Avoiding Stress-mas: self-care for the holidays

Avoiding Stress-mas: self-care over the holidays / Image source: medicalnewstoday.com
Avoiding Stress-mas: self-care over the holidays / Image source: medicalnewstoday.com

Avoiding Stress-mas: self-care for the holidays

December is a busy month. Whether you’re wrapping up projects or wrapping up gifts, the end of the year boasts the shortest days crammed full of activities and obligations. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with responsibilities and commitments. Throw in complicated friend and family dynamics and you can forget yourself in all the commotion.

While we know that complete hibernation is impossible, you need to take some time for yourself over the holidays. Here are six tips to keep you healthy as we draw to a close of 2018.

  1.  Stay on schedule. If you have a schedule that works for you, try best to maintain it. Just because the world may be on holiday hours doesn’t mean you have to be.
  2.  Work at your own pace. And if you are on holiday hours, take advantage of the freedom. Sure, you need to get work done but you may now be able to get that massage in that you’ve been promising yourself since October. Having flexible hours means you can take advantage of working out in the middle of the day, seeing a matinee, trying out a new afternoon class, or spending that extra ten minutes over your coffee.
  3.  Book time just for you. Give yourself a break from the hectic holidays and de-stress by planning a quiet activity. Whether it’s an hour in a sensory deprivation tank, booking a cooking class, taking a walk at a nearby park with that podcast you’ve been meaning to listen to, or spending thirty minutes of quiet browsing in a bookstore, spending time by yourself will help you from feeling overwhelmed. These little self-care dates are your chance to reset.
  4.  Ignore Boxing Day. It’s chaotic and crowded—and just not worth it. Heading to the mall to fight with crowds over recent markdowns will do little for your mental health. Those deals will be there in the New Year. You’ll end up pressured into buying things you don’t want at a price point that isn’t that cheap.
  5.  Limit social engagements. Whether you are heading out of town for the holidays or staying in one pace, there will be an influx of gatherings and social activities. Make sure that you aren’t overextending yourself and never be afraid to be the first one to leave. Keep catch-up coffees from taking over your afternoon by scheduling an appointment nearby. This way you aren’t being rude, you just need to be somewhere else at a specific time.
  6.  Politely decline. You don’t need to be at every party, every event, spend time with every out-of-town relative, or visit those relatives that you never see. It’s always hard to say no but if you’re saying yes to everything, you’re focusing on quantity and not quality. Exhaustion is no vacation so don’t be afraid to skip out on a coupe of events or activities.

The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us. Just remember to put yourself at the top of your gift list and try to do one thing you enjoy every day.

There are no cheat days when it comes to weight loss

wieght loss cheating / image source: tucsonhypnosis.com

There are no cheat days when it comes to weight loss

We don’t gain weight overnight. It happens slowly over time. We know we’re making unhealthy food choices but we tell ourselves that one little chocolate bar won’t matter. We indulge in our trigger foods and have that extra helping. We allow our cheat day to extend to the entire weekend, promising ourselves that tomorrow we’ll be better. We ignore the scale and our clothes expand with us.

And then one day, we try on something for a special occasion and find we can’t zip it up. So, we finally dust off the scale (probably replacing the old, dead batteries) and we see the reality of our weight.

And then one day, we try on something for a special occasion and find we can’t zip it up. So, we finally dust off the scale (probably replacing the old, dead batteries) and we see the reality of our weight.

Before you accuse me of body shaming, I want to make it clear that there is an ideal weight for everyone. But I’m not talking about the laughable BMI calculation. I’m referring to the weight where you feel best. This is the weight where you feel comfortable in your body and are considered medically healthy. This isn’t about aesthetics or being a size 0. It’s about you not looking in the mirror, even being able to look in the mirror, and knowing you are living your best life. A life where you are confident and can move through the world in a positive way.

For many people, myself included, who have struggled with their weight — we know when we’ve gone too far. We not only don’t look our best, but we don’t feel our best. We don’t understand why we’re in this position again. But we also know exactly why we’re in this position again.

You need to reset and commit to taking charge. It’s time to be disciplined about what you eat and how you exercise. This isn’t about calories in/calories out. This is about mindful, healthy decisions that will lead you back to feeling good and taking control of your future.

Most conventional diet and exercise plans introduce different phases. The first stage is the most restrictive and limiting. Over the years, I’ve seen people embark on the first phase excitedly and see quick results. Once they move into maintenance and re-introduce new foods and concepts, they lapse back into bad habits. This is where the half a teaspoon becomes a full teaspoon and then a tablespoon. Instead of thinking of your weight loss in phases and as a diet, think of it as recommitting yourself to you. This is an opportunity for you to listen to your body and really figure out what it needs and what it wants.

Here’s a list of five things you can do today and I share with my clients when they need to reset their diet and exercise.

  1. No sugar. This includes all fruit, except for berries.
  2. No starches. This includes bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and pizza.
  3. Drink water. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day.
  4. Do 30 minutes of cardio seven days a week.
  5. Your best food choices all start with S. Salads, scrambles, soups, and smoothies will fill you up and provide you with lots of choices.

These are small things to start you on your path and will help guide your choices. This isn’t a quick fix or a diet plan. It’s a solution to get you back to your best self. It’s permission to acknowledge that you need to recommit yourself to yourself.

Whatever interrupted your discipline and dedication, that’s gone now. Whatever went on in your life that made you give up and settled you back into old patterns — that was yesterday. Those choices, they are part of yesterday as well.

So step on that scale or put on those too-tight jeans. However you measure your success, these items will reward you throughout your journey. And you deserve it.

Your gut’s connection to your emotional state makes it your second brain

Gut outline on chalkboard / image source: healthbeat.spectrum.org

Your gut is your second brain

Have you ever heard of the gut-brain connection? If not, you’ve definitely experienced it. It’s that nervous feeling in your stomach when you’re in an unfamiliar situation or that full feeling when you’ve received unexpected sad news. Emotions such as happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness can all cause a physical reaction in your gut.

The gut includes every organ involved in digesting food and processing it into waste. The gut or “second brain” can operate on its own and communicates back and forth with your actual brain. The vagus nerve controls messages to the gut and runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon. Hormones and neurotransmitters also connect your gut chemically to your brain.

Many contributing factors affect how your body digested and eliminates what you eat and drink. They include diet, food intolerances, lifestyle, hormones, sleep, and medications.

To maintain or restore gut health and support good overall health, it is important to maintain a strong balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Eating a diet that includes foods with probiotic or prebiotic ingredients support a microbial health by restoring balance.

What are Probiotic Foods?

Probiotics contain live beneficial bacteria grown during carefully-controlled fermentation processes. You may already have probiotics in your diet: plain yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and miso.

What are Prebiotic Foods?

Prebiotics do not contain bacteria. They contain indigestible fibers that ferment in the GI tract. There, they are consumed by probiotic bacteria and converted into other healthful substances. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and oats.

Are There Other Foods that Benefit the Gut-Brain relationship?

The following foods have also been shown to balance and improve the gut:

  • Omega-3 fats
  • High-fiber foods
  • Polyphenol-rich foods
  • Tryptophan-rich foods

If you’re experiencing indigestion or even if you are prone to depression or anxiety, you may want to look at your diet. By incorporating gut-healthy foods, you can begin to nurture your second brain.  

Image: healthbeat.spectrum.org

Video: Ghulam Ali

Diet tracking and the need to separate why we eat from what we eat

Woman eating fruit and using food tracking app / Image credit: mdslim.com

Diet tracking and the need to separate
why we eat from what we eat

There are many reasons we eat. We eat for pleasure, for boredom, for comfort, or for reward. We eat to be social and connect with our friends and family. We eat to celebrate our achievements and to build family bonds. Food is also our friend. It never rejects us or judges us harshly.

Food is so much more than fuel. If it wasn’t, we would simply ingest a grey, tasteless substance with a minimum required amount of calories.

When clients come to me and want to lose weight, they often defend their food. They refuse to believe their current challenges are because of diet. They cite stress and lack of exercise. But the truth is, food is often the root of our problems.

And it can be tricky untangling the reality from perception. What do I mean by that? People think they eat healthy. They believe they make correct choices. They prepare their meals in advance and describe balancing their plates with greens.

What they don’t remember is the cake wheeled out for a co-workers anniversary. It’s the extra helpings and the fortune cookies they reached for automatically at the end of a meal. It’s the french fries they stole off their partner’s plate during lunch when they were having a salad. All of these little bites add up. So while they think they are eating healthy, the truth is that they are not.

And the only way to break the cycle of mindless eating is to track everything. It’s a thankless task, but it’s essential.

There are many apps, notebooks, and tools designed for food tracking. Some apps allow you to easily scan your food barcode to break down nutrients. Others will allow you to log your meal by photographs. Depending on the app, you may be emailed weekly results or win rewards. Many will give you a calorie target to hit and show you how much water you still need to drink.

No matter how it functions, the best tool is the one that you will use. Every single day. Every single meal — and in between. Track everything — and look for patterns. Consider your emotional state and why you’re eating. This is just as important as what you are eating.

There’s no judgement in capturing what you have been consuming. If you are not completely honest, you will never be able to acknowledge your own eating patterns. Tracking food is the first step. Only through knowledge and self-acceptance can we start making positive changes — so it’s time to be real. To get healthy, you need to arm yourself with your own history and awareness. Once you take judgement out of the equation, you’re ready to evaluate and assess. And only then you can make informed, positive changes that will help you reach your goals.