Maintaining Resilience Through End of Year
Author Profile: Matt Kadey
Matthew “Matt” Kadey is a registered dietitian based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada who specializes in nutrition pieces and recipe development. Matt is a contributing health writer whose pieces and photography have appeared in a range of online and print publications such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Clean Eating and more.
His work in food journalism earned him a James Beard Award in 2013. He’s published three cookbooks and his philosophy centers on consuming whole foods and getting plenty of exercise so you can eat more of them. You can learn more about Matt by going to www.matthewkadey.com or following along on Instagram and Facebook, @rocketfuelfood, @bt700bikepacking, Facebook.com/rocketfuelfoods and Facebook.com/BT700.
The holiday season is upon us, and while it’s a time that many people look forward to, along with it will inevitably come a never-ending stream of events, get-togethers, overeating, too much shopping, and the accompanying stress. Plain and simple, the holidays can be exhausting. Due to this, many of us start to feel anxious about upending our progress toward a healthier way of living. The holidays can throw you off any health regimen you had going as fitness routines often take a back seat.
But there is no reason why you have to drop the ball on your fitness and nutrition and concede that you’ll just need to get back in the swing of things come the New Year. It’s best to try and stay balanced throughout the season of joy and endless cookies so that you still feel great physically and mentally.
Here are some great ways to stay fit, eat well, and keep your energy levels spiked right up to the time the big man in the red suit arrives and beyond.
1. Incorporate Movement into Your Itinerary
It might be challenging to stick with your normal workout routine during the holiday chaos no matter your commitment to fitness. The holidays are a busy time, no doubt, but it’s important to make time for some form of physical activity to help keep your energy levels up and prevent holiday stress from beating you down. Not to mention the need to burn off some of those extra calories.
But don’t think finding ways to be physically active during the holidays requires a huge time commitment. Let creativity and fun dictate your movements to keep your body in motion through these joyous days. Consider alternative forms of activity if you don’t have time for your usual workouts. Do some air squats, push-ups and lunges between baking batches of cookies. Use shopping mall stairs instead of taking the escalator when gift shopping. Encourage a brisk family walk after a holiday feast and park your car more often during holiday road trips to take a stroll. For every half hour of a holiday movie you watch perform 1 minute of burpees or jumping jacks to get your heart rate up. The good news is that research shows that exercise “snacks,” which consist of brief spurts of exertion spread throughout the day, can maintain endurance, improve metabolic health, and stave off some of the undesirable changes in our muscles that otherwise occur when we are sedentary for too long. Columbia University researchers concluded that a mere 5 minutes of walking for every 30 minutes of sitting can lead to improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar, mood and fatigue levels, per their study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
All workouts need not be hardcore. Every little bit of activity adds up and can help keep you fit and healthy.
2. Indulge, but Don’t Overindulge
‘Tis the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food. Look, we get it. It’s the festive season. The cookies, the chocolates, the pies are all plentiful. Are you expected to deny yourself all of life’s pleasures like mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies for the sake of only eating clean? Of course not!
It’s okay to indulge in holiday treats, but try to do so mindfully. Enjoy your favorite foods and the ones you look forward to most during the holiday season, but also make sure you do so responsibly. Too much of a good thing will leave you feeling rather blah and with a lot of nutrition to make up post-holiday. Enjoying a sweet treat or two each day while also choosing healthier snacks is a great way to have balance and not fill up on empty calories. This year, plan ahead by being aware of your indulgent food triggers and do what you can to have some healthy food at hand for each meal and snack. That is the way to celebrate without sabotaging your nutrition and fitness.
3. Fuel Your Exercise Pursuits
From long days on the ski hill to huge pulls on the bike trainer, it’s important to continue to properly fuel any higher intensity or longer endurance sweat sessions you may take part in throughout the festive season. During the holiday bedlam, it can be easy to forget to do this which can cause your workouts to come up short. With a blend of easily digestible carbohydrates, Chargel assists in covering the basis of the body and brain’s fuel needs for workouts, both before an exercise session for a quick boost of energy and during a long workout to help keep you going strong. We now have plenty of evidence that consuming fast-digesting carbs like those abundant in Chargel can improve exercise performance in activities that last longer than 1-hour by increasing carbohydrate oxidation rates and reducing hypoglycemia. Plus, Chargel tastes great and is easy to take with you on any holiday travel.
4. Don’t Do Too Much
It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday season. The problem with this time of year is that we often want to experience too much of a good thing. It can become overwhelming to the point that it leaves you zapped of energy with little time to stick with a fitness program and prepare healthy meals.
Make a realistic to-do list that includes everything from family get-togethers, fitness classes, and social evenings with friends. List your activities in order of how important they are to you so you can do the more important ones when you have the most energy. Instead of squeezing in everything prioritize what is going to be most rewarding to you.
5. Sleep Well
Between family gatherings, staff parties, work and fitness commitments, and traveling to your holiday destination- sleep often gets put to the wayside at this time of year. Not good. Lack of sleep can result in feeling lethargic, slow and grumpy. What’s more, inadequate sleep weakens our immune system, raises feelings of holiday season stress, and according to research, contributes to poor nutrition habits including unhealthy snacking.
It’s crucial that you give your body and mind the time and rest needed to recover each night. We need at least 7 hours of quality sleep a night to feel our best and maintain good health. Yes, it can be particularly challenging to stick with a regular sleep routine with the increase in parties and with family in town. Each night, do your best to get to bed at a reasonable hour and practice good sleep hygiene such as shutting down digital devices well before bedtime and not eating a bunch of holiday goodies too close to shut eye.
6. Plan Ahead for Workouts
During busy holiday weeks (especially those that involve travel away from home), look ahead and map out when (and where!) you will be able fit in some exercise. Being organized and prepared might make all the difference in maintaining your fitness when you're on the go for the holidays.
- Inquire with members of your family or your circle of friends in a different city if they own any exercise equipment that you could make use of.
- Find out if the hotel you're staying at has a gym or some other form of fitness facility before you check-in.
- If you’re going crashing with family or friends, consider searching for any nearby gyms and inquire as to whether or not they allow guests to use their facilities or offer day passes.
- Organize a fitness routine that makes use of straightforward exercises that don't require much room or complicated equipment. Yes, you can get a good workout in your in-law's living room using just your body weight or some easy-to-pack equipment like exercise bands.
- Look for trails that will be suitable for walking, running, or cycling. This has the added benefit of giving you a hit of stress-busting nature.
- Don’t forget to pack the apparel and necessary fuel including packets of Chargel you’ll need to perform your intended forms of exercise.
7. Go Easy on the Booze
This one is huge. It can be tempting to be generous with the alcohol during the holiday season, but there are several problems with imbibing too much. Alcoholic beverages can contribute empty calories, a glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories, and lead to poor judgments when it comes to your party food intake. It’s easy for liberal alcohol intake to derail your diet. A few too many will also leave you with little energy to perform any sort of workout the following day which can be a hit to your holiday fitness goals.
The holiday season only comes around once a year, so make the most of it. Nonetheless, if you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water or a low-calorie option like seltzer. This will serve to help keep you hydrated.
8. Upgrade Holiday Favorites
It’s no secret that holiday living doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with healthy eating. The indulgent, decadent recipes that adorn Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas tables may not follow our diet ethos for the rest of the year. But nutritious eating doesn’t mean you have to give up all your holiday favorites — all they need are a few tweaks.
I love holiday fare as much as the next guy, but one of the biggest steps I take towards keeping my nutrition on track at this time of year is to prepare plenty of my own recipes and make some stealth modifications. Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo for deviled eggs and potato salad, cut back on sugar in baked goods and try some alternative sweeteners like pureed dried fruit. Instead of cheese-based dips make ones with beans and sneak more veggies into dishes like casseroles and shepherd’s pie. Food blogs are full of nutritious and tasty recipes that break the standard mold.
With these simple tricks, you can keep all your favorites on your plate without all the excess calories that can make you feel weighed down and rather lethargic.