7 Hacks To Prevent Inflammation In Your Body During The Holidays So You Can Enjoy Them & Feel Good
The holiday season from Halloween through New Year's is synonymous with indulgence, and all of that rich food and drink can throw your body off balance. Because parties, food, drinks, and desserts are coming at you from every direction, you need to know how to prevent inflammation during the holidays. Between the stress of gift giving, family visiting, merry making, and end-of-the-year work stuff your boss "forgot" to tell you about until the middle of December, it's no surprise that you'll find yourself craving those sugar cookies you have in your kitchen. Cookies make everything better, amiright? Also, it's cold outside, you've got the sniffles, and you've earned the right to a little extra comfort food and drink.
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, hot whiskey, hot chocolate, every kind of fudge, cookie, and pie ... um, how is everyone not inflamed like the blueberry girl Violet in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory after the holidays? While a lot of people focus on food, stress is just as likely to cause inflammation. "We know stress affects us on a cellular level, so anything we can do to reduce that stress is going to help in terms of the health of our bodies," Nikki Pearson, personal development coach for Guiding Spirit Learning Solutions, told April Bouchard for Canadian news outlet Okotoks Online. If you, like me, missed that anti-inflammation memo, it's not too late to put some things into practice that will allow you to enjoy the holidays without feeling blah AF come New Year's.
1. You Don't Have To Do All The Things
You know what does not make one feel merry and bright? Over-committing yourself during the holidays. If you're going to some type of holiday dinner, party, or punishment every single night, you're probably going to feel hella stressed, and stress leads to inflammation. A good litmus test is, if it fills your heart with dread, don't go. You are empowered to say no and put your health first. In fact, make it your gift to yourself this holiday season.
2. Chill On The "Cheers"
Indulging in a little extra merrymaking is one way to get through the holidays. However, the side effects of this type of coping mechanism include hangovers and inflammation. If you're drinking more to get through your hectic holiday schedule, remember that declining that second peppermint martini means you won't feel like you've been run over by a reindeer the next day.
"Alcohol is another cause of inflammation and over the holidays we tend to consume a little more then normal. Alcohol is not only high in sugar but it is also hard on your liver," Candy Bauer wrote on Simply Jaide. If you do have a packed holiday party schedule, opt for water with lemon or sparkling water instead of cocktails.
3. If You Can't Pronounce Everything In It, Don't Eat It
One way to enjoy everything you love during the holidays without getting inflamed is by choosing to indulge in quality foods, snacks, and drinks. For example, Aunt Irma's from-scratch cookies made with raw sugar and homemade frosting are much better for you than diving head first into a box of store-bought cookies made with things you need two dictionaries and an encyclopedia to decipher.
"Processed or prepared foods are probably the worst ones on the list. This includes fast food, foods in boxes, and basically anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. If it does not go bad it is bad for your body and will definitely cause some inflammation response. Avoid holiday favorites that come in a box, like stuffing," Bauer wrote. If you really want some stuffing, make it yourself. After all, that boxed stuff actually does taste kind of like a box.
4. Move Your Body
No one likes to feel like they're depriving themselves, especially during the holidays. If you know you're going to eat and drink all of the things, make sure you're adding some exercise into the mix to help keep your system balanced. "Find time to move your body throughout the day," Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC wrote for Seventh Generation's blog.
"If you have a sedentary job find ways to get up and move throughout the day — stand up or walk around the office during phone calls, advocate for movement during meetings, go to the printer or fax machine whenever able, take a walk during lunch and breaks, use stairs versus elevator, etc."
5. Don't Skimp On Sleep
Stress, processed food, staying sedentary, and lack of sleep is a prescription for inflammation. Just having one of these things out of balance can wreak havoc on your body. If your entire system is out of whack, you probably won't feel much like celebrating come New Year's. This is why it's important to make sure you're getting enough sleep — no less than eight hours a night.
6. Connect With Others IRL
OK, this may seem at odds with the "just say no" advice. However, there is a big difference between a genuine in-person connection and the stress of a disconnected holiday party. You're also likely wondering what this has to do with reducing inflammation, and the answer is a lot. "The 'love hormone' oxytocin (released during sex, cuddling, massage, holding hands, and emotionally connecting) is a natural anti-inflammatory [while] the experience of loneliness is pro-inflammatory," Kolman explained.
7. Make Yourself A Priority
When you learn to say no, commit to fueling your body with real foods, limit your alcohol intake, move your body, and get enough sleep, what you're actually doing is making yourself your top priority. Because if you're not good to yourself, you're no good to anyone else. That being said, no one is perfect. I had two Kit-Kats for lunch, and "no" is a word I am still learning. The key is trying to do little things each day to put yourself first. Eventually, taking care of yourself will become natural (I hope).