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10 Tips for your Healthiest Holiday

My goal in writing this column isn’t to be some skinny bitch telling people what they should and should not be eating and that they need to workout more. My goal is to reach out, inspire and motivate people to become more active, be a little healthier, have fun doing it, all while living their best life. We can ALL be a little bit healthier. I’d also like to share some awesome recipes and make some people laugh along the way too.

So, with the holidays underway and a whole week after Thanksgiving of eating pumpkin pie for breakfast with my coffee behind me,…(tell me I’m not the only one! Can I get a show of hands? Or how about my peeps just dipping the spoon into the pie in the fridge. Anyone?)…The struggle is real my friends, that’s why I thought I’d share a few tricks of the trade to help you in navigating your way through the holidays.


1. GIVE. Just as the John Lennon and Yoko Ono song says…”And so this is Christmas, And what have you done? Another year over, A new one just begun…” As this year comes to a close, take a moment to pause and look back on what you have done for others this year. Open up you heart. What more could you still do? What more could you give? Don’t have extra money to give? Donate. Volunteer. Give your time. Share a special skill. Spare a little extra change if you can. I once heard the megastar PitBull say in concert…”Money can bring you happiness…When you give it away.” Whether it’s tossing a little extra money to the next Santa Claus you see ringing a bell, or a nice tip to an unexpecting server at your next meal out, or even a donation to the animal shelter. Try giving, and just see how you feel.

2. MOVE. Ok, I’m a personal trainer, you knew this one was coming. It’s an important one, which is why it’s number 2. So let me get all personal trainer on you for just a minute. All cardio is not created equal. All cardio should not have to feel like work or be mundane. The best way to do cardio is to find a type that doesn’t feel like work to you. Make it fun. Help a neighbor with shoveling. Take a child ice-skating. Mix it up, do something you don’t normally do. Snowshoe, go cross country skiing, just get active. Dance, as often as you can. Plan a holiday 5-K with your family. Despite the cold temperatures, you’ll be sure to have some good laughs. I mean, how great was it for me to watch my son 3 years ago (when he was 20) decide he was going to race the high-school track-team to the finish line in my old hometown in New Hampshire. It was below zero, if you’ve ever been to NH in the winter, you know what brutally cold means… Anyway, he pushed himself so hard to keep up with the highschoolers, although i don’t think they knew he was racing them. How proud was I to see my boy puking at the finish line because he had literally given it his all. If 5-Ks aren’t your thing, get creative. Go for a walk with family members. Walk someones dog, or your own. Dogs are cardio machines with fur!!! Whatever form of exercise you love, do more of it. With that said, don’t wait until January 1st to set your New Year’s goal. Be thinking about it now and get a jumpstart by getting started on it.

3. INDULGE. Savor without guilt, all of the things that you want to. But here’s the thing, BE SELECTIVE. Be strategic. Choose the things that are seasonal!!! Be picky and eat the things you really love. Scan the appetizers and the buffet table. Hint: You can eat cheese cubes or chips and dip all year long at any party. Don’t waste your calories there. Choose the things that are special to this time of year, like Dad’s special Kahlua Frappes (I bet you want that recipe!!) Or what about that Beaujolais Nouveau you’ve waited the last 11 months for!! Or maybe you’re more of an ice-cream person and you’re all about going down to PanHandle Cone and Coffee to experience the new holiday flavors. I mean, have you tried the Cranberry-Goat-Cheesecake?! The man’s a genius!! Look around, Take your time, enjoy the flavors, textures and smells and the company of who you’re sharing these foods with. Take and post pics of your holiday food, but remember to put that phone down too and be truly present and in the moment.

4. DRINK. And be merry. First and foremost, when I say drink, I mean stay hydrated. With water! For starters, make sure you are getting at least half your body weight in ounces of water. (A 150 pound woman should be getting at least 75 ounces/ of water per day) And that’s minimum. Water is the key to living an energized life, with vitality. If you love alcohol, and yes i know a lot of us do; drink 1-2 glasses of water between alcoholic beverages. If nothing else, it will help you avoid the hangover. Drink coconut water before bed after a late night of partying. Choose your beverages wisely. Order drinks on the rocks, melting ice is your friend and creates more liquid. Use seltzer water or fresh squeezed lemon or lime as mixers to slash extra calories. Experiment with mocktails. Drink tea, whenever possible. Dr. Oz says that peppermint tea is known to help relieve headaches. It’s also perfect this time of year. And above all, don’t drink and drive. Losing your license or killing someone else's loved one because of poor judgement is a total party foul. Be smart. Drink responsibly or just don’t. Please.

5. BAKE. Is it even Christmas without holiday baking? Make the cookies. Decorate the cookies. Share the cookies. But, be mindful. Too much sugar can and will break down your immune system. If you get too caught up in tasting everything, licking the batter, eating raw cookie dough and eating all the broken cookies- you may just wake up sick not too soon after. And who wants to be sick and miss the annual work party?! Try baking with half the sugar. Not just for your waistline, but to be on your best defense from colds. Find healthier alternatives, like swapping applesauce into recipes that call for oil. Consider baking sugar-free, gluten-free or organic cookies this year. There’s a reason these baked goods are trending. More and more people are becoming health conscious. And chances are, people will appreciate these thoughtful treats.

6. TRAVEL. Life is short. You don’t know when the last time you’ll see those relatives will be. Make the trip. Visit friends and family but don’t throw away your healthy habits and the practices of who you’ve become. If flying or driving, pack healthy snacks like organic apples and your favorite protein bars. If you regularly exercise and find yourself away from your favorite spin class for the week, be brave. Venture out in a new place and take a class. Try something different. Get out of your comfort zone, it’s good for you. See what people are doing in other communities for their health, it’s inspiring. Accompany a family member to their gym or workout class. Same goes if you have relatives staying with you. Find out ahead of time what your gym charges for a guest pass. Let houseguests know you plan to go to the gym, or yoga class, and invite them. Then leave it up to them if they want to join you. Make a plan, schedule those workouts and no excuses. Working out is one of the greatest forms of self-care we can do for ourselves, especially in a time where we are spread thin and have so much to do for others. Love and Take care of your self, so you can actively love and take care of those around you.

7. ENTERTAIN. Throw a party or gathering at your home. Share your holiday traditions and dishes with friends and loved ones. Not only is having a party the best way to get your home spotless and organized, you’ll burn a ton of extra calories if you clean the house yourself. If you decide to host a holiday party, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is this, DO NOT STRESS. I once was at a Thanksgiving dinner where there were three turkeys, a ham, a whole dessert room and about 50 guests. I marveled at Debra, the hostess, as she basted a turkey, laughing all while she sipped wine with her sister in the kitchen. I said, “Debra! How are you not freaking out right now, How are you so calm? I’d be freaking out!” She looked at me calmly and said, “Tara, If you’re going to be stressed out and freak out, What’s the point in doing it? Relax, have fun, enjoy your guests.” And just like that, a lightbulb went off in my head. Embrace the season, start playing the holiday music the day after Thanksgiving! Have fun. Get creative with healthy dishes you can offer your guests.

8. PARTY. Tis the season. If you have the energy and stamina to go to every holiday party, fundraiser or engagement, then go. But if you’re like most people who are also managing kids, jobs, etc…again, be picky. Choose to go to the parties that mean the most to you. It’s okay to be selective and say no. If you are going to be attending a party where you know you’ll be indulging, plan accordingly. Do not skip breakfast or lunch the day of the party. This can often backfire and lead to overeating. Stay on track with healthy protein shakes or green smoothies. I’ve got a great Christmas-cookie shake recipe for you. Schedule time for extra cardio that week. Be the guest who brings a healthy dish to share. That way you can count on there being at least one healthy option you’ll love. Do make sure you bring enough for others. Wow your friends with a beautiful, healthy, festive salad. Think pomegranates or cranberries on a bed of greens! Party responsibly and be mindful. Ask yourself if certain behaviors will be getting you closer to or further away from your goals.

9. SLEEP. Plain and simple. Get enough of it. Go to bed early while you can. It’s okay to leave a party early to go home. Rest as hard as you play.

10. LET GO. Be like Frozen and Let it Go. Let go of the idea that everything will run perfectly smooth this holiday. Set an intention of all you want to accomplish, and let go of your expectations. Remember it’s not about seating charts and perfection. It’s not about what’s under the tree or not under the tree. It’s about who is around that tree. Who is at your table. Seasons change, family dynamics change, traditions change. Divorce happens, death happens and before you know it, every tradition you once partook in can seem like a far away dream. Focus on a few traditions you want to keep, the ones that make you feel alive. Think about what it is that is most meaningful to you during the holidays and focus on that. Or, Create new traditions. Invite others to be a part of your special gathering. No one should be alone on the holidays. Be mindful of your mental health. No one should be so stressed about not having enough money to buy Christmas presents, that they end up having a heart attack. Focus on all that you do have and be so grateful. The holidays are a time of stress for some. Go out of your way to be extra jolly. Lastly, if you are having trouble getting into the spirit, look inside yourself. The magic is already within you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Be well, Tara

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