Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hoping to Get the Gift of Restful Sleep Over the Holidays?

Let's make a big assumption for a moment: All year long, you'd sidestepped the hectic life. How's life looking now? Cramped work deadlines, family functions, last-minute mall dashes and "the holiday season" converge in a blind whirl of stress and anxiety. Add inclement weather, the end of daylight savings and a few other negatives, and the health consequence in the overwhelming majority of cases is poor sleep. Here are some of the common culprits of December sleep issues and what you can do to avoid them.

    The cause: thermostatic overload. Cold weather often causes bedtime compensation in the form of thick socks, wool pajamas, and layer upon layer of blankets. All that might hit the spot when you roll into bed, but it raises the risk that you'll struggle to stay asleep as your body temperature progressively passes the comfort zone. The solution: Warm your house to the desired temperature before bedtime – then turn the furnace off for the evening. Don't overdress; if you get warm during the night, it's easier to strip off a blanket than it is to remove an entire layer of clothing.

    The cause: excess fuel. Tossing and turning through another overstuffed night? Holiday feasting can lead to over consumption of carbs, sugar, alcohol - all digestive challenges your body and mind don't need to deal with throughout the night. The solution: Eat, drink and be merry this holiday season, but do so in moderation.

    The cause: mental clock. The 1/2 hour to an hour before you actually fall asleep is an important time. It prepares your body and mind for peaceful rest. Jump into bed after a busy day and expect to doze off for the entire night is idealistic thinking, to say the least, particularly when you're worrying about tomorrow's laundry list of responsibilities. The solution: Take a long bath, read a good book, or just lie in bed reviewing your day. Get all the stress out of your body – and bed – before you turn out the lights.

    The cause: impaired senses. Can't fall asleep – or stay asleep – because of a holiday noise issue? During the season of giving, many people give their neighbors too much joy - in the form of blinding, blinking holiday lights, music and festivities that persist long after you've turned in for the night. The solution: There's no better time to invest in a set of earplugs and an eye mask to help you sleep through the holidays. Black out the light, silence the noise and enjoy a well-deserved night of restorative sleep.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Eating Do's and Don'ts!

So, you've made it through Thanksgiving weekend safe and sound and (hopefully) didn't ruin all the progress you've made in the gym for the past 11 months. Unfortunately, now comes the hard part. Thanksgiving was just the first of the dessert-laden events to round out the year. Company party? Yep, you're going. Dinner with the family? Check. New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and various happenings in between? You've already RSVP'd. Here's how to avoid packing on the pounds this month as the holiday festivities continue with a few do's and don'ts to consider.

Don't eat more than you usually do. If there's one thing you've learned during this process of losing weight and getting in better shape, it's that you're in this for the long haul. The holiday season isn't an excuse to abandon the healthy lifestyle you've cultivated all year, so don't sacrifice your good eating habits now. Fill a plate and eat until you're satisfied. Overeat and you'll end up feeling guilty and sick to your stomach – a bad combination.

Do enjoy a few treats here and there. You may not be eating more than usual, but that doesn't mean you should avoid your favorite treats when they rear their delectable heads this holiday season. Healthy eating is moderate eating; it's just as unhealthy at one extreme vs. the other. Turn December into a dessert month and you'll pay the price; but swear off treats altogether and you'll increase your risk of falling off the wagon.

Don't let a few "bad" meals spoil your month. Let's say you've ignored #1 and #2 above, meaning you've eating too much at a holiday party, and most of what you ate was high-fat, high-sugar, high-carb or all of the above. No problem; don't let a few unhealthy eating moments spoil your long-term health and wellness goals. No matter how busy your holiday season, you have many more days to eat healthy than unhealthy if you prioritize the former over the latter.

Do bring your own dish to the party. You want to stay on the straight and narrow, but dread going to a party and facing table after table of nutrient-deficient, calorie-packed items. What to do? Help out the host and do yourself a service by bringing a healthy side dish or appetizer with you. If nothing else, you'll be able to supplement what's there with your offering to ensuring a healthier meal.

Don't bring home leftovers. We rationalize that we're helping the host out by bringing home a few containers of leftovers, but all we're really doing is ensuring the next day (and the day after that) are just as unhealthy as party day was. Enjoy the meal and then let it go; get back to your healthy ways and let someone else fill their fridge with a week's worth of bad eating habits.

Do think about the big picture. Healthy eating isn't a phase, a step or a short-term goal; it's a lifestyle that pays dividends you can see and feel. You've dedicated 11 months to fulfilling this promise to yourself, so why throw it all away now? Think of the holiday season as just another opportunity to make sensible choices about your health. Before you know it, 2015 will be here and you'll be stronger, fitter and thankful that you stuck to your guns for another year.
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