By Heather Fletcher
Did you know the average American consumes upward of 4,500 calories during one holiday meal? But all of that good food alone is not the only reason our health and wellness can become derailed during the holiday season. Between the added stress of juggling end-of-the-year work with frequent travel, house guests, and a mile-long list of events to attend it is no wonder our bodies can struggle to keep up.
That said, there are plenty of ways to arm yourself to stay healthy this year beyond getting your annual flu shot. Let’s take a look at wellness tips to practice now — you’ll be thanking yourself for doing so later.
Stay active, but don’t stress!
This may seem simple, but when your schedule starts to fill up with work and one holiday commitment after the next, it can get complicated. Luckily, you can easily incorporate a bit of physical activity without sacrificing your time with loved ones. Take a look at your community activities. Usually there are holiday-themed walks that offer a party afterward, making for a fun new holiday tradition with your family and friends. Themed walks often call for creative costumes, so add colorful compression socks to your outfit to make a statement. You will recover faster by improving circulation in your legs.
An added bonus? Exercise is a natural stress reliever, too! Increased stress raises the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can weaken your immune system — making the chances of you catching your little niece’s cold during Thanksgiving dinner much higher. So when you work in even just a little bit of exercise into your holiday plans you’ll be doing both your mind and your body a major favor.
Eager travelers pack airports and roads to see their loved ones for the holidays. With all that travel comes waiting in uncomfortable positions in a small area. Don’t fall victim to economy class syndrome, which is caused by frequent travel in fixed positions leading to increased risk for deep vein thrombosis. To combat this, wear compression socks while traveling. Your legs will feel refreshed, so you can jump right into your holiday activities when you land.
Specialty drinks and plenty of cocktails are par for the course during the holiday season, which means it is more important than ever to balance out that sugar and alcohol with enough water. The human body is 60% water — and the majority of our bodies’ natural functions rely on us getting enough of it on a daily basis (experts recommend at least eight cups a day). If you’re starting to feel run down after a busy stretch of family dinners and holiday events, take a minute to evaluate your water intake. Dehydration has an effect on your energy levels and brain function, so stay hydrated to energize your muscles and keep your mind in the holiday spirit.
The holidays also bring crisp (and sometimes frigid) temperatures, which can often leave your skin dry and cracked. Proper hydration will also keep your skin moisturized and youthful so you look your best for the endless photos taken during the holidays.
Everything in Moderation
Holiday gatherings often come with an epic spread of rich foods, but don’t feel pressured to stuff your stomach like a turkey. Let yourself indulge in a few, but be smart. One easy way to keep things in moderation is to grab a smaller plate. If you have the biggest plate, you're more likely to load up on more food. As a rule of thumb, add veggies first, then protein, and dish out the carbohydrates last. Now you have the least amount of room for the foods that are less nutrient-dense.
When selecting which foods to try, pick the foods you wouldn't typically eat on a weekly basis. Pay attention to how your body responds to the foods you eat. Have you ever woken up the morning after a gathering only to find swollen ankles from all the high-sodium foods? Wear compression socks to bring down the swelling in your legs.
Be in the Moment
The most important thing about the holidays is being around family and friends. So make everything you do about that fellowship and strengthening connections with others. Implementing some of these tricks for staying healthy over the holidays will help keep you in the moment and feeling your best during this special time of year. And when you incorporate your loved ones in a festive walk or sweat-inducing snowball fight, you can double on those mood-boosting benefits.
Heather Fletcher is a lifestyle writer with 10 years of experience in health and wellness. She received her Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology from The University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys everything fitness related and is a self-described foodie.