The holidays are here and for most of us they come with added physical and emotional stress, weight gain, compromised health, and a colds and flu season. With the shorter daylight hours, many people suffer sleep problems, low energy, and even depression. This is a vicious cycle that I see each year, where a person’s health, fitness, and overall quality of life suffers from October through March and then swings back (hopefully) into positive territory over the spring and summer months – year and year again.
I’m not trying to gloom-and-doom the holidays. This time of year can bring families together and for many this season holds special spiritual significance. The good news is that you really don’t need to go too far out of your comfort zone to continue to stay healthy this winter.
Imagine going through the holiday season and shortened winter days feeling full of energy, losing some weight, (or maintaining your healthy weight), and feeling strong and healthy, (or only catching a quick common cold). That would be pretty awesome I’d say. And even better is once April comes you’re already way ahead of the game – you don’t need to spend the next several months recovering your health and rebuilding lost fitness. Instead you could focus on progressing your levels of health and fitness. That’s what I’d call a kick-ass spring and summer but for it to happen you need to start now – today, not after Thanksgiving. Here are some simple tips, all of which I’ve discussed before, perhaps a refresher for some and new info for others as topics become buried in this site.
Tips For A Healthy Holiday Season
- Diet: Follow a Paleo-Type Diet. It’s really not that hard once you get past your cravings (for sugars) after the initial two to three weeks. Oh, and don’t think the reason you’re fatigued and want to pass out after Thanksgiving dinner is from the tryptophan in the turkey. That’s a huge myth.
- Sleep: Our hens (now 21 of them) which live in a very nice coop about fifteen feet from our house go to bed around 5pm in the winter. In the summer they’re out eating bugs in the yard until 8pm, sometimes later. Chickens aren’t very smart creatures, but their brains are wise enough to know the change in the weather and sunlight and its affect on circadian rhythm. Shorter days mean you should go to bed earlier – not at 5pm but you should shoot for 10pm and give yourself a one hour buffer of 11pm max. Sleeping from 11pm until 7am is much healthier for your body, in regards to tissue repair, hormone and immune function, and pretty much your entire well-being, than sleeping from 1am until 9am. It’s not just about the number of hours, but the time you sleep. If you’re shutting the lights out after midnight you’re simply asking for a host of health problems. Sleep well to stay healthy and regain health.
- Exercise: There is so much to say about this one. You can find basic exercise info here if you’re unsure what to do first, or head over to and learn a lot more. If you’re already a well conditioned athlete, the winter is a great time to recover a bit but not completely lose all fitness; build your aerobic base! If you’re not into regular exercise then NOW is a perfect time to start – you’ll be five months ahead of the game come April.
- Health and Nutrition: If you’re unsure whether you’re going to get the flu shot this year or you’re certain you want to, read this first. There are options, and not just one vaccine to choose from. Educate yourself. And remember for most parts of the world you’re already in your vitamin D winter, so consider supplementing, or better yet, now is a great time to have your D level checked.
- Manage your stress levels: This may be easier said than done but reconsider going to parties or gatherings every weekend night for the next six weeks. Those long nights and poor dietary choices, (and often high alcohol consumption), add up and can quickly take their toll on your health and weight. Reconsider holiday travel plans too, especially if you’re just going somewhere to please someone else and feel obligated to make your appearance. If gift buying is too stressful on your finances and your health, consider some other holiday-giving tradition instead.
So get started and good luck. Remember – it’s not about everything in moderation, but everything healthy in moderation.