Dr. Hardick’s Top 5 Healthy Holiday Tips

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The Holiday season is already upon us!

For some, this instinctively triggers fond memories of special family traditions and tasty goodies.

For others, this instinctively triggers fear and anxiety; specifically, for people who are concerned that they will gain the 15 pounds back that they have spent all year losing from LAST holiday season!

Instead of fretting over putting on extra pounds or breaking the personalized food plan your natural health provider has created for you, embrace this year determined to maintain your wellness profile without losing a beat. By following my favorite healthy holiday tips, you’ll be sure stay on the right track.

1. Just Sit Back and Relax

Well, maybe it’s not that easy for some, but the first step to staying healthy this holiday season is to ward off mental and emotional stress in a positive way. Unfortunately, for most, this is simply not the case. The American Psychological Association reports that more than 30% of women and 20% of men comfort eat to manage the stress in their lives, and I would venture to guess that the numbers are even higher during the holidays! (1) Being a particularly stressful time of the year, it is important to take preemptive measures against potential mental duress before it becomes an issue and starts to affect your health.

In addition to seeking out professional support, I recommend:

  • Aromatherapy – focusing on lavender, patchouli, roman chamomile, and citrus oils.
  • Burst Training – more on that below.
  • Chiropractic – Studies have shown that keeping your spine of neurological interference is a great way to ward off negative emotional and mental stress.
  • Fellowship and Positive Communication – avoiding negative, emotionally draining interactions.
  • Meditation and Prayer – focusing on your roots and solidifying your belief systems.
  • Tai Chi and Yoga – releasing negative mental energy and allowing the positive influence gained from these activities to define how you approach the holidays.

2. Burst Training

One of the most effective ways to balance the hormones leptin and ghrelin is to regularly engage in burst training. Influencing your desire to crave unhealthy foods and snacks, ghrelin is a vital component of the food reward cascade that is controlled by the mesolimbic dopaminergic system in your brain. Conversely, known as the “starvation hormone,” leptin’s role is to notify your brain when you’d had enough food. Basically, if these hormones are out of balance, you will:

  • Experience fatigue
  • Battle unhealthy food cravings
  • Tend to snack between meals
  • Not feel “full” when eating
  • Be tempted to overeat
  • Gain weight

Thankfully, high-intensity, short-duration (burst training) exercises can help prevent this from happening. For instance, research from the UK has proven that, “Total ghrelin concentrations declined after [a 30 second sprint] and were significantly lower after 30 min of recovery than they were pre-exercise.” (2) When combined in a 15-20 interval exercise program, you can only wonder what they results can be!

Scientists have also discovered a similar phenomenon with leptin. After evaluating 18 healthy male volunteers who completed low- and high-intensity exercise routines, researchers from Taiwan discovered that a 65% max aerobic capacity workout resulted in “significantly lower” leptin levels than 25% capacity regimen. (3) These results remained stable for 24 and 48 hours, which suggests that high-intensity, short-durations exercise routines can have significant long-term effects on balancing hormone and regulating hunger and weight gain.

To help you stay fit during and promote positive eating habits this holiday season, I recommend a burst training regimen at 3 times per week, starting today!

3. Wake up Early

According a study published in the Journal of Physiology, the best way to maximize your burst training is to exercise first thing in the morning.  Exercising on an empty stomach, it was discovered, helps facilitate adaptations in muscle and improves blood glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity; both of which are main contributors to obesity and developing type 2 diabetes. (4)

Additionally, in the words of Dr. Joerg Huber from the University of Roehamton, his research “findings bear out the consensus that there are morning people and evening people, and that morning people tend to be healthier and happier, as well as having lower body mass indices.” (5) The reasons for this are speculative and center on increased work productivity, regularly eating breakfast, and not skipping meals. As more research is done in this area, our eyes will certainly be opened as to why Benjamin Franklin famously coined the phrase,

4. Bring Your Own Food

To make sure that you stay true to your personalized natural health regimen, it is generally a good idea to bring your own food during family gatherings. I completely understand that this is a touchy subject for many people because it can create an awkward moment or two, and it will definitely raise some eyebrows. But with a little tact, it can be done without offending a family member or friend or bringing too much attention to yourself.

  • Well ahead in advance, call your host or hostess and let them know that you have very specific food sensitivities, are on a special diet, and will be bringing your own dish to the holiday party.
  • Ensure to them that you do not want to burden them with your special food requirements and that you look forward to spending quality time with them.
  • At the party, don’t make a fuss about what you’re doing. Simply eat your food and enjoy the fellowship.
  • Most important of all: if you have certain “weaknesses” – i.e. if pumpkin pie is your Achilles’ heel – then be sure to prepare a healthy version that you can eat that fits your personalized health plan. If you stick to a Paleo-like Maximized Living Advanced Plan, gluten-free diet, for example, then make a vegan, grain-free pumpkin pie. Simple as that!

5. Read Your Labels

When preparing your holiday meals, make sure that you’re feeding your body food that promotes health and wellness. Most importantly, don’t automatically trust what’s on the label! Today, distinctions between “all natural,” and “organic” are relatively useless because there is no regulation of what they really mean. Take, for instance, the USDA distinction for “organic” in multi-ingredient products, which specifies that these food items contain at least 95% organic ingredients. (9) What the other 5% are can be anyone’s guess, but you can be quite certain that they are not good for you.

The moral of the story is if the individual ingredients don’t pass the test, then the product as a whole should be trashed. Essentially, we all need to become avid label readers. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a doctor to win this race. With a little bit of guidance and some time to do research, you’ll be an expert in no time. It is our responsibility to make sure that what we eat and drink are good for us, and if we trust food manufacturers we’ll get ourselves in trouble.

As you prepare for your holiday season this year, just know this: health is a choice. If fact, it’s YOUR choice! You CAN and you WILL be healthier than you were before the holidays started.  Believe this and make it a reality!

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Dr. B.J. Hardick

About Dr. B.J. Hardick

Raised in a holistic family, Dr. B.J. Hardick is an organic food fanatic, green living aficionado, and has spent the majority of his life working in natural health care. In 2009, he wrote his first book, Maximized Living Nutrition Plans, which has now been used professionally in over 500 health clinics. Dr. Hardick regularly blogs healthy recipes and holistic health articles on his own website, DrHardick.com, and speaks to numerous professional and public audiences every year. In his spare time, he invests his keen interest in sustainable living into urban development in his hometown of London, Ontario. Learn More