The holidays are a time to celebrate gratitude, togetherness, giving, and love. However, the way we typically celebrate these ideas is through stress, obligation, and a cycle of overeating.
First things first, there is nothing wrong with giving yourself leeway around the holidays. After all, if there is any time to indulge, now is probably it! However, if you want to feel your best throughout the holiday and into January, you’ll want to maintain most healthy habits.
The good news is, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Follow these tips to be sure you keep your gut (and your sanity) balanced this holiday season.
Steer Clear of Cleanses
The urge to “cleanse” your body before, during, or after food bingeing is understandable, but not effective.
If you do feel the need to modify your diet before or after the holidays, avoid any program that involves severe calorie reduction or starvation. Instead, opt for a food-based plan that provides plenty of vegetables, moderate amounts of fresh fruit, lean meats, and healthy fats. If given the proper nutritional tools, your body can safely and effectively cleanse itself.
A steady overabundance of sugar and fat in your gut can throw off your gut’s ecosystem. It’s fine to indulge a bit in foods you might not otherwise eat, but try your best to do so in moderation.
Plain and simple, the holidays can exacerbate stress. The simple practice of deep belly breathing can go a long way in stabilizing your mood, stress levels, and (believe it or not), gut health.
Here’s how it works. When you feel stressed, excuse yourself for as little as 5 minutes. Find a quiet place and take 10 or more deep belly breaths. Place your hand on your belly (sitting, standing or laying down), breathe in through your nose and feel your belly rise. On the long, slow exhale, your belly should lower.
Create Exercise Goals
Not only will exercise motivate you to make healthier eating decisions, but studies show that exercise supports a healthy gut.
Keep up with regular exercise over the holidays. This maintains appetite control and can ward off cravings and overeating.
Sitting down to plan can help. Look at your holiday schedule (will you be at home, traveling, etc.), and figure out what is feasible. Do you need to find some quick and easy workouts you can do in a living room? Can you look up a gym or yoga classes if you’ll be in a new place? Staying active in some way is what matters most.
Avoid Problem Foods
Foods that are more likely than others to wreak havoc on your gut are foods high in unhealthy fats (anything fried, for example), and foods high in refined carbs and sugars. Do your best to avoid white sugar and flour, and consider making your own, healthy dessert to bring to holiday gatherings. That way, you’ll have an option you can feel good about.
Incorporate Probiotics and Have an Emergency Plan
Some amount of indulgence and straying from your normal diet is inevitable around the holidays, but probiotics can help. A good quality probiotic supplement helps keep your gut flora balanced, and studies have found that they can also decrease anxiety and improve mood.
Pay attention to how you feel after big holiday meals, and draw connections between foods that are bothering you. Strike a balance between enjoying yourself but not abandoning healthy eating habits. Your gut will thank you.