the shape of leadership

Health for the Holidays … and Beyond

Six habits for a fitter you

Brandon Shriner on December 2, 2019

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season can also be a stressful time — and a time when our health takes a back seat.

We joke about holiday weight gain and tell ourselves we’ll start the year off right in January. But will we? In many cases, the cycle goes like this: January through spring, we try to make changes to get “in shape” for summer. Then summer arrives with vacations and barbecues and another season of reasons to allow unhealthy eating and behaviors to take over again. As summer turns to fall, we may try to reignite a focus on health, hoping to shed the summer pounds in preparation for the holidays that are now just around the corner.

So many of us live this cycle year after year. Is there a better way? Yes! You can take proactive steps now to establish a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the calendar. To be your best in ministry, you need to steward your health. So rather than using the holidays as an excuse to indulge bad habits, why not break the cycle and establish better habits you can carry into the new year?

Keep Moving

It’s not just what you eat. Even when you’re busy with holiday events or travel, you can maintain a simple daily exercise routine to stay in good physical condition. Regular exercise has the added benefit of improving mental health by boosting endorphins that help you manage stress. You don’t have to put in long hours at the gym.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, you may want to keep your workouts short but tough — a technique called high intensity training. This type of exercise can burn fat while also lowering blood sugar levels. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you have a chronic health condition.

Plan Ahead

Keep healthy snacks on hand. Plan out meals for the week, and do food prep in advance to avoid making poor choices when stressed and hungry. Eat a healthy snack or small meal before you go to an event where you might feel tempted to overindulge and make poor choices. Also, you might try intermittent fasting, which can help curb hunger cravings and burn excess fat throughout the day.

You can take proactive steps now to establish a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the calendar.

Intermittent fasting is easy and cost effective when looking to make the switch to healthier eating. Start by limiting eating to an eight-hour window of time and then fasting for 16 hours. For example, I start eating around noon, and my last meal is at about 8 in the evening. Again, talk to your doctor about whether this approach may be right for you.

Start Right

If you win the morning, you win the day!

What does a healthy morning routine look like? Start your day with God’s Word and perhaps gratitude journaling or a devotional book. I personally enjoy the Five-Minute Journal, followed by a devotional or recap from this past week’s church message. After a cup of tea or coffee, spend 20 minutes exercising. Then enjoy a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.

Stay Mindful

Don’t overeat, but don’t restrict yourself so much you struggle to maintain good habits. Develop a healthy respect for food. Understand that while it is fun to indulge, the main purpose of eating is to fuel the body. With creativity and a positive attitude, you can learn to eat well and have fun, rather than feeling like you’re missing out.

Be Accountable

Ask a close friend or family member to hold you accountable in your goal of sticking with healthy habits throughout the holidays and beyond. Perhaps your whole family will even be willing to make a commitment to enjoy the holiday season in a healthier way. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” So find some iron this holiday season — someone who will not only push you mentally and physically, but who can be an accountability partner.

Revamp Your Recipes

Many holiday foods and desserts are high in sugar and low in nutrients, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It has never been easier to find healthy alternatives for your favorite foods, as well as holiday and dessert recipes for every kind of diet. Try some recipes ahead of time, and find a few you and your family enjoy.

You might even start a new tradition with your healthy and delicious cauliflower casserole or fruit tart. Offer to bring a couple of dishes when you go to parties and family gatherings. That way, you’ll have an alternative available when everyone else is diving in to the stuffing and pecan pie.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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