It’s 28 degrees F and the first winter storm is on its way here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With the exception of the below freezing temps and early sunsets, I love this time of year.
Halloween has come and gone, leaving behind the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the holiday season is filled with excitement, it is often the worst time of the year for people’s health.
Overindulgence in alcohol, sweets and calorie dense meals is typical.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can still enjoy the holidays without entering the New Year with an extra 10 pounds to lose and blood work that makes your doctor cringe.
Instead of tackling the list of 101 things you could do to make this holiday season healthy, just do three. Do these three consistently and you will survive the holiday season without sabotaging your health.
1. Weight Train, Don’t Just Train with Weights
If you read about the importance of exercise during the holidays elsewhere, you’ll probably find recommendations to walk, run, jog or do some other form of cardio.
The trouble is, aerobic exercise, or cardio, does little to help you build muscle. In fact, it can cause your body to lose muscle when taken to excess, and when you don’t eat enough protein.
That’s not to say that cardio is without benefit. But we’re talking about the most important choices you can make during the holidays, to ward off the effects of over-indulging.
In this case, if it comes down to one or the other, strength training is the way to go.
I’m a big believer in strength training. It’s even more important when your dietary choices are a little more “loose” than normal.
Strength training helps you develop type II muscle, which actually store carbohydrates. The more of this muscle you have, the more space you have to store carbohydrate, as opposed to it converting to fat and getting stored on your hips, thighs and belly.
This isn’t an excuse to overindulge in carbohydrates, but it helps when you have a little more than normal.
Remember, there’s a difference between exercising with weights, and actually weight training. I’m talking about full body workouts with dumbbells, barbells and other resistance equipment that pushes you to your limits. No pink dumbbells or Jazzercizing here.
No matter your age or athletic level, you can do strength training.
My advice is to hire a good personal trainer to keep you accountable and to make sure your program is appropriate. I started working with a personal trainer six months ago. It’s one of the best investments I’ve made in myself this year.
2. Plan Healthier Menus
I’ve only included recipes on Healthy Living How To that my family would love to eat on any given day. Provided the recipes are followed as written, I know they could be helpful in planning out a healthy holiday dinner or party menu.
Some easy, low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, holiday-like recipes include:
- 7-Spice Turkey Pumpkin Soup
- Cinnamon Braised Beef
- Italian Meatballs with Red Sauce
- Sausage and Apple Stuffing
- Cranberry “Corn” Bread Muffins
- Easy Cranberry Sauce
- Spritz Cookies
- Pumpkin Bars
There are a lot of other goodies in the recipe section as well. If you care about your friends and family, why not serve them something healthier this year?
3. Get More Sleep
I know it isn’t always easy, but it’s SO important to get enough sleep. I even struggle with this myself sometimes. It takes discipline to go to bed at a reasonable time every night.
Just one night of insufficient sleep makes the body more insulin resistant. Eating excess carbs the next day has an even worse effect on the body than it normally would.
Insufficient sleep also increases cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods, and reduces willpower. When you’re faced with the plate of cookies at work, you’re more likely to give in.
Insufficient sleep hampers your immune system. Getting sick during the holidays is no fun at all. It also makes it harder to recover from exercise, and build the muscle that helps store the extra carbohydrates you might be eating during this time.
Seven hours of sleep every night is a must. Eight hours is even better.
As the holidays are a time of giving thanks, I want to especially thank my loyal readers for following along, and staying connected even though I’ve been less consistent with my blogging this year.
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