10 practices for a healthier & happier holiday season
I hope you’re having a fantastic week.
On Friday I returned home from an 81-day trip to Rio de Janeiro and much of Argentina. It was a fantastic adventure but I’m very happy to be home for Christmas.
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My family is big on Christmas.
After Remembrance/Veterans Day, our decorations go up and our long-standing traditions begin.
Winter markets, baking, Christmas classics (who doesn’t love A Charlie Brown Christmas?), delectable food, quality time with loved ones, and the best hockey tournament of the year (Go Canada Go!).
But this time of year flies by and can derail us from our health and fitness goals.
Today we’re covering ten practices for a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling holiday season so you’re armed with strategies to savour the holidays and kick off the new year with strong habits.
Beat counter-regulatory eating
Counter-regulatory eating: We’re more likely to overeat after consuming a large meal than after eating nothing at all.
This effect tends to have the strongest impact on those who normally adhere to strict diets.
People like you and me.
Once breaking the regular diet, it’s normal to feel that further restriction is pointless which can result in overindulging until the diet is resumed at some future point — appropriately deemed the what-the-hell effect.
The strength of this response depends on the degree to which you see the food as “forbidden.” Eating a food you normally perceive as forbidden makes you more likely to continue overindulging.
To counter this, reframe how you think about food:
“Bad” and “unhealthy” → “Hinders my progress and doesn’t make me feel great but a treat I enjoy once in a while.”
“Good” and “healthy” → “Supports my long-term metabolic health and makes me feel good.”
Don’t rely on willpower
Willpower is a lousy strategy.
Do not put yourself in a situation where you must resist temptation. Instead, remove temptation altogether.
The holidays bring an insurgence of excess food into your fridge and cupboards. To prevent holiday eating from derailing your health and fitness goals, prepare less food or ask guests to bring Tupperware so one big meal doesn’t turn into a week of overeating.
Avoid late night snacks
Snacking close to bedtime is a bad practice if you’re aiming to lose fat or keep it off.
Late night eating increases appetite and fat storage and may decrease energy expenditure.
Shift the majority of your caloric intake earlier in the day to prevent late night eating.
Do something every day
One of my fitness mantras is to do something every day.
Some days, that might be as little as a walk and a few sets of push-ups. But every day you do something, no matter how small, is money in the bank.
Anything is better than nothing and once you get started you usually feel like doing more than initially planned.
Set the bar low so it feels easy to start but make it a rule throughout the holidays to get some form of movement in every day.
Maintain metabolic balance
If you want to eat something that spikes your blood sugar, there are a few strategies to decrease harmful effects:
Eat when your glucose disposal will be better (like right after a workout)
Don’t eat them before bed — we tend to be more insulin sensitive (which is a good thing) earlier in the day
Most of all, don’t become consumed with blood sugar. Eat with metabolic health in mind but don’t worry about it.
We hurry through life and the holidays.
Don’t forget to look around and just breathe. Take time to smell the pine and appreciate the lights. Tell stories, listen to music, and be with your loved ones.
And please, for the love of the old Gods and the new, get away from technology.
Shut your phone off, stow it away, and live in the real world. You don’t need more pictures on your smartphone that you’ll never look at again.
You need more minutes living in the moment.
Humans are social creatures.
We’re constantly evaluating the emotional state of others and wired to thrive off social interaction. That’s why listening to or sharing stories can improve your mood and overall health.
Look back through your year for feel good, interesting, or funny stories and highlights. Recall these stories to yourself and share them with others.
Telling stories also serves as a great way to reflect on and close out the year.
One of my favourite hobbies is making up stupid hypothetical questions to ask my family, friends, and girlfriend.
They usually roll their eyes at me but the right hypothetical question can kickstart great conversation.
While they don’t have any real-world application, you can learn a lot about someone’s values, boundaries, and way of thinking by asking these types of questions.
Here are a few of my favourites: