How To : Have a Happy & Healthy Holiday w/ Ellie Shortt
With the holidays so close at hand, we've turned to our favourite nutritional guru Ellie Shortt (wholehappy.com) for some advice on keeping our bodies in tip-top shape throughout the season of indulgence! Meet Ellie in person at her upcoming Nourishing Rituals workshop at Nourish in February!
Common Pitfalls & Some Simple Solutions
One of the best parts of the holiday season is the delightful abundance of delectable goodies, festive libations, and social gatherings. In fact, for many, these elements are in and of themselves nourishing rituals creating a sense of cozy, joyful, and hyggeligt magic. Because they’re often so ritualized, and therefore incredibly abundant and seemingly set in stone, it can be hard to draw the line when surrounded by gingerbread cookies and rummy eggnog, and when you have about ten Christmas parties awaiting your RSVP. But fear not, a few simple tricks can help navigate the slippery slope of a sleigh-ride that is about to ensue…
Sweet Treats + Over-Eating
For many in an office environment, the well-intended edible offerings start pouring in around the end of November. What follows is a month straight of sugary baked goods, sickly sweet chocolates, and candy-cane everything. While it may feel inconsiderate to create a no-treats policy at work and scolding the well-intended gift-givers, bringing your own better-for-you goodies can help fight the desire to reach into the communal cookie tin every time you pop into the breakroom. Even enjoying some festively flavoured warming beverages like a lovely chai latte, or even just some peppermint tea, can curb the cravings. In fact, sipping on warm beverages the whole day, and staying up to date on hydration in general, can do wonders for appetite control – a great thing to keep in mind as you stare frantically at the seasonal spread before you at your neighbour’s annual potluck. And don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not suggesting starvation. Being well-fed is an important part of being healthy and happy, but being well-nourished is very different from being well-stuffed. With that said, I often recommend to my clients to have some food that better suits their wellness goals before heading to a party, so that they’re not ravenous, and therefore more likely to make not-so-healthy dietary decisions.
Bad Booze + Over-Drinking
On that note, over-indulging in the holiday punch is also something to consider. Firstly because hangovers suck, and as you move farther and farther away from your early twenties, they suck even more. More specifically, over consumption of alcohol dehydrates the body, depletes our vitamin and mineral reserves, puts an incredible burden on our adrenal glands and therefore stress management and response, decreases cognitive function, increases systemic inflammation, and, of course, sends blood sugar levels on a terrifying rollercoaster leading to mood and energetic fluctuations and potential weight imbalances. Of course, capping it at one or two adult beverages is always recommended, but if you find yourself having a hard time with that cut-off, at least have a glass of plain water in between each alcoholic drink, making sure you’re consuming one-for-one at minimum. Picking smarter drinks can also help, like gin and soda water instead of gin and tonic, which can contain a substantial serving of sugar. In fact, leaving the sweeter drinks alone, and opting for more slow sipping apératifs and digestifs containing high quality ingredients like herbal bitters will actually help with digestion – a big bonus with the above mentioned predicament of over-eating, which as we all know, is very hard on the old digestive system.
Late Nights + Over-Committing
Many people state that the most “stressful” part of the holiday season is in fact the jam-packed schedule of social commitments. Office parties roll into friendly gatherings, which roll into family dinners, and before you know it you’re exhausted and cynical, and start understanding where the Grinch was coming from. If you still want to be able to spread Who-like holiday cheer, I suggest exercising the power of “no” more often. Sit down and take a long hard look at your calendar. Give some thought as to what the most important events are for you, and try not to commit to more than one thing a week if you can. For the parties you decide not to attend, send some flowers, or a thoughtful handwritten card to the host in the mail, and then let it go. Don’t dwell in the land of guilt, judgement, or FOMO. It’s not worth it, and you’ll be able to be more present and joyful for the events you do in fact attend. Speaking of present and joyful…and Grinch-y behavior…you are no good to anyone, yourself mostly, if you’re sleep-deprived. Just because the holiday season can feel more jam-packed doesn’t mean you should cut into your shut-eye. Inform the host ahead of time that you have “an early morning” (even if you don’t…a little white lie won’t hurt in this scenario) so that you’re not feeling awkward or uncomfortable when leaving the soiree, and let your body do what it does best at this time of year…sleep! Even though we’re not bears, there still is a primal element of our DNA that needs a bit more of a hibernation pace during the winter months. So honour that, honour your body, and honour what you need to be that vibrant and sparkling version of yourself.
Establishing Healthier Habits & Nourishing Rituals
With all that said, bringing your own treats to work, having a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink, and trying to thin out the list of holiday gatherings is all fine and dandy, but may just feel like short-term solutions for year-round problems of bad-for-you-foods, worse-for-you-booze, and the ongoing dilemma of over-committing. For more long-term sustainable solutions, and to help make that switch in your mind from “I’m not allowing myself to eat this” to “I joyfully choose to only consume things that nourish my body, mind, and soul,” you might want to consider the following…
Making Resolutions All Year Round
If you’re in the majority of the North American population, you say “screw it” in December only to find yourself scrambling with a long list of resolutions come January. Yes, there is something nice about the notion “starting fresh” in the new year, but for so many people that dies off within a week or two, and as February rolls around, they’re left feeling disappointed, deflated, and depressed. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of making “resolutions” or simply setting goals all year round. Creating vision boards, writing lists, journaling, belonging to a supportive group, or seeking guidance and accountability from experts and professionals in various spheres are all things that are well proven for turning thoughts into action. More importantly, it’s all about maintaining long-term sustainable success via those actions. Creating nourishing rituals all year round will provide healthy habits that steer you in the right direction even at times of seeming difficulty, like that of the hectic holiday season. In fact, together with Nourish, I am hosting a workshop this coming February entirely based on the importance, creation, and maintenance of nourishing rituals and healthy habits, including the thoughts in our minds, the actions of our bodies, and the foods and beverages we consume.
Creating New Traditions with the Ones You Love (And Love You Back)
There’s no question that the holiday season is a time of traditions, but unfortunately many of them don’t serve our bodies in the best way. So I say, why not start some new ones? How about a healthy holiday bake-off, or wellness tea party or exchange, maybe even trying some non-food-and-booze based activities such as wintry hikes, ice-skating, or wreath-making. Share with your loved ones the wellness goals you’re working on, and you might be surprised by how much they want to support you. You may even inspire some friends, family, or coworkers along the way, and guide them closer to the gift of good health!
The Season of Love & Generosity
Speaking of gifts– as you’re wrapping up that sweater for your aunt, and stuffing stockings for your kids, don’t forget to show yourself a little generosity too. At this time of year, we often get so caught up in making wishes come true for everyone else in our lives, we forget to give the most important gift of all – the gift of love to ourselves and our bodies. So if you just breezed past everything else in the post thinking “yah right, maybe next year” read it again. Pause on each topic and truly think about ways in which you can create healthier habits and new traditions. Think about ways you can avoid putting yourself in situations that damage your body and sense of self-worth, but also be forgiving and kind to yourself even when you do make decisions that you would normally experience with a sense of guilt or judgement. Always remember that you are a marvellous being, and you deserve all the joy and magic of the holiday season and beyond, however you may find it.