Christmas Gingerbread house

Christmas Survival Guide – Top 5 tips to be healthy and stress free!

…. And start off 2017 feeling great!

With Christmas day just around the corner, and for many people this means Christmas parties, lots of delicious rich foods, battling the crowds at the shopping centres, late nights and the stress of trying to fit everything into your schedule.

While this means a lot of fun, laughter and happiness ….. It can also mean adding on extra kilo’s that you have tried so hard to keep off during the year, and increased stress and anxiety as you try to fit everything in and make sure you have not missed anyone off your Christmas card list!

But with a few simple strategies you can not only eat the over indulgent delicious food but lose a few kilo’s in the process, and keep the stress levels low so that you actually enjoy Christmas and it does not feel like you have run a marathon at the end.

Here are my top 5 tips to survive christmas and start the new year off feeling healthy.

1/ Intermittent fasting

There has been a lot of scientific research into Intermittent Fasting over the past few years, a lot of this research shows that Intermittent fasting can slow down the aging process, reduce cancer risk, reduce diabetes risk and help control blood sugar, improve cellular repair which can help heart and brain health …. If all of this was not enough it is one of the top strategies for losing weight.

I have written about Intermittent Fasting before in this article where I talked about who this strategy of eating works the best for, and who should avoid it. The people who should avoid Intermittent Fasting as a long term strategy is anyone with adrenal or thyroid problems … but anyone can do Intermittent Fasting for a few weeks over Christmas to avoid weight gain with the extra rich foods on offer, or possibly even lose weight.

What is Intermittent Fasting

There are a lot of different variations of Intermittent Fasting and the two most popular versions, and the easiest to implement are the 5:2 diet and the 16-18 hour fast. Work out which version will suit your lifestyle the best and give it a try for a couple of weeks.

The 5:2 diet has many followers and was made famous by Dr. Michael Mosley, it involves eating your normal diet for 5 days of the week without counting any calories, and then on 2 days of the week eating only 500 calories for the day. You can choose any 2 days of the week. and I recommend focusing on lots of salads, vegetables and soups plus some protein to make up the 500 calories. Also include plenty of water on the fasting days.

5:2 diet

I recommend using a free app like Myfitnesspal to track your calories on the two fasting days to keep you on track. Keep the foods pretty simple and once you have done this a couple of times it will get easier as you understand how much 500 calories is to eat.

The 16-18 hour fast is my favourite, and as the name suggests involves fasting for 16-18 hours a day. This means for example that you would only eat between 12 and 6pm if you were choosing the 18 hour fast or 12 and 8pm if you were choosing the 16 hour fast.

There is no need to count calories with this approach, but that does not mean you need to eat junk food for the 6-8 hours, include plenty of good fats, some protein, lots of salads/ vegetables, but feel free to also indulge in some guilt free Christmas treats.

For more information on fasting check out Jimmy Moore’s “Complete guide to fasting”

Christmas Survival Guide - Top 5 tips to be healthy and stress free! 1Christmas Survival Guide - Top 5 tips to be healthy and stress free! 2

2/ Sleep

Sounds simple but sleep is the most underrated magic potion available to improve your health.

There are going to be some late nights around Christmas time, but if you can focus on getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep most nights of the week you will be well on track to survive Christmas.

A lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can affect the body in many ways, including:

  • Poor immune function – who wants to be sick at Christmas time?
  • Poor cognitive function – even two days of lack of sleep has been compared to being drunk
  • High cortisol levels – increases in the stress hormone cortisol leads to weight gain and blood sugar imbalances
  • Affects mood – this can decrease your tolerance levels when battling Christmas crowds or searching for the elusive car park
  • Increases food cravings – another way a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain

Simple tips to improve sleep quality

  • Avoid watching screens, especially phones and computers in the hours before bed as this can suppress melatonin your sleep hormone, and if you must use these devices use some blue light blocking glasses or an app to block blue light.
  • Avoid caffeine after midday, as caffeine later in the day can affect the sleep quality as well as the time it take to fall asleep
  • Exercise is great for so many things, including sleep, but just avoid in the two hours before bed
  • Meditation apps like Headspace or the Zen12 program not only help to destress but improve sleep quality too

Supplements – if you are still struggling to sleep try the NOW foods sleep formula which contains Valerian, Passionflower and GABA to help you get a good night’s sleep

If you are still having trouble sleeping or if you have chronic sleep problems I recommend Alex Fergus’s sleep course.

3/ Spend time in nature

This seems like such a simple thing to do, but it is easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget to surround ourselves with nature. If you live in a city this could be just spending some time each week in the local park, every city I have been to have some amazing parks that can bring you close to nature.

If you’re out in the country or by the beach the possibilities are endless, but it is easy to take for granted and not go out and experience the beauty that nature offers.

The scientific benefits of spending time in nature

  • Restored mental energy – a lack of energy is one of the biggest complaints I see in clinic
  • Reduced stress – important around Christmas time, or anytime for that matter
  • Improved memory- we can all do with some of that
  • Improved vision – studies have shown that being outdoors improves your vision, this is especially true for children as their brains and vision are still developing.

4/ Supplements to help you through the Christmas period, and beyond

Magnesium is a mineral that is deficient in many people, and is in much higher demand when stress is high. Magnesium is a cofactor in many different functions in the body and most people do not get enough from their diet.

I recommend magnesium glycinate which you can buy from Amazon or www.iherb.com

B vitamins are important for energy production and stress relief, it is important to buy only good quality B vitamins which are in the activated form.

I recommend the Thorne Research Basic B vitamins or the Metagenics B vitamins if you’re in Australia (contact me if you would like to know how to order them)

Vitamin D, this is especially important if you are living in the Northern Hemisphere (which I am this Christmas) as there is so much less sun at Christmas time, but even when I was in tropical Queensland I saw many people who were vitamin D deficient as many people spend time indoors or avoiding the sun.

I recommend the Thorne Research Vitamin D/ K2 which you can get from Amazon or www.iherb.com or the Metagenics liquid Vitamin D if your in Australia.

Adaptogenic herbs like Withania (Ashwaghanda), Rhodiola and Relora are beneficial during times of stress, one of my favourite formulas is the Now Foods super cortisol support which you can get from Amazon or www.iherb.com

5/ Relax and have fun!

Christmas is supposed to be about fun, sharing food, giving gifts and helping out other people who maybe less fortunate than ourselves. It is not about getting stressed about having “everything perfect”, buying excessive amounts of presents or having a meltdown if the napkins don’t match the tablecloth (I know some people will disagree with this last one).

Christmas should not be like this!!!

via GIPHY

When we have a lot of expectations of what Christmas should be like, we can get disappointed if things don’t work out the way we would like. This is where meditation and living mindfully, or “in the present moment” can help, it takes practice but having an attitude of gratitude will help you go a long way to having the best Christmas ever.

Make your 2017 a healthy one

While Christmas is all about sharing and having fun, the New Year is often about making changes to your health. New Year’s resolutions are great to make to kickstart the year but often they get left by the wayside if changes don’t occur or things become too difficult.

At Planet Naturopath we take the guess work out of improving your health, by providing comprehensive functional pathology testing, this helps you discover the cause behind your hormonal problems, digestive issues or why you are just feeling so tired all of the time.

Once you get the results of the test you will be given a written report with a step by step action plan to improve your health, plus a consultation via Skype or phone to explain the results and answer any questions you have.

We provide testing options to clients in the U.S, the U.K and Australia. To find out what the best option is for you I recommend scheduling a 30 minute consultation here.

When you go ahead with any testing the consultation fee will be taken off the price of the tests, effectively making the initial consultation free.

About the Author Michael

Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen

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