Melissa Descoteaux, ND
5 Tips to stay Healthy over the Holidays
Holidays can be a busy time of year with social events, family time, work deadlines and travel. Not to mention it’s winter which means hibernating and filling up on comfort food can sound very appealing. As such, healthy habits can fall down the list of priorities. This is why I made a list of 5 simple things you can do to set yourself up for success and jump into the new year feeling your best!
#1 Drink up!
Sorry, not alcohol but water. Make it your best friend. Not only because water makes up 60% of our body weight (and 75% of muscles), it has many health benefits beyond hydration. Water helps hydrate your skin which can be essential during the cold winter months when dry skin can worsen. It also supports the body’s natural detox mechanisms by flushing out toxins and waste products via regular bowel movements, urination and sweating. Most of all, water helps keep us energized. It is needed for the chemical break down of food into nutrients which are then used to maintain metabolic reactions and cellular function, i.e. energy!
How do you know if you should increase your water intake? If you’re thirsty it’s too late you’re dehydrated. You shouldn’t let your body get to the point where it needs to remind you to drink water with thirst cues. Other symptoms of dehydration include; headaches, dry mouth, dry skin, dark urine or not urinating often, muscle cramps and sometimes nausea. Help your body maintain energy and support detox this Holiday season by drink water. How much water? Your goal should be 2 to 3 litres of filtered water daily. Sparkling water and herbal teas count too. Keep in mind coffee and alcohol count as negative cups as they are diuretics and deplete water from the body so for every cup/drink have 2 glasses of water.
#2 Be Selective
Abstaining from all sweets and “unhealthy” foods over the Holidays might be setting yourself up for failure. Instead of trying to eat healthy 100% of the time, slipping up then throwing your healthy eating plan out the window, aim for balance. Remember the 80:20 rule, meaning you stick to your healthy diet 80% of the time and have whatever you’d like the other 20% of the time. During the holidays this may be more like a 50:50 rule, but that’s better than nothing. Try to get as many vegetables on your plate as possible at every meal, this will help crowd out less healthy foods and ensure you’re getting fibre and nutrients as often as you can. That being said, if there is a dessert or holiday dish you know you love, make the decision before hand to eat it and enjoy it! No room for guilt or regret this year. Be mindful with your food choices and strive for balance not perfection.
#3 A Different type of “snack”
Exercise snacks are a great way to keep your body moving over the Holidays. It can sometimes be challenging to carve our a full 1-2 hours to get to the gym or a fitness class. But fear not, that’s where exercise snacks come in. It can be just as beneficial for your health to break up your fitness hour into shorter sessions throughout the day. For example 10 minutes 3-4x per day instead of a full 45min workout. As long as you get your heart rate up! You can do it at home, at work or even on your vacation (check out the 'Muskoka chair workout'). Commit to taking the stairs and maybe even run up, jumping jacks, lunges, squats etc. All great exercises that you can do in a small area to get your blood flowing.
Benefits of regular exercise go far beyond weight management. It is the #1 treatment for fatigue, helps manage anxiety and depression, improves sleep quality, can improve cognitive function and balances blood sugar to help prevent cravings and overindulging. For more information on the long list of health benefits of regular exercise check out this video by Dr. Mike Evens.
#4 Timing of meals
If you don’t have control over what you’re eating then controlling when you eat can have many added health benefits. Even if you are eating healthy over the holidays, intermittent fasting can have added benefits such as further balancing blood sugar, maintaining weight loss, mental clarity, simplifying your day with one less meal to plan and lengthening life.
Intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of zero caloric intake (fasting state) with periods of consuming calories (fed state). There are different ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into your daily routine. The most popular is 16:8 where you are fasting for 16hrs and eating over 8 hours. This ratio can change based on how you feel while fasting from 14:10 or 12:12. If you’ve never tried intermittent fasting I’d recommend seeing a Naturopathic Doctor to discuss if its right for you as fasting isn’t beneficial for everyone and if it is, how to get started.
#5 Support your digestion and immune system
Two systems that tend to be involved in most symptoms over the holidays are the digestive system and immune system. There are many natural ways to help support digestion and immune function. Supplements such as probiotics, digestive enzymes and herbal bitters including teas and tinctures can reduce bloating and maintain regular bowel movements when you’re eating foods outside your normal diet. For immune support, along with staying active, limiting sugar as is suppress immune function and makes you more vulnerable to viruses as well as zinc and herbs such as echinacea can help prevent colds and flus as well as shorten the duration of symptoms. Before starting any new supplements, especially herbal supplements, see a Naturopathic Doctor as there can be contraindications or interactions with medications for some natural health products.
Another way to support immune function is intravenous nutrient therapy. IV therapy delivers vitamins and minerals directly into veins meaning it bypasses the digestive and allows the full dose to be available to cells and tissue to support energy and immune function. Doses in IV therapy are also higher than can be obtained orally for some nutrients, for example vitamin C can cause loose stool and diarrhea when taken by mouth but these symptoms are avoided with IV therapy and doses can be increased beyond bowel tolerance. To learn more about IV Therapy check out this blog post.
Overall, to help you feel your best this holiday season; make water your #1 drink, have vegetables (of any kind!) at each meal, keep moving and don’t forget to treat yourself!
For more information on natural treatments to support digestion and immune function or to see if IV Therapy is right for you, book a FREE 15min consult or dive right in by booking an initial naturopathic assessment with Dr. Melissa Descoteaux, ND at her downtown location or in Oakville.