As wonderful as the holidays can be, they also come with a fair amount of stress. And if that’s true for any year, this year takes the cake. Whether your stress comes from family dynamics, unwanted weight gain, fear of getting sick, or financial strain, I wanted to create a holiday guide for you that has all the tips and tricks you need to stay the course and enjoy this festive time of year.
Top 10 Tips to Navigate the 2021 Holidays
Tip 1 – Moderation
We often view the holidays as a free ticket to “fall off the wagon.” That exercise regimen you’ve been so consistent with or that healthy meal plan you’ve been following all of a sudden feels more like a “to-do” than a lifestyle choice.
Sure, the holidays should be a time to relax a bit, but don’t get relaxation confused with laziness. In other words, get rid of the all or nothing mindset – moderation is a great mantra for the holiday season. Keep eating healthy and exercising – it’s not a vacation from everything!
Tip 2 – Maintain your Weight
Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays; instead, try to maintain your current weight. You can still relax and enjoy the holidays, but think twice before you overindulge.
A sobering fact to keep in mind is that half of annual weight gain in the U.S. occurs during the holiday period. And the worst part is, the weight tends to stay on indefinitely.
Research shows that people tend to lose a little bit of holiday weight gain in January when the holidays are over, but the rest of it sticks around. Even modest increases like this each year can add up over time. The average American gains between 0.5 and 1.75 pounds a year and a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey follow-up study found that body weight measured at 10-year intervals increased by an average of 3.4 percent in men and 5.2 percent in women.
Here are my favorite eating tips for the holidays:
- Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Use a smaller plate.
- Savor your favorite holiday treats while eating small portions.
- If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next.
- Don’t put foods on your plate that you don’t like very much. Save room for the foods you really like. This does not mean to avoid the veggies in favor of pie!
- Wear form-fitting clothes, so you’re more aware of how full you are. Elastic waistband #stretchypants are out!
Tip 3 – Sleep
Sleep deprivation seems to be common over the holidays. And if you’re like most people this year, there are plenty of things to keep you up at night.
While sleep is crucial for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems, it can really do a number on your weight management efforts. Research shows that impaired sleep can lead to food cravings and is associated with weight gain.
In fact, there is a strong relationship between sleep deprivation and obesity, in part due to the fact that when you’re sleep-deprived, you crave high-calorie weight-gain promoting foods.
With all of the holiday temptations around, this could be a recipe for disaster. Your willpower can only take you so far.
Therefore, prioritizing sleep over the holidays is absolutely crucial. If you can stick to a routine where you get to sleep around 10:00 pm or 10:30 pm, that is ideal. Even if you can’t fall asleep, make an effort to have your electronics turned off by that time and snuggle up with a good book, take a warm bath or shower and to start to wind down.
Tip 4 – Mild Exercise
Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Exercise reduces levels of stress hormones and helps to digest all that food. I recommend daily short walks at the very minimum. Even just 10 minutes makes a difference!
Tip 5 – Stick to Whole Foods (as much as possible)
The holidays typically come with travel, parties, and potlucks, which means many variables get mixed into your regular meal plan. Perhaps one benefit of this year is that you won’t have as many social engagements, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid low-quality food altogether.
Many people are still sending care packages for the holidays loaded with cookies, candies, and other foods that don’t usually make it into your shopping cart. While you can certainly enjoy these foods in moderation, don’t let these indiscretions throw you off track completely. Also, there’s no shame in simply getting rid of foods that are loaded with chemicals and additives.
As much as possible, keep your home stocked with fresh, whole foods to help keep you on track. And if you’re someone who gives in to temptation easily, put those holiday treats somewhere out of sight like the top shelf or even the freezer.
In general, as much as you can:
- Stick to whole foods – avoid chemical-laden foods.
- Avoid foods you know come from a box, package, or can.
- Avoid bright colored foods you know have artificial food coloring.
- Avoid butter substitutes or anything made with margarine — they may contain trans fats. Instead, try to stick with real butter.
Tip 6 – Healthy Alcohol
Of course, the healthiest alcohol is no alcohol, but if you’re going to imbibe, it may as well be the healthiest alcohol.
The antioxidants found in red wines boost many of the body’s processes but are particularly revered for improving heart health. The belief is that the antioxidants found in red wine, particularly flavonoids and resveratrol, are the key ingredients in boosting heart health. These antioxidants improve health by:
- Fighting dangerous inflammation in the body
- Lowering bad cholesterol levels
- Fighting free radical damage with high levels of antioxidants
Polyphenols in dark beer help the body lower cholesterol, fight cancers, and kill off daily virus threats. High folate levels in dark beer lower homocysteine levels, which is good for heart health.
This does not mean that red wine or dark beer is akin to drinking liquid vitamins. And it’s not a license to drink more than one glass. Studies show that the beneficial effects of alcohol diminish after one glass . This means two or more glasses are bad for your health. Alcohol can also lessen inhibitions and impulse control and induce overeating. You’ve been warned!
Remember to drink only in moderation and don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver when you go out and stick to the plan. If you’ve had too much to drink, call a cab, Lyft, Uber, catch a ride with a friend, or simply stay the night where you are.
Tip 7 – Manage Stress
The joy of the holidays often comes with a hefty load of stress. Add to that the tensions coming from our political landscape as well as the global pandemic, and you would have to be superhuman not to feel a little off-kilter this year.
If stress management isn’t already a priority in your life, let 2021 be the year that teaches you the importance of self-care. Although these outside factors may seem out of your control, managing your stress levels is completely within your power if you have the right tools.
Here are some research-backed go-to’s for stress management include:
These practices can bring your mind and body into a state of relaxation and clarity. From here, the scary things don’t feel quite so big, and you may even get insight into how to handle unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Of course, these are not substitutes for working with a mental health professional if you are really struggling to stay above water emotionally this year. Again, there has never been a more important time for self-care.
Tip 8 – Stay Healthy and Support Immunity
This year, more than ever, keeping your immune system firing on all cylinders is crucial. While you may not be planning to travel during the holidays, the impact that holiday stress can have on your immunity still looms large. Furthermore, taking preventative measures by taking immune supporting nutrients where you can is your best bet if you want to stay healthy this holiday season.
There are a handful of research-backed nutrients that you can include in your supplement regimen this holiday season:
- Medicinal Mushrooms. The most powerful thing you can add to your supplement regimen to support immunity is medicinal mushrooms. Hundreds (if not thousands) of research studies have been conducted on the healing benefits of mushrooms, as these powerful plants can enhance the function of both your innate and adaptive immunity. Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years by cultures across the world for their healing potential, and research continues to uncover their benefits, including antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antibiotic, antioxidant, and so much more. 
- Vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C supports a healthy immune response. It also supports healthy energy levels and your natural detoxification pathways.
- Zinc. Zinc is a crucial nutrient for the growth and survival of your cells. In your immune system, zinc deficiency can suppress both adaptive and innate immune responses, potentially leaving you more vulnerable to infection. Evidence also suggests that taking zinc can reduce the duration and severity of a cold by preventing the replication of the common cold virus. Take 20-50 mg a day to enhance immunity.
- Black Elderberry. This high antioxidant fruit extract has one of the highest anti-viral properties in nature. In studies that looked at its efficacy against influenza strains A & B, Elderberry was found to shorten the duration of the flu from the typical 7 days to 4 days. .
- Selenium. Selenium has been shown to support your immune system by inhibiting viral replication. In fact, researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill found that when influenza viruses pass through bodies deficient in selenium they can mutate into more damaging forms.
Tip 9 – Embrace the Spirit of Giving
Embrace the Holiday Spirit by giving to others. Thanksgiving and Christmas are especially good times to reflect on good fortune and do things for other people. One of the most common types of charity work is to volunteer at a homeless shelter where you can help serve food or provide any other kind of help that is needed.
If you would rather help from afar (which is very reasonable this year), there are also many other charitable organizations you can donate to, such as The Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Tip 10 – Attitude of Gratitude
The holiday season is about giving and being thankful for what you have. Studies show that it’s not how much you have but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference.
A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long term well being by more than 10 percent . Gratitude has caused me to focus less on things that don’t matter, like making money, and more on the things that do, like helping others, taking time for self care, my family and writing this blog that helps people like you.
This year may have been very challenging, but there is still much to be grateful for. I know this year has been very stressful, but I believe we are moving into a period of peace and prosperity. We just need more time for the chaotic events of this year to unfold, come to light and be put behind us.
Remember you get what you focus on. Where consciousness goes energy flows.
I hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday!
Click Here for References+
- Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik K, et al. A Prospective Study Of Holiday Weight Gain. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2000, Mar 23; 342(12):861-7.
- Williamson DF, Kahn HS, Remington PL, et al. The 10 Year Incidence Of Overweight and Major Weight Gain in US Adults. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1990 Mar; 150(3):665-72.
- Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Szmitko PE, Verma S. Red Wine and Your Heart. American Heart Association. 2005; 111:e10-e11.
- Beck MA, Nelson HK, Shi Q, et al. Selenium Deficiency Increases the Pathology of an Influenza Virus Infection. The FASEB Journal. 2001 June;15(8): 1481-3.
- Seligman, ME, TA Steen, and N. Park. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2005.
- Zakay-Rones, Zichria, et al. “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1.4 (1995): 361-369.
- Morey, Jennifer N., et al. “Current directions in stress and human immune function.” Current opinion in psychology 5 (2015): 13-17.
- Kracht, Chelsea L., et al. “Associations of Sleep with Food Cravings, Diet, and Obesity in Adolescence.” Nutrients 11.12 (2019): 2899.
- Greer, Stephanie M., Andrea N. Goldstein, and Matthew P. Walker. “The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain.” Nature communications 4.1 (2013): 1-7.
- Ma, Xiao, et al. “The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults.” Frontiers in psychology 8 (2017): 874.
- Woodyard, Catherine. “Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life.” International journal of yoga 4.2 (2011): 49.
- Hearst, Rachel, et al. “An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of constituents of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) mushrooms.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 15.1 (2009): 5-7.
- Mau, Jeng-Leun, Hsiu-Ching Lin, and Chin-Chu Chen. “Antioxidant properties of several medicinal mushrooms.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 50.21 (2002): 6072-6077.
- Hojyo, Shintaro, and Toshiyuki Fukada. “Roles of zinc signaling in the immune system.” Journal of immunology research 2016 (2016).