Have you been working out lately? Naturally, in the year of Covid, my usual exercise haunts are quieter than ever. Treadmills are empty. Pilates reformers are going unused. And, I continue to have a lot more personal space around my yoga mat—as I’ve been doing my downdogs at home.
It’s important, especially this year, to keep on track with your wellness goals. Otherwise, when January 2nd rolls around, and it will, you’ll be crying the “why didn’t I do it” blues. How about instead, we honor your bodies?
If your idea of working out during the holidays is opening a bottle of wine, I have a few ideas on how you can stay healthy during this atypical holiday season.
1. Keep up with your exercise routine but be gentle with yourself.
Yes, you’re busy. We’re all busy. We’re rushing here and running there. We’re decorating this and baking that. It’s a fun distraction from our current tumultuous environment but oh so stressful all at the same time. Even more reason to keep up with a workout routine.
When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, the hormone that regulates your fight or flight response. In the old caveman days when danger was upon us, our adrenal glands would secrete cortisol to help us either fight for our lives or run like hell. And while today we may not be fighting off wild beasts, we are fighting off traffic-jams during supply runs and anyone encroaching on our six-foot “bubble,” and our adrenal glands don’t know the difference. Stress is stress.
When cortisol is released in your body over and over again, it can cause your body to store fat, especially around your stomach. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress.
But here’s the rub.
Too much exercise can actually work against you. And exercise that is too vigorous can cause those adrenal glands to work overtime.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham published the results of a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise stating that women who exercised four times a week met the same fitness goals as those women who exercised six times a week. It seems the women who exercised more often grew to resent it. And you know what happens when you resent something? You feel stressed and your adrenal glands pump out that fat storing hormone, leaving you with five (or ten) extra pounds around your middle.
I have experienced this myself. When I pushed myself to exercise six days a week my body was tired and I felt consumed with guilt if I missed a session. But when I eased off and scheduled four to five quality workouts a week, I was excited to get to it and equally tired and energized when I was finished.
Be sure to choose workouts that you enjoy and that make you feel refreshed. That choice may differ from week to week. Lately, I’ve been enjoying more yoga and less hardcore cardio. Taking pleasure in your body and how you use it goes a long way in keeping those adrenal glands at bay and the extra pounds away.
2. Switch up your food.
Do you eat the same thing all the time? Same protein smoothie for breakfast? Same coffee mid-morning? Same salad for lunch? I’m here to tell you that even a superfood like kale can be bad for you if you eat it too frequently.
Our bodies are designed to eat a variety of foods. But sometimes, in the name of being healthy or staying thin, we eat the same thing, pretty much every day. This is a huge mistake.
When you eat the same foods frequently, your body can develop a sensitivity to them. What does this mean? Your body absorbs less nutrients, which in turn can lead to a litany of problems such as, dull skin and hair, constipation, bloating, headaches, tiredness, and brain fog. These types of sensitivities can also cause your adrenal glands to work overtime because food sensitivities stress the body as much as any external stressors.
I’ve had a food sensitivity test. The results were alarming. They showed that I had a moderate sensitivity to healthy foods such as broccoli, ginger, eggs, tomatoes, and celery. Turns out that in my quest to be healthy, I had been relying too heavily on these foods to fuel my body. I’ve learned to eat what’s fresh seasonally and I make it a goal to eat a wide variety of foods daily.
When you eat this way, you will experience less cravings as your body will be fueled by an abundance of vitamins and minerals, leaving you feeling satiated and at ease. You know what that means? Less temptation to eat Christmas tree shaped sugar cookies!
It will all get done. And, even if it doesn’t, who the F cares? This year is a wash anyway. Being calm and relaxed is one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health. Have a glass of wine. Take an extra long bubble bath. Watch a great movie.
If those things don’t work, I have a couple of go to’s that help me relax. I love taking this magnesium before bed. It brings my energy down a few pegs and helps me sleep peacefully.
I also use Bach’s Rescue Remedy. I carry in my purse and have it ready in case a stressful situation strikes. Sitting in traffic? Squirt. Late for a Zoom meeting? Squirt, squirt. Wondering how you’re going to shop, wrap, bake, and look flawless while doing it all? Squirt, squirt, squirt.
It’s all natural and made of flower essences. Plus, there’s a little alcohol in it. And, a little alcohol never hurt anybody. Squirt, squirt, squirt…squirt, squirt.
So here’s to staying healthy this holiday season. (Squirt. Squirt.)
With resilience, grace, and love,