Holiday Health and Sanity- Three Practices that will help you keep weight off and lower your stress

In our modern culture we tend to do winter, and particularly the Holidays, like the middle of July.

Late nights, travel, tons of food and parties…and just too much on our plates.  Literally and figuratively.

Now this might be cool in the middle of summer, but in the winter it’s going to create trouble.

In winter, you want to be like a bulb (plant not light).  What does a bulb do this time of year?  Not a heck of a lot.  It sits underground and lays dormant.  It stores up energy so it’s ready to burst up and be a plant in the spring.  It uses its resources wisely and doesn’t try to be like summer with big leaves and flowers blooming.

As an acupuncturist, I teach people how to maximize their health by being in line with the seasons.  These practices will be inspired by that teaching and help you better align with the gifts of winter.

If you want to be healthy, not gain a pound this month and slash your stress in half so you can actually enjoy the holidays, I want to help guide you to that goal.  So here’s a list of Three Habits that will do just that.

  • Practice Stillness/ Pick more YIN Activities

As you can see on the picture with this blog, yin activities can range a lot, but in general they tend to be slower, more drawn in, restoring and restful.  Yin activities don’t all have to be in complete stillness, but they should create a level of calm or restfulness.

If you’re a Type-A person, picking something like a 30 minute meditation might make you want to jump in front of a train…but taking a brisk walk might be the perfect fit.

If you’re reading the list and already saying you don’t have time to do any of this, we’ve identified the problem!  Because whether you “have time” or not, your body has needs that are programmed into it.  Whether you’ve done winter like the bulb or not, that’s what your body expects to some extent.

Now I’m not trying to be scrooge here, and I’m not advocating that you skip your travel plans or parties.  I realize you may have many obligations you need to do to keep your job, or want to do to celebrate.

But one way or another, if you want to align your body with the season so you can slash stress and avoid hoiday weight gain, practicing stillness is number one.

A simple one for people who feel time pressure is taking 3-5 times a day to stop and do breathwork.  A few short rounds of Box Breathing will calm your nervous system and help you presence (and get better at) internal stillness.

Box Breathing-

Breath in to a count of 4, hold for two, out through your lips to a count of 7, hold for 2 and REPEAT for as many rounds as you’d like.

If you’re a busy family with lots of activities for your kids, maybe you choose to cancel everything on a Friday night, stay in and do dinner and a movie at home together.  This is a great way to practice the art of slowing down.

  • Say NO to an Obligation

If you can practice one behavior this season, it’s the art of RESTRAINT.  Health this season is about saying NO to things that add to your stress unnecessarily.  Again, I’m not saying things you have to do.  And I’m DEFINITELY not saying no to things that keep you healthy.

Isn’t it amazing that when we’re stressed, the first thing we give up is taking care of our health?  What the heck?  So we feel stress so we stop doing the things that will get us out of it?

For what?  So we can keep giving MORE energy to the things that take away our health?

This makes no sense, but somehow it’s what most of us tend to do unless you’re one of the people who has invested in created deep healthy habits.  Folks who have done that tend to have the best health and quality of life…for good reason.

What I want you to do is stop and take a survey of all you have to do this month.  Now think through the things that pop up that feel like obligations.  The things that make you go “uggg” when you think of them.  Things you don’t have to do, but feel obligatory.

The company party.  Going to the mall to show when humanity invented Amazon.  Doing the neighborhood cookie swap that takes you 5 hours to prep for.

Bah humbug!  If you don’t want to do it and you’re not going to lose your best friend or your job, practice the Art of NO.

Cut it out and feel the relief.  This is the single biggest gift you can give yourself this month.

  • Strategize for Travel and Holiday Parties

So you’ve created some stillness practices and you’ve said no to a few obligations.  Now you have more space inside to be healthy and bring that stress down.  Now we need to somehow eat in a way, and survive the holiday party gauntlet, that doesn’t pack on the 10-15 pounds.

Let’s make this as simple as possible.  On days that you’re traveling or going to a party, follow this plan.

  • Wake up and have a big glass of water first
  • Plan WHEN you’ll do a workout. Pick either a short, intense interval workout with kettlebells or a jog-walk, or do a long (30-60 min) brisk walk.  Again, schedule it so you know the time and make it happen.
  • Eat two clean meals with Yes foods- real food, no sugar, bread or alcohol. Stop with a  reasonable portion and don’t get over full
  • For your one meal or party, go for it. Eat, drink and be merry.  If you did your other meals and workout right, the one meal shouldn’t pack on the fat.
  • IF you want to control eating at the party, have a little cheat food but not go hog wild, here’s the plan. Go to the buffet and eat a small plate of all yes foods first.  Focus on protein, veggies and fruit.  Then hang out with people, enjoy a drink slowly and let your body feel how full you are.  THEN go back and have your dessert or cheat food and a few drinks if you’d like, but don’t go crazy.  By delaying gratification and filling up a bit with yes food, you’ll be more likely to eat a smaller portion of cheat food

That’s it.  People have used this plan to have success on holidays, vacations and the like.

So now that you have the plan, let’s go make the most of your winter holidays.  Have a great time with family and friends, and here’s to a happy, healthy New Year!