Tips for a Healthier Christmas and New Year

If you are anything like me, the end of the year approaches and you find yourself a bit worn out...the kids are tired...there are Christmas presents to buy or make... family get-togethers or holiday breaks to be organised and for some reason most of my family decided to be born in November or December so there are a lot of birthday presents and parties to be organised as well!

This can mean less sleep, more food and drink that might not be good for us, stressful situations, family dramas or just plain old burn out. A lot of our healthy intentions or plans that we have been doing so well on can fly out the window as we are either too tired or not organised enough to put ourselves first. I wanted to put a list together of things that can help you come into the new year a bit fresher, a bit calmer and a bit healthier.   

Ready? Let's go!

1. Me Time

I can't tell you how important it is to take some time out every day just for you. It could be anything from 5 minutes to half a day but even if your house is filled with relatives - you NEED to step outside and take five. Do a mini meditation, arrange a beach walk by yourself, a massage (Xmas present from yourself!) or even a half day getaway to your happy place either alone or with some friends. Putting your feet up with a book and a cup of herbal tea in a room with a closed door for fifteen minutes. Tell your family what you are doing and why you are doing it and don't feel embarrassed or guilty!

You will be a better person to be around if you take care of your own needs and wants so you are doing everyone a favour by making a habit of this. So I want you to remember to factor something like this in every day, ok? Put it in your diary if you have to, but just do it! If you have a hard time making time for yourself or feel that you simply can't fit it in because you are just too busy, you are the person that needs to do this most.

Grab some extra help with my Slow Down Blend if you need to.

2. Water

We know that water makes up 50 - 60% of our body, right? Well all this activity and festive celebration takes place in a very hot part of the year for us Australians. Our Christmas and New Year break occurs smack bang in the middle of Summer, so water needs to be increased.

Alcohol, plane trips and beach time can all rapidly dehydrate us, so having water on us or with us at all times should be mandatory. Preferably in stainless steel or glass drink bottles as hormone-disrupting plastic water containers are not a good idea. Heat + water + plastic = chemical cocktail.

If you feel tired, headachey, foggy head etc. turn to water first. Drink every hour and if drinking alcohol at parties or BBQs, drink a big glass of water between beverages. It's so important to keep cool and hydrated in the warmer weather.   

3. BBQs

Summer is also the time for BBQs! I'm a huge fan of the easy dinners and lunches because we eat a Paleo/LCHF diet and many of our meals in the summer are BBQ meat with salad. I also love how they can turn entertaining into an outside affair that doesn't have you slaving over a hot stove inside. The only thing to look out for when consuming meat cooked on a high temperature grill surface like a BBQ is HCAs or (heterocyclic amines), which are carcinogenic compounds that can form when meats are grilled.

That is why meat cooked in a water base (think soups, slow cookers, crock pots on the stove top) are a bit better for you as this eliminates the formation of HCAs. There is no need to panic though! You can counteract HCA formation and ingestion with these little tips:

~ More HCAs are formed the longer the meat cooks so having your steak rare or medium rare will have a lot less than a steak well done, for example,

~ Marinate your meat for a few hours beforehand in herbs that are high in antioxidants like rosemary, thyme, garlic and oregano. These spices will drastically reduce the amount of HCAs that form on grilled meat not to mention make your BBQ taste even better. There is no need for measurements, just splash with a high heat compliant oil like macadamia, ghee or butter and chop some fresh herbs up finely and rub all over your meat. You can also use dried herbs but fresh will be more potent in antioxidants. The herbs I mentioned before (rosemary, thyme, garlic and oregano) have actually been proven to inhibit HCA formation so they are the best ones to use when making your marinade.

~ Always serve your BBQ meat with a big fresh salad full of raw veggies like carrot, snow peas, green beans, red onions, radish, beetroot and anything else that takes your fancy as all those antioxidant rich veggies will further counteract any effects of HCAs in your body.   

 4. Love Your Liver

If you find that you do indulge in more of the foods that you know don't work well for you or perhaps you drink more than you usually would, don't beat yourself up! Make up for it by treating your body to some extra cleansing activities or supplements before and after.

~ Ocean swims

~ Long walks, beach jogs, yoga

~ Veggie juices! My fave combo is carrot, beetroot, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger for a good liver shot

~ Take the herb St Mary's Thistle which is a hepatoprotective herb (protects liver) as well as being a heaptorestorative herb (cleanses and restores liver function). It is available in tablet and capsule form from healthfood stores and pharmacies.

~ Lemon juice in water upon rising and again before bed and adding lemon juice to your salad dressings will also be a huge help and support for your liver, gall bladder and digestive function.

5. Be Food Wise 

Think about what foods work best for you and take that info with you wherever you go and wherever you eat. Keep it in mind always. You might stray here and there but keep bringing yourself back to YOUR food philosophy and make the right choices.

If you know you are going somewhere that will have very limited options for you, eat at home beforehand and stay strong. If you are visiting other people's houses, ask beforehand if there is something you can bring and explain what you are eating these days. Most people will always try and accommodate you or be happy that you want to contribute.

At parties, bring along your own raw veggie plate with homemade dips, olives, cheeses, fruit platters. Try and stick to protein and veggie/salads and leave the mountains of crackers and chips alone! At fully catered events, search out the canapes that are seafood, egg and meat based. Leave the pastry type things alone and anything fried as you don't want to be consuming too much unhealthy oil. When eating out at restaurants, choose salads or veggies and protein in whichever way you can get it.

If you like a drink, choose dry white wine (think sauv blancs, semillons) or red wine (champagne is full of sugar) and if drinking spirits, have neat or mix with mineral water and fresh lime or lemon and lots of ice. Beer drinkers - you can choose low carb beers for less sugar content. Try and stick to 1-2 standard drinks as you will feel so much better the next day if you leave it at that. Don't go near the sugary mixer type drinks! Have you seen the colours and sugar content of those things!?

Sweets? Choose fruit salads with fresh cream or really good quality dark chocolate and don't have too much! Also make up some healthy treats that you can take with you along to a party or BBQ and only have one of them. My Hazelnut Bliss Bombs taste like a Ferrero Rocher so they are a great substitute for a sweet treat or dessert and freeze and travel well.

Make some Chia Puddings and serve that as your sweet at your lunch or dinner. Or why not take one with you to your host's party or function where you know you will be served a dessert and have your healthy chia pudding instead so you don't feel as though you are missing out!  

6. Travel

If going on a long flight or car trip, counteract the effects of seated travel with frequent stops (if going by car!) and getting out and stretching your legs and doing a little walk. If on a plane, take walks up and down the aisle every hour and just stand near your seat.

Drink plenty of water and decrease your food intake on days of travel. Generally you will be just sitting all day and not needing extra calories and sitting down all day with a full stomach is not so great for digestion. Keep it light and snack on bliss balls, nuts, fruit, boiled eggs and veggie sticks.

7. Let it Go

Family get togethers can be wonderful for some and harrowing for others. If you fall in the 'others' category there are things you can keep in mind to avoid getting your stress on and your cortisol and adrenaline raised.

Firstly, we are all so different. Your beliefs and your philosophies whether they are based on your diet, child-rearing, health issues or opinion on who has done what to whom in the past are exactly that - YOURS. So you can choose to engage in debate or sit comfortably in the confidence that you are sticking by YOUR beliefs and it doesn't really matter what others think or what others do because at the end of the day, it's not your business.

The only business you have to worry about is keeping yourself happy and believing in what you are doing. You can lead by example but don't be a preacher. We think that what is right for ourselves should be right for everyone else too? Wrong. Whatever anyone is doing at the time is right for them.

No one can hurt you like your loved ones so if there are old wounds in the room, here is another tip. Life isn't happening TO you, it's happening FOR you. Whatever lessons you are supposed to be learning are being taught by the people that are most challenging for you. Conflict can be our greatest teacher and help you grow as a person if you are open to the lesson. These challenges are giving you skills to deal with difficulty and hard situations. The thing to keep in mind is to always choose the path that goes easiest on yourself especially when hurt, anger or judgement is involved. That might mean giving a person that has upset you a wide berth or it might mean that you smile and hug them and leave your issues at the door. You can work out what you need to learn later.

If you are in a place of "I still can't BELIEVE that he/she did/said that to me!!" also remember that by judging what others do, you are also judging yourself. Things might take you by surprise but work on just letting it go. Dwelling on things will make things harder for you, not the person who you believe has wronged you.

Go easy on yourself by letting it go. If you need some extra help with this, my Let it Go blend will come in very handy. I also call it my 'Relationship Blend' as it really helps address the emotions of resentment, guilt, confusion, hurt and grief and most of all releasing what is no good for you.

Life is short. Enjoy yourself without holding onto the drama.  

8. Keep it Moving

There are often times that our usual schedules are thrown into disarray with holidays, Christmas and the extra planning, so don't let your exercise schedule be completely thrown out with all this. Movement and exercise are essential for keeping healthy, keeping our stress levels down and improving our sleep.

So if you are going away, plan in advance what you will do to keep up your exercise to replace what you would usually be doing. For example, I mostly do aqua aerobics, yoga and walking during my week at home but when I'm away I plan ahead to incorporate walking and outdoor activities with the kids for more incidental exercise.

If you are staying at home but feel that you have too many visitors or too many functions to get to which keeps interrupting when you would have exercised, go back and look at point one on this blog. Me time.

Schedule. It. In. It is so important! Use your exercise time as your me time. Everyone will cope for the 30 - 60 mins you give yourself and you will feel so much better afterwards and enjoy everyone's company even more.

9. Sleep

Sleep. This word makes a lot of us sigh with wistful envy. I know just saying 'please get more' is easier said than done but just a reminder of what all that busyness and extra late nights at this time of year will do. Lack of sleep affects your mood, appetite, stress levels and increases the body's ability to gain weight. Yes, less sleep equals easier weight gain.

Why? When we are sleep deprived we are impulsively drawn to higher calorie, sugar and carb-loaded foods and our rational brain tends to switch off allowing us to reach for the quick energy hits that cost us so much more later. Along with this, our stress hormone, cortisol, rises which increases inflammation markers in the body. Inflammation = weight gain.

So all I'm saying is this - watch those late nights, get to bed as early as you can especially if you already have little ones disturbing your sleep during the night. Every extra 30 minutes will help so keep topping up your sleep bank whenever possible. If you have relatives or friends around, don't be afraid to ask them to mind the kids for an hour so you can have a nap. Again, use your me time as nap time if need be!

Wind Down Pack is a great help for this!

10. Handling The Heat

Natural sunscreens, aloe vera, coconut oil, foods to eat that help protect your skin, keeping your exercise to cooler parts of the day, getting into water activities, drinking water, eating cooling foods are all ways to handle the heat. My absolute fave sunscreen at the moment is this one from 123 Nourish Me called Hello Sunshine.

Well, that wraps up the ways I know how to have a healthier, happier Christmas and New Year. I hope you find something useful in this blog that will help you and I would love to hear any tips you have for staying healthy during the festive season.

Please share this blog with anyone you know that might benefit. Let's hope we can all have a beautiful time and come out the other side of the festive season happier and healthier.    

Yours in Health,

Alisha x

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