12 days of wellness: How to make your health a priority this holiday season

Christmas sport composition with dumbbells, red gift box, christmas tree
This holiday season, put yourself first. Give yourself the gift of wellness

As the end of the year quickly approaches, it can get harder and harder to commit to a healthy lifestyle. With so much to do for everyone else at this time of year, we often forget to take care of ourselves. As commendable as it is to take care of your loved ones first, if you aren’t healthy then you can’t accomplish the task.

This holiday season, put yourself first. Give yourself the gift of wellness.

Follow the tips below for a healthier, more energized holiday season. To get started, pick one of the tips, master it, and then move on to the next. By breaking it down into smaller, more manageable goals, you are much more likely to succeed.

1.  Prioritize nutrition. Nutrition is the single most important thing in creating a healthier lifestyle. Make time for grocery shopping, cooking, meal prep, and keeping a food journal.

2.  Change your eating habits. You need to start by getting in touch with yourself and your relationship with food. If you establish WHY you have difficulties maintaining healthy eating habits (stress, pleasure etc..) it will make it easier to change them. Remember you can’t make up for bad nutrition with exercise.

3.  Reduce your caloric intake. Spread your calories out throughout the day.

4.  Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Aim to eat a small meals every 3 to 4 hours.

5.  Cut the C.R.A.P.

  • “C” is for caffeine and cola
  • “R” is for refined foods (i.e. white flour and white rice)
  • “A” is for additives and alcohol
  • “P” is for processed and pasteurized dairy

6.  Drink more water. Water is a natural appetite suppressant and it also helps the body break down stored fat, which is important when trying to shed extra pounds. By drinking water with meals, it will help satisfy your hunger and enable you to get your daily requirements at the same time. Try to drink half of your body weight in ounces per day (i.e. a 170-pound man should consume 85 ounces of water daily).

7.  Don’t skip breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast of any kind can lead to more satiety and less overeating throughout the day. Studies have shown that people who eat a high-protein breakfast consume about 200 calories less in evening snacking. A protein-rich breakfast also reduces the brain signals controlling food desires, even many hours after breakfast.

8.  Try resistance training. Effective resistance training starts with picking the right exercises. The best exercises are the ones that include many muscles, also known as compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, push-ups, planks and dumbbell rows.

9.  And cardiovascular training. Aim for 2-3 times per week for at least 20-30 minutes. If you do resistance and cardio training on the same day, ALWAYS do resistance training first then finish with cardiovascular training. The body will burn more fat using this method! You can also try using a more intense style of training called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You can do this by alternating between periods of high intensity followed by low intensity. Example: Run for 30 seconds and rest for 60 to 90 seconds, alternating back and forth for 20-30 minutes.

10.  Drink your protein shake. In a new study published online in the Journal of Applied Physiology researchers have found that using a protein blend of soy, casein and whey post-workout prolongs the delivery of select amino acids to the muscle for an hour longer than using whey alone which suggests even more prolonged muscle building effects. The study also demonstrates that consuming a soy-dairy blend leads to a steady rise in amino acids, the building blocks of muscle.

11.  Let your body recover. Stress is a killer.. Make it part of your daily routine to unplug and shut down from work. Use exercise as a stress release techinque and ask your family to join you. Being active with your family will create valuable bonding time and will also teach your children great habits.

12.  Get some sleep. The recommend amount is seven to eight hours per night. That may sound like a lot but if you establish better routines, it will make it easier to get to sleep earlier.

Bill Tokmajian, CSCS, is the owner of Motivate Fitness in Ambler, Pa.