality When Estimating the Wellbeing Impacts of Volunteering. J Happiness Stud 22, 599–624 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00242-8
- “Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15050-vitamin-d-vitamin-d-deficiency.
- Kashi, Zahra et al. “Vitamin D deficiency prevalence in summer compared to winter in a city with high humidity and a sultry climate.” Endokrynologia Polska vol. 62,3 (2011): 249-51.