Holiday Diet Advice--Don't Freak Out.
You read that correctly. The main advice in this newsletter toward holiday meals and eating is not to freak out. It seems like just as the holidays roll around, a ton of rules and tips unfold on what to eat during end of the year holiday parties, how much overindulgence is allowed, how to play tricks on your mind when it's craving pie, and how to keep a bikini (or swim trunks) ready body for next summer through it all. Sound unrealistic? It is.
It's the holidays, enjoy! If we're honest with ourselves, that egg nog or chocolate peppermint bark can't be blamed for all the ways that we're feeling during the holiday season. The holidays can be a stressful and busy time, and on top of that the colder and darker season can challenge the immune system, mood, and especially digestion. Enjoying your food in the midst of everything should be seen as a plus.
You can buck the trend of feeling tremendous amounts of guilt about what you eat this time of year--or guilt about anything else--because you don't need it. You can take care of yourself even before the fresh new year (and for some, resolutions) arrive.
What you can realistically do is still keep around some basics of self care, digestive support, and immune boosting during the holidays while you let yourself enjoy. Here are some tips on how to support your body and not get in a mental food fight with yourself as you enjoy holiday treats. These tips can also help prevent or reduce digestive sluggishness during the season. You don't have to feel bad if you do, and sad if you don't. Just support your digestion and it will process the pie you have quite expertly.
Enjoy Fiber and Water Too
A simple and basic step toward digestive balance is getting enough fiber and water. This step can be enjoyable in fact, especially during the holiday season when we may be eating more carbohydrates and food in general that can create that overly full feeling.
Skipping the fiber and water can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and to put it frankly backed up. Don't forget too that the colder and drier weather outside can dehydrate the body, which we often notice as dry skin on the outside. The gut lining is like skin for your digestive system, and so it needs hydration to properly function.
Making sure to get fiber and water into your schedule will not only support digestion, but will also boost your immune system. It's all about GALT. Who, or what is GALT? It stands for Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, and it consists of a group of immune cells that live in the digestive system and are an important part of your overall immune system. Good digestion, elimination, and hydration allow GALT to stay healthy too, so it can help defend your body from bacteria and germs.
Not someone who eats a bowl of oatmeal or KASHI every morning? Try out a fiber formula made out of psyllium powder and other detoxifying digestive herbs as an adjunct to your diet. Whatever you take, of course make sure to drink plenty of water with it, and throughout the day. An easy way to remember to drink water is getting a glass of it when you come home from somewhere.
You can visit the Inner Balance Dispensary catalog HERE to explore options for fiber support, and here are a couple popular over-the-counter products:
- Blue Heron Detoxifying Complex capsules, by Integrative Therapeutics
- Daily Fiber Formula powder, by Yerba Prima (available at Vitacost.com)
What is Digestive Flora?
Flora literally means "plants," so why are we talking about it related to digestion? Digestive flora includes healthy bacteria that help your gut process meals and make sure yeast levels don't get out of control. Two easy ways to repopulate gut flora when digestion and immunity need a boost are eating yogurt and taking a probiotic supplement.
Holiday eating = carbohydrates and sugar oftentimes. It's okay, even your naturopath enjoys a healthy serving of it. A probiotic supplement can make sure your gut has plenty of digestive bacteria around to do its job. This bacteria also helps support your immune system. Examples of "good" bacteria found in probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
It's not necessary for everyone to take a probiotic all year round, especially if you keep a relatively diverse diet, practice moderation, and take care of yourself overall. During the holidays, however, they can be helpful to keep on hand. Women can benefit from a female-designed probiotic such as Enzymatic Therapy's Women's Pearls, for digestive and yeast balance. The brand "Culturelle" also offers popular probiotic supplements.
The Effects of Holiday Stress
There is no other time of year that is advertised on TV for 2-3 months out of the year, flashes red and green everywhere, and questions whether you've been naughty or nice. It's okay to admit it--the holiday season can feel a bit odd and surreal at times. Gatherings with family and friends likewise can be both enjoyable, but also stressful. Not to mention that another year is starting in less than 30 days. Phew, where is there a moment to breathe, and also to digest?
Remember to check in with yourself as the year winds down and to let it be about yourself too, not just the holidays. Temper stress a bit by being nice to yourself, and as you're more gentle on yourself, your digestion will be more gentle on you too. Stress has a direct effect on the digestive system, so rather than suppressing it and saying to your gut "You're on your own," it's okay to see how you're feeling amid the high energy of the holiday season.
Stress also affects sleep, and poor sleep tends to upset hormones that are replenished overnight and help balance blood sugar, appetite, and digestive functions. If you're up at night worrying about whether you found the best gifts, have dinner or party plans perfect, or are representing the holiday season festively enough--try and remind yourself to stop and let the body sleep like it wants to. Try not to worry about getting it all "right." This time is for you.
If your body needs a little help winding down, an over-the-counter suggestion is one tablet of Cortisol Manager (by Integrative Therapeutics) 1/2 hour to one hour before bedtime. It's a gentle sleep and relaxation aid that won't leave you feeling groggy in the morning. It can be used as needed, but is also effective and safe as a regular sleep and adrenal support.
And Finally--Getting Out of Your Mind
Food is eaten best as food, not as an idea. When you start labeling food as "good" or "bad" in a strict sense, it becomes an idea more than sustenance or something to enjoy. Again, this thinking can produce guilt. Traditionally, guilt is swept away in January using New Year's resolutions. No need to do it this way, though!
Interestingly enough, sometimes guilt about food is not always just about food. Sometimes food guilt represents guilt about other things that have nothing to do with your diet. Then, the feeling just gets transferred on to meals and eating habits as well.
It's been a whole year, let yourself be yourself. It can be helpful to practice basics like the ones we talked about, as well as eating enjoyable portions within reason and digestive comfort (overeating regularly can suck the joy out of food too). Other than the basics, overly policing yourself is just no fun. Trust me, that peppermint bark or pie won't ruin everything for you. Our bodies are more resilient than that.