Sure, some of us indulge a little too much in the proverbial Christmas Cheer, like another glass or two of Aunt Betsey’s (ahem) special eggnog recipe at holiday gatherings, but that “overdone” feeling isn’t limited to alcohol alone.
Overconsumption of sugar (how many cookie swaps did you attend this year?!), fat-laden cheeses and spreads, “bad” carbohydrates (other than those found in whole grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables, beans and other legumes, and the like), highly acidic foods, heavy meats, considerable stress from the annual holiday balancing act, and more can lead to indigestion, insomnia, lethargy, not to mention fluid retention and weight gain.
Want to get yourself back on track so that you own the brand new year? These power foods, products, and practices will speed you on your way to the healthiest, most energy-infused New Year yet. (Hint: There is no mystery or magic bullet to a vibrant, healthy life–just a little research, information, and discipline!)
First, though it sounds like a cliché at this point, the effects of good hydration cannot be overrated. If you forgot to load up on lots of water and water-rich fruits and vegetables over the holidays to help nourish you and flush out the system, there’s no time like the present to reach for a glass or bottle of H2O and fill a pitcher for the refrigerator. A nurse once recommended to my father–who is notorious for abusing his kidneys by going all day on one cup of coffee (a diuretic) and possibly a glass of diet soda (very high in sodium) at night–that he fill a pitcher first thing in the morning and leave it out all day where he could see it. By nighttime, she told him, it needed to be gone. Plain and simple. If you cannot fathom the idea of drinking down multiple glasses of water each day, try preparing no-sugar lemonade by squeezing fresh lemons into cold spring water and sweetening with a natural sweetener like stevia–or honey (a healing food) if you don’t mind the few extra calories.
Next, get out and move: grab a friend (or not) and run; walk; march; skate; dance; have a gym routine to which you are faithful; go to yoga and/or martial arts classes–anything that causes your mood to lift, body to strengthen, and an increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain. There’s nothing better to help renew body, mind, and spirit than sustained movement…and not just for a week or month.
If you want to rebuild the body and mind, honor thy protein–lean, if possible. If the holidays have left you drained and exhausted, experts say upping your daily protein intake with lots of fish and lean chicken and turkey can give you more energy, help you feel more awake, and fuel your brain as well. If you’re sleepy during the afternoon, reach for a hardboiled egg with some carrot sticks or a few slices of chicken with some apple wedges rather than that cup of coffee, bag of chips, or salty popcorn. You’ll feel energized long enough to power you through your after-work spin class.
Also, cysteine, an amino acid that reportedly breaks down the toxin acetaldehyde–resulting from alcohol hangovers–is present in many foods including eggs, garlic, onions, broccoli, oats, and Brussels sprouts. Be sure to include these in your ramped-up New Year’s eating plan.
Detox practitioners swear by the sauna or steam room at least once a week. A healthy sweat session is said to eliminate toxins from the body through the pores, so pour on the steam.
Good liver function is the key to health, and for centuries milk thistle has been known to remove toxic substances from the liver and reverse any damage. In fact it is often given to cancer patients–human and canine. Check with your local natural foods store.
The results of massage are the stimulation of lymph nodes, improved circulation, stress reduction and better sleep, and the expedition of toxins through and out of the body. Opt for one a week, if possible, or at least one or two a month. As massage can be pricey, contact your local massage school which may be looking for individuals for student practice.
Body brushing: Those who do it claim it improves circulation and stimulates the lymph system–the body’s detoxifier. Using a soft-bristled brush (great for sloughing off dry skin), start at your toes or fingers and move toward your heart. Follow up with a warm shower to further boost circulation.
Then there’s sleep! We’ve heard it all before, but rest is the key to effective brain function, good health, and longevity. If you’ve ignored admonitions for years about not getting enough, a body seemingly ravaged by the holidays does well with consistent rest. Ditch the sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, put aside the work and household chores, turn off the TV, phone, and electronic devices a few hours before bed so the brain can unwind, and immerse yourself in a soul-nourishing warm bath, soft music, and a good book. Sleep will come swiftly and sweetly, powering you for the day ahead.
Why not make this the year you dedicate yourself to healing that holiday hangover, and diligently practicing those acquired good habits and ideas throughout the rest of the year as well. You’ll feel better for it!