We love these mindful, practical tips from nutritionist, chef and reiki master, Serena Poon, who creates nutritional plans everyone from Kerry Washington to Jerry Bruckheimer…

The holidays can be full of joy, love, and delicious food and they can also bring about stress, old habits and exhaustion. Pair this year’s holiday season with a global pandemic, all of the added tension of 2020 and there is potential for holiday emotions to unintentionally spiral out of control.

To maintain balance, it is very important to head into the holidays this year with a mindful understanding of your unique habits, needs, and even your triggers. Take some time before attending any holiday event to really understand and connect with your body. Which foods make you feel alive and radiant, and which make you feel lethargic and unwell? Make it a priority to eat more of the former. That being said, if your favorite holiday pie tends to give you a tummy ache, you don’t necessarily have to avoid it, but maybe remember to eat a smaller portion or balance out the pie with a plate full of vegetables, whole grains and proteins.

While the most important thing for staying healthy and happy over the holidays is to listen to your own body, there are a few things that I commonly see that can also adversely affect your overall energy and mood during the holiday season.

Forgetting to hydrate With eggnog, apple cider, wine, and festive teas on the menu, you might feel like you are getting your fair share of liquids. Don’t forget that drinks that contain sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can actually be dehydrating. Fill up a couple of bottles of filtered water every day and finish them before the day is over. You can even add some fruit essence, or sparkling water to keep things interesting. Research has shown that hydration supports multiple components of health, including cognitive performance, digestion, kidney function, heart function, disease prevention, skin health, just to name a few. 

Foregoing regular meals Holiday meals might be full of all of your favorite rich foods, but it’s still important to continue to eat colorful meals full of protein, fiber, and veggies throughout the holidays. These foods will keep you feeling balanced and energized and will support your immune function. A lot of people have a tendency to skip meals leading up to, or after a big holiday dinner, but doing this can often throw off your metabolism and hunger signals. Unless your body is accustomed to intermittent fasting, sometimes the unplanned skipped meals can give undesired results.

Some studies have found that skipping breakfast can increase overall daily glucose and impair insulin response, setting the stage for diabetic conditions. Plan to eat snack size meals full of wholesome foods (think of the rainbow!) before a big meal to help you stay balanced. Give yourself a boost with nourishing snacks like a smoothie packed with leafy greens, berries, nut butter or a clean plant-based protein like the wellness supplement I created, Just Add Water®.  It contains superfoods, adaptogenic herbs, power greens, essential daily vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics, dietary enzymes, and amino acids, helping you to feel satisfied and energized.

Drinking alcohol to try to relax It is common for people to turn to alcohol at the end of the day or during stressful times to help them relax. This might seem to work well at first, but alcohol can also disrupt sleep patterns, affect digestion, alter cognition and more. I’ve found that a lot of people respond well to swapping out some of their nightly glasses of wine for a high-quality full-spectrum CBD product to support balance, relaxation and stress relief. As research continues to reveal evidence of the benefits, studies have shown CBD to be promising in addressing occasional stress and helping with better sleep. 

Eating a lot of sugar With the holidays come sweet treats. Unless you have existing health concerns, you don’t need to completely avoid the special occasion holiday sweets, but do try to consume sugary foods in moderation and balance them out with more grounding foods. While the really detrimental effects of sugar come from regular overconsumption, sugary foods can still send your energy into a tailspin. Researchers have found that sugar consumption actually causes fatigue and that high sugar consumption can lead to lighter and less restorative sleep.

Eating mindlessly or too quickly Whether it’s built up stress or just overall excitement about the holiday table spread, it’s super common to sit down and eat your favorite foods as quickly as possible. This can be disruptive for your digestion and your overall energy levels. Your digestive system needs time to signal to your body that you’re full and studies have shown that eating slowly increases feelings of satiety. Try to eat slowly and mindfully. Before eating, express gratitude for the food on your plate and for the energy and nourishment your meal will supply to your body. As you take bites, pay attention to how the flavors and textures feel in your mouth. Take mindful moments to pause from eating and connect with the other people at your table.

Putting yourself down for eating too much This is a very common mentality that often delivers emotions that do not serve us. Have you ever eaten a meal and then felt guilt or shame for how much you ate or for breaking some of your own food rules? This type of self-talk can lead us to do more harm than good.

In terms of energy levels, negative self-talk can cause feelings of tiredness and low motivation. If left unchecked negative self-talk may even lead to depression and anxiety. Instead, try to extend yourself and your body, love, and grace. If you feel bloated or sick after a meal, take a breather. Consider expressing gratitude for the robust meal that you had the opportunity to enjoy and then carry on with your day. If something, in particular, made you feel 

Skipping exercise Over the holidays it might be easy to let your workout program slide. While rest is an absolute necessity for overall health, it’s still important to move your body, even gently, throughout the holidays. Aside from its physical benefits, exercise can also boost your mood, energy, and stamina, and reduce fatigue. A simple, light yoga class, a walk through your neighborhood, or a dance around your living room can keep you feeling energized during the holidays. 

Take note of these tips, but just be mindful and don’t stress about it too much. In order to keep your energy balanced throughout the holidays, make sure to drink plenty of water, listen to your body, keep eating vegetables and wholesome foods, and really let yourself find and appreciate the joyful moments that the season can hold.

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