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Do you feel as if your mind is a bit “fogged up,” your energy not quite where it used to be, and maybe—just maybe—your pants aren’t as comfortable as they once were? I feel you. Trust me, because I am feeling that too.
Now that we have thoroughly gorged ourselves on all of the leftover Halloween candy, turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING, it’s a good time to have a quick reality check, and not let these celebratory indulgences completely derail your fitness and health goals. These winter months can actually be a fantastic time to focus on our internal balance, daily energy, home-cooked meals, sleep quality, cross-training, de-stressing, mental health, and our overall well-being. We don’t need to “throw in the towel” simply because it is the Holiday season.
That sneaky trap certainly isn’t for me, and it doesn’t have to be for you, either!
Staying Healthy: 101
As the weather gets colder and the days continue to become shorter, it is common for our immune systems to be more vulnerable to infection, common colds, bacteria, and nasty viruses. Through simple lifestyle and dietary adjustments, we can strengthen our immunity, and stay well during the colder months.
Our immune system works interconnectedly not only with our digestive and respiratory tract, but also with our lymphatic system. Our lymph is a watery-type fluid that acts as a line of defense against bacteria, microbes, fungus, viruses, and other foreign particles that may enter the body. Since lymphatic fluid must move seamlessly throughout the body, it is extremely important to remain well hydrated to keep the fluid viscous enough to keep this system functioning optimally. Some other fun ways to promote lymphatic drainage is yoga, dry brushing (gently exfoliating the skin using a brush), foam rolling, hot-cold showers, or jumping on a trampoline. Basically, activities that get the blood flowing.
Nutrient deficiencies, specifically in Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, zinc, and selenium can impact our immune system’s ability to respond appropriately and in a timely manner. Simply covering nutritional foundations with a high quality multivitamin can help support a robust immune system, year-round.
Staying Fit: Easier Said Than Done
One of the most challenging aspects of the Holiday season is the fact that tempting and tasty treats await around every corner. From Halloween to Valentines Day, sugar is the cornerstone of every celebration. Sugar consumption can drastically impact your metabolism, because it overwhelms our mitochondria, which are the tiny organelles within our cells that turn our food into energy. Sugar also impacts insulin secretion, and insulin acts as a fat-storing hormone. So, being able to manage sugar intake can help mitigate any unwanted weight fluctuations during the Holidays. This doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the holidays with an indulgent treat here or there, it simply means striving for balance and not over-consuming sugar-filled treats on a daily basis. One easy way to balance blood sugar levels when you do have a tasty holiday treat, is to make sure that you pair it with some protein, fiber, and healthy fats. For example, with pumpkin pie, add some chopped nuts on top. Or with an apple crisp, add unsweetened coconut flakes to the crust and maybe top it with some organic unsweetened whipping cream.
In addition to the fundamentals, here a few easy tricks to keep your health as the primary objective throughout the Holiday season, and to put you ahead come spring climbing season:
- Hydration is Key – Staying adequately hydrated is key in preventing a cold from keeping you down. Aim for drinking your bodyweight in ounces, and use each glass as an opportunity to further boost your health. Squeezing lemon or lime is a great way to increase Vitamin C intake, while adding natural electrolytes. Making hot herbal teas with a little bit of raw unfiltered honey is another way to hydrate, as well as support healthy immune system functioning, as honey supports a healthy microbial and bacterial balance in the body.
- Immune Boosting Herbs – Incorporating herbs into your daily routine—or as needed when you feel like you are fighting “a bug”—can help you maintain health during the winter months. Herbs such as echinacea, elderberry, astragalus, and oil of oregano can all help to improve immune system functioning and a balanced immune response. An amazing product that incorporates these herbs is Immuno-Shield by Irwin Naturals. Garlic, ginger, and black pepper are other immune-boosting herbs that are easy to incorporate culinarily into daily meals. Roasted garlic with butter on a baguette, carrot ginger soup, or a little black pepper on stir-fry vegetables are simple, easy ways to support your body daily.
- Supplementation – It is important to make sure that you are providing all of the building blocks essential to proper immune system functioning. Taking a highly bioavailable multivitamin, Vitamin D3, and a high potency omega-3 fish oil can all aid in strengthening the immune system and encourage a robust immune response. Some of my favorite over-the-counter brands are Natural Factors, Whole Earth & Sea, MegaFood, New Chapter, and Emerald Labs. Even with the healthiest of diets, because of the concern of soil demineralization, toxic exposure, and chronic stress of our daily lives, it can be easy to miss some of the important building blocks necessary for our bodies to thrive.
- Eat Before You Go – With a line-up of social gatherings from October to February, a key in avoiding a complete sugar breakdown is the defensive tactic of eating a healthful meal before you go, one that is high in: protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich vegetables. These simple additions will help to stabilize blood sugar levels, modulate insulin release, and support a healthy metabolism. When we are hungry—or stressed!—we are more likely to succumb to our cravings, especially for sugar and refined carbohydrate rich treats. However, if we arrive already full into a situation where those items are present, we are less likely to overindulge. Here is an example of a balanced breakfast, that incorporates all of those components, and will leave you feeling satiated and full of energy: 2-3 organic pasture-raised eggs or tofu, sauteed onions, bell peppers, and kale, 1 handful of sweet potato hash browns, ½ of an avocado, topped with some cilantro or salsa. Crockpot, or Instant Pot, meals are easy, delicious, and a nutritious solution to always having a quick, balanced lunch or dinner on hand. One of my new favorite recipes this fall is Cauliflower and Butternut Thai Curry by Oh She Glows.
- Bring a Nutritious Dish/Dessert – Of course we can indulge a bit here and there throughout the Holidays. It’s the Holidays, so enjoy! However, if you are concerned that there might not be anything to eat at a party that fits within the realm of your health and fitness goals, then bring your own delicious and balanced dish to share with your friends and family! This way you will have food that aligns with your dietary values that you can enjoy while you are socializing, and I assure you that your friends and loved ones will thank you for improving the state of their health as well. Veggie sticks and hummus, apple slices and organic cheddar, berries and yogurt, dark chocolate covered coconut flakes, and celery sticks with cinnamon nut butter are some of my favorite party go-to’s!
- Movement, Daily – Fresh air and daily movement are imperative to resisting the habitual stagnation that the cold, short winter days often bring. “Particles in motion, stay in motion,” and maintaining movement every day will help improve circulation, increase detoxification, and boost your metabolism during the Holidays. BE CONSISTENT. This will not only help to keep off the weight, but can encourage you to shred pounds well into the New Year! So hit the climbing gym, go for a walk, take a yoga class, challenge a friend or sibling to weekly pull-up goals, dust off your ice skates or fat bike, or grab an old pair of snowshoes and JUST KEEP MOVING.
Consistency is Key
It is perfectly okay to celebrate time with loved ones by trying your friend’s home-made pumpkin pie, or your dad’s newly refined cordon bleu recipe, or wake up on Christmas morning and make fresh cinnamon rolls with your kids. Life is meant to be lived, but, this doesn’t mean that we need to put our health and fitness goals on hold until a “Spring Detox” either.
Being consistent with balanced meals throughout the week, proper hydration, daily movement, and appropriate supplementation can help you to stay healthy and fit through the winter months, so that when it is time for your training (whatever that may be) to start back up again, your body is ready-to-go!
Happy Holidays, and keep on crushing!
Emily Ipsen offers 1:on:1 nutrition consultations, individualized nutrition protocols, supplement reviews and recommendations, nutrition classes, meal plans, recipe ideas, and more! For questions or inquiries, please contact email@example.com, or you may follow Emily on Instagram at ems_nourishedroots.com to message directly.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to treat or diagnose disease in any way. Emily Ipsen is a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, and not a medical doctor. Some foods and supplements may interact with certain medications. Please consult with your physician before you try new products.