Oh Christmas…joyful in parts but usually your motherload ends up getting pushed to its limits in pursuit of ensuring the festivities rock n roll as smoothly as possible.
BUT it doesn’t have to be this way! I’m going to show you how you can get into the Christmas spirit and have fun whilst feeling energised and calm!
The back story
Around 8 years ago I decided, as you do, to adopt an ‘Anti-Christmas’ approach to the festive season. Not in the Grinch sense, I’ve grown to like Christmas, but in the ‘anti-inflammatory sense’. When I embarked on my 3-year Nutritional Therapy diploma with the college of Naturopathic medicine in 2012, everything changed for me.
I realised I had the power to make myself feel AMAZING through the foods that I eat which, in the same chew, had the power to make me feel pretty sh*tty, too. And it was always the Christmas period where things seemed to hit a crescendo! Too much sugar, booze, roast potatoes, Cadbury’s heroes and the endless, seemingly unavoidable temptation. Not to mention the added heightened emotion and pressure Christmas can present.
I remember hitting January feeling horrible. My skin was blotchy, I had a beer belly, I felt like I was carrying a layer of extra padding (inflammation), I was foggy headed (and this was before motherhood), I was knackered, my spiritual bank account was rinsed and, quite frankly, I felt depressed and uncomfortable in my own skin.
Then in January I would hit the gym hard and push myself to my limits, not realising at the time that the pressure and over-exercising was in fact adding to my load. Sounds familiar? Too many of us get caught in the yo-yo pattern and mindset of play hard, work hard, indulge, detox, veg out, exercise. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
And although on reflection, the effects of this fairly self-destructive pattern was felt at Christmas (and after), I realised it was a relationship with myself and food that had run through my life.
Did it have to be all or nothing? These behaviours were not supporting my goals of feeling balanced, calm and energised after all.
Fast forward to Christmas 2020
There’s no denying that Christmas 2020 will be different from other years and what I’m hearing from my awesome mother clients is that what’s most important to you this year is spending time with your family, playing, going for walks, eating good food, taking the pressure off and just simply going with the flow.
And the one thing they all want that enables this to happen with more ease and enjoyment is ENERGY! The two biggest drains on your energy at Christmas, that are well within your hands to change are:
- Emotional load & your inner conflict
And the two always seem to come together. If you are wanting to have a calmer, happier more energised Christmas minus the brain fog, bloating, fatigue and heightened emotional roller coaster, then here is ONE thing to focus on that can impact both your physical and emotional health.
So what anti-inflammatory practical steps can you take to go from Christmas chaos and overwhelm to Christmas calm and Energised?
Christmas is a festival of temptation and that’s ok. We’ve all deserved a bit of merriment, especially after a year like 2020. Having an anti-inflammatory mindset when it comes to festivities is not to strive for perfection and stop yourself from enjoying the moment but rather shifting your focus to honour your health and energy this time of year.
And there are a few simple tips and swaps I have up my sleeve that I’d love to share with you here. Don’t forget that inflammation can also be driven by underlying food intolerances which we may not even be aware of.
Support your digestion
Chew – chewing is so important when it comes to our digestive health. Not only does it break down your food into manageable pieces for your body to digest but it also helps to release enzyme-rich saliva, an additional helping hand for your digestive wellness. Interesting fact – when you alternate your chewing, chew on each side of your mouth, you put your body into a more relaxed, rest and digest state.
Breathe – mealtimes can be hectic and stressful. Remember to breathe. This helps the brain tell the body it’s not under attack so that digesting processes can operate efficiently.
Eat natural enzymes – enzymes are essential for the breakdown and absorption of your nutrients. Apple cider vinegar or lemon in water before and after meals can be helpful. If you don’t fancy that, try eating a couple of chunks of fresh pineapple or papaya before meals. Kids usually like this!
Leaving a long fasting window of at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast can help to control inflammation. Eat dinner as early as you can and push breakfast a bit later into the day to give your body a chance to digest and heal. Leaving longer gaps of at least 3.5-4 hours between meals during the day also allows your migrating motor complex to carry out a few important cleaning and housekeeping jobs to keep inflammation in check. Aim for breakfast, lunch and dinner only and avoid snacking – grazing is an inflammatory wildfire!
Making sure a meal contains a balanced amount of nutrients is another important factor in managing inflammation. Not only does a balanced late contain anti-inflammatory vegetables, protein and healthy fats but the composition of foods will help to support healthy blood sugar levels. Not sure how to create a balanced plate? Download my handy printable guide here.
Focus on anti-inflammatory foods such as brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, good quality protein, omega 3 from oily fish, nuts or seeds, and anti-inflammatory superfoods such as turmeric, ginger and dark leafy greens.
Drink as much water as you can and then some more. Water carries waste around the body and helps to excrete it efficiently. Aim for at least 1-1.5 litres of clean filter water a day. And remember – if you increase your fibre intake, make sure you increase your water intake too.
Herbal tea following a meal is a great way to not only add to your fluid intake but also aid your digestion. Warm water can help to speed up digestion while teas including turmeric and ginger have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Note that caffeinated tea and coffee are diuretic and don’t count towards your daily fluid intake.
Eat the rainbow
Fruits and vegetables of different colours contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals and ANTIOXIDANTS which can have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Aim to eat three different colours of vegetables or fruits with every meal. That could be a rainbow smoothie with banana, berries and spinach for breakfast, a colourful soup or rainbow salad or Buddha bowl for lunch and don’t forget to add plenty of veg to your Christmas dinner! This is an opportunity not to be missed. Include Cruciferous vegetables, in particular broccoli, is great for reducing inflammation!
Did you know that to maximise the anti-oxidant and healthy aging effects of the health promoting phytochemicals found in fruit and veg, you actually need to be aiming for 9 portions per day with only 3 of them being fruit!
A little headspace
Christmas can be full on with little time just to slow down and be – yoga and breathing exercises can play a key part in switching your mind and body to a more relaxed state. Stop regularly throughout the day and take three slow and deep breaths to ground yourself and be present in the moment.
2-to-1 breathing is a great tool to calm your nervous system down. Simply take a deep breath in, counting as you do, then aim to make the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation. Only a few repetitions of this breathing technique have shown to slow our heart rate, decrease blood pressure and relax the muscles.
For some more breathing tips and tricks check out James Nestor on the ‘Feel better, live more’ podcast
Wishing you all a very merry (and anti-inflammatory) Christmas!