There’s no getting around it. The holiday season is upon us. In New York, holiday markets have opened up and I’ve started noticing early signs of Christmas decorations. Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I know when I return to Manhattan next Sunday, there will be Christmas trees for sale on street corners. This makes me smile of course.
But isn’t it ironic that during the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ many of us don’t feel our most wonderful? The season lends itself to overindulging, starting with Thanksgiving and followed by a string of holiday parties and gatherings. You’ll be spending time with loved ones and reconnecting with those you might only get to see once or twice a year. Don’t you want to look and feel your best?
Yesterday my yoga teacher mentioned that even though it’s technically still autumn, she was already feeling her “winter body.” I could certainly relate to the term. Once the weather shifts and daylight fades to darkness, I notice changes. Dry skin. Stiffer joints and less flexibility. Things feel less fluid and my body seems to slow down. We tend to stay indoors more and get less exercise. And while delicious, the temptations of stuffing, pies and Christmas cookies can leave us feeling guilty and bloated the day after. So how can we avoid feeling badly about our winter bodies? Well, let’s start with a few basic tips.
Many of us will be traveling this weekend. Stay hydrated! If you are flying this point is extra important; you are more susceptible to dehydration at a higher altitude and airplanes have dry air. Traveling often involves long periods of sitting, which can lead to cramping and clotting – stay hydrated to help prevent these issues. Traveling is also associated with an irregular schedule: you are eating at odd times, getting less sleep, etc. Drink fluids to keep things flowing and keep in mind that sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger – drink regularly and only eat when you truly are hungry (not just bored on a long trip). Also remember that caffeine and alcohol can cause or heighten the effects of dehydration. Combine these two with flying and say hello to dull, lackluster skin upon arrival. Consider swapping your latte for an herbal tea or coconut water. Invest in a chic water bottle from bkr; you’ll be more apt to drink from something attractive!
Let’s be realistic. Traveling to your aunt’s country house for the holidays? I doubt she has a state-of-the-art gym in her basement. Plus, this is a time to gather and be together – do you really want to miss out on these moments because you spent all day sweating at the gym? It’s OK to abandon your regular routine for a few days if plans don’t allow for it. If exercise options are available that's great, but if not you can always take a long walk, alone or with loved ones. It will feel good to get out during daylight and walking can burn more fat calories than other higher intensity workouts, which require quick energy from carbohydrate calories.
Start your mornings with green tea. It’s easy to pack a small tin of loose leaf tea or throw a few tea bags in your purse. Many studies have shown that green tea can increase fat burning and boost your metabolism. Green tea contains flavonoids, plant-based compounds with many health benefits, including antioxidant properties. Super charge these benefits by choosing matcha, the powder form of green tea, made from ground leaves. By drinking matcha, you are ingesting the whole leaf, reaping the benefits of up to 10 cups of brewed tea. Matcha is considered an antioxidant powerhouse, containing more antioxidants than a serving of acai berries. The chlorophyll found in matcha can help detoxify the body by eliminating heavy metals and unwanted chemicals. Matcha also has the unique ability to calm and energize the body simultaneously! L-Theanine, an amino acid found in matcha, can induce alpha waves which promote relaxation in the body while maintaining alertness. L-Theanine prevents many negative side effects often associated with caffeine. Without those side effects, the caffeine in conjunction with the nutrients provided in the powder, can energize the body in a healthy way. When you start your morning with a healthy habit, you might be more motivated to practice healthy habits throughout the day.
New to matcha? You’ll need a bowl and bamboo whisk or frother. Many tea stores sell starter kits; check out this modern matcha kit from Teavana. Matcha can be quite bitter, so if you can’t stomach the taste of matcha alone, you can always add it to your smoothies. I keep two different kinds on hand, one finer ground, high quality matcha for drinking, and one organic kind for smoothies. I also drink Matcha Ira Genmaicha, a brewed tea made from bancha leaves and brown rice coated in matcha, from Harney and Sons almost every morning.
Hopefully you have taken your Hum Nutrition quiz by now! Even if you buy your vitamins from other suppliers, it’s still nice to know what a suggested regimen for your lifestyle is, especially if you don’t have a personal nutritionist. Pack your vitamins when traveling (I usually combine mine in one empty pill bottle or you can invest in a pill organizer) to ensure you will be getting necessary nutrients, since healthy choices aren’t always available on the road or at a party. The simple act of taking vitamins exhibits a conscious effort to maintain good health, which might help you might feel better about yourself.
Triphala is an Ayurvedic formula consisting of three fruits: Haritaki, Amalaki and Bibhitaki. In combination, these fruits are thought to improve digestive health, promote healthy liver function, improve circulation and work as an anti-inflammatory. Triphala is available in pill and capsule forms, which are easy to travel with. You will experience the most positive benefits when taken regularly. If you are interested in introducing Triphala to your routine, the holiday season is a great time to start. Keep your body in balance with this ancient formula.
BE MINDFULLY MERRY
Last but not least, enjoy yourself! Everyone’s entitled to a little indulgence every now and then. And I don’t want you skipping out on festivities for fear of making unhealthy choices. Just make mindful decisions. Are hors d'oeuvres your weakness? Have a handful of nuts before your next cocktail party to take the edge off and opt for shrimp cocktail over mini quiches. Drink plenty of water before meals and plan your indulgences. If buche de noel is your holiday favorite, skip bread at dinner and allow yourself a slice for dessert. Planning will make you feel more in control and less guilty. And you might find that you’ll enjoy your treat more knowing you ‘saved up’ for it.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. May your day be filled with joy and gratitude.