We must never ever underestimate how hard it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Keeping the gut happy, especially during holiday time, is hard work. It is one of those things that many people struggle with on a constant basis. Although we can train our bodies to not want the “bad foods”, unhealthy eating still operates almost like an addiction. So no matter how long it has been since your last donut, most of us still have the occasional day when we think a little something naughty would just hit the spot.
Not to mention that on any normal day of the year, there are a million and one things diving in our path coercing us to lose sight. From the sweets on display in the checkout isles to the instant foods that taunt us when we feel there is no time to find something real to eat. And even just the everyday stresses of life. Things like grief or anxiety, make you just want to vanish into a huge milk tart and make it all go away.
Then the holiday season rolls in and it becomes that extra bit harder. With even more delicious foods to offer and even more stress on everyone’s shoulders. Sure, it’s great to celebrate, but those celebrations can come with many expectations too. And at a time of the year that many of us may already be feeling a bit tired.
The Healthier Choice is the Happier Choice
But you know what, just catching ourselves in that weak moment, and deciding to make a healthier choice, will improve our ability to deal with it all. And, in fact, our ability to better enjoy the festivities. I am both unlucky and lucky to have severe reactions to less healthy foods. So even when I do feel weak at the knees for those delicious-smelling mince pies (that I know I can only get over Christmas time) I still cannot have them. Sometimes it makes me want to cry and I wish that I could be one of those who can “cheat” every now and again. But at the end of the day I am grateful for it. Because I get to experience the positive after-effects of healthy eating.
As a result of not surrendering, I often wake up in the mornings feeling more energetic and alive than those around me who indulged. I find myself one of few getting up from the dinner table without a groan and that slightly feeling ill-feeling from overeating. Or better yet, being the only one with a very clear and vibrant memory of the entire celebration from the previous night.
To top it off, it swings both ways. Not only do the good foods keep your gut happy, the bad foods that we are exposed to even more over the holidays actually exacerbate both physical and mental discomfort. Sugar is a great example. Sugar feeds our anxiety, slows our cognitive functions, and heightens cravings. But it’s not just about the sugar. Our gut and other organs take the strain from having to deal with a higher toxin intake. Such as our poor liver which has to filter everything that goes through our body. Toxins such as alcohol, trans fats, or even just the chemical contents of many packaged goods.
A Bad Bacteria Party
Now I am not giving those who have been following less than ideal diets a way out here. But it is especially important for those with a happy gut to not suddenly consume excessive levels of processed sugary foods over the holidays. To a degree, a healthy system has less of a tolerance for junk foods. A little here and there is fine, but try not abruptly double up on your portions and drink many nights in a row. You may shock your system and that little bit of bad gut bacteria hanging around will grow at exponential speeds.
Some Tips to Stay on Track
I sympathize with every single person fighting this battle. Because it’s a hard one. But the bottom line is that you need to remind yourself of the facts. And of what is it that you and your body actually want. We work so hard to pull the blindfold off our eyes, don’t let them be covered again so easily.
Other than that, there are a few tips I can offer to stay on track. Or just help the body cope with whatever extras it may need to deal with.
- Keep your portions to a reasonable size.
- Eat slowly, allow your body to process what you have eaten before opting for more.
- Check-in with your body to see if you are actually hungry before you eat or snack. Don’t eat just because it’s the season to eat or because you feel it is rude to decline.
- Keep yourself hydrated. You not only stave off misunderstood cravings but also help your body perform more effciently on many levels.
- Try a glass of freshly squeezed lemon water in the mornings. Again, this helps keep cravings at bay as well as aids the liver in processing toxins.
- Remember to breathe. Sounds silly but good breathing practices help with oxygenating the blood, toxin release and endorphin production.
- Last, but certainly not least, remember that there are some amazing recipes out there for healthy but still absolutely delicious foods! Here is an article with five of my favourite desserts. As I tried each one I was surprised at how easy they were to make. Many people have the misconception that healthy treats are harder to make. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. And this way, I get to partake in the fun holiday foods but still keep my gut happy.
To be totally honest, from a dietary perspective, I have had a difficult few weeks. Despite having strictly followed a healthy eating regime for over a year. I have just wanted to lock myself in a bakery and indulge, with no one else there to watch. But instead, I researched new things. I learnt about the amazing benefits of lemon water. Reminded myself of how much and how slowly I should be eating in order to not break my hungry/full receptors (again). I learnt how to make sugar-free ice cream at home. And how to make sugar-free, gluten-free puff pastry (which opened up a whole new world of baking to me).
So if I think about it, my cravings drove me to learn new things. In other words, if we can remember what it is we really want, and maybe to a degree distract ourselves with something else, as I did with my research. Then we can not only avoid a bad thing but also turn it into a good thing.