Healthy Holiday Habits

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is over already! I finished my last exam in the evening on the 21st, so when I got back home on the 22nd I had to jump right into buying some last minute Christmas presents and making holiday treats. I didn’t have time to experiment with any of my own dessert recipes, so I made two of my favourite recipes from Running on Real FoodOatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls and Double Chocolate Raw Vegan Brownies. Both recipes were a hit! It was mostly just me and one of my aunts who enjoyed the desserts, but we got one of my uncles, whose favourite phrase is “gluten-free, taste-free,” to try the brownies and he said they were very tasty. Success!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Balls

Yesterday we had a Christmas party with my dad’s side of the family, and one of my cousins is vegan. With the treats I made from Running on Real Food, I used honey as a sweetener (rather than the maple syrup called for in the recipe), meaning they’re not technically vegan. So a couple days ago I decided I’d give myself a little recipe creation challenge. I had a ton of dates left over from when I bought ingredients for Christmas, so I wanted to create a vegan Chocolate-Orange Energy Ball recipe, inspired by one of my fave Christmas treats, Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I was hoping I’d be able to share the recipe in the first few days of the New Year…but unfortunately it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped. The flavour was good, but the texture could use a little work. Maybe I’ll give it another shot once I get back to school. I don’t think I’m going to try out any more dessert recipes for a few weeks. I never thought I’d say it, but my sweet tooth has been completely satisfied after the past week of celebrations.

With sweet treats everywhere and endless holiday festivities, it’s definitely been a challenge to keep up with the healthy habits I try and maintain while I’m at school. Coming into the holiday season, I had the best intentions to work out regularly, keep the treats to a minimum, and cook plenty of healthy recipes. It was a good plan, but somehow I still ended up elbow-deep in a giant bag of Jelly Bellies on Christmas Eve…

Christmas Cookies

The combination of having an abundance of less-healthy foods nearby, being home at my parents’ house, and on top of that being sick for the past few days, has thrown me off track with healthy eating and fitness – it’s been way too long since I last did something active, and I’m pretty sure there is liquid chocolate running through my veins.

But that’s okay! Taking a break is healthy, and enjoying sweet treats is part of the holiday season. However, it has been a good reminder that when I don’t eat well and stay active, I don’t feel very good. So while I’m not upset that I indulged a bit over Christmas, I’m definitely ready to finish out the rest of my holiday by getting back into some healthier routines.

Add, not subtract

Even though I’m eager to get back into ~health mode~ it’s not realistic (or enjoyable) to say something like “Starting tomorrow I’m not eating any more sugar and I’m going to stay away from all salty snacks.” Making a statement like this cultivates the kind of all or nothing mindset that makes it challenging to get back into a pattern of consistently healthy choices.

Instead of strictly “subtracting” all unhealthy foods from my diet, I’m going to get back into my healthy routine by adding beneficial habits back into my day. I’ll still have some chocolate and an afternoon snack of popcorn, but I’ll also be having some extra fruits and veggies.

New Year’s Resolutions

Usually I don’t set any definitive resolutions for the New Year. I like to set goals throughout the year on a rolling basis, so I don’t think it’s necessary to have one specific date to start working towards my goals. But this year, while I was spending some time with my cousins over Christmas, we all sat down and wrote out a list of our goals for 2018.  When I set goals, I love to make a BIG list. We’re talking 80+ items on this list. And something that extensive may seem a little overwhelming, but I like having everything compiled in one place. That way, as I’m going through my day, I can pull out the list and ask myself, “What am I doing today to work towards my goals?” If my schedule for the day doesn’t align with my goal list, then I re-evaluate my schedule. So while I don’t think you need a New Year to embark on new goals, it’s as good a time as any to start working towards things you’d like to accomplish. Many of the healthy habits that I’m trying to put back into my routine are also on my list of goals for the year. I’ll carry these habits into the New Year, and I plan to continue them throughout 2018.

Healthy Habits

Here are five of the healthy habits that I am adding back into my life as the holiday season draws to a close.

1. Stop hitting the snooze button

Ideally, I want to be getting enough sleep that I don’t feel the need to constantly hit snooze when my alarm goes off. But even when I do get 8 hours, sometimes I still wake up a little groggy and want to roll over and go back to bed. If I’m going to get 30 minutes of disrupted sleep during the time I’m hitting snooze, I really should just set my alarm 30 minutes later and get some extra uninterrupted rest.

I find that when I spend time snoozing it’s harder to get a productive start to my day when I do get out of bed. Also, with a simple Google search I found many articles describing the negative health impacts of hitting snooze in the morning. They didn’t all give the same reasons, but the consensus was that it’s a habit you should kick. Here’s one interesting article from The Independent that provides a behaviourist perspective on the subject (I found this one interesting because it related to some of the psychology concepts I studied this past semester).

alarm clock

2. Drink at least 3L of water each day

When I’m away at school, I drink a lot of water each day, but for some reason I get out of the habit when I come home. When I’m being extremely diligent with my water consumption I probably get closer to 4L a day, but 3L is usually enough to keep me feeling hydrated and refreshed. Everyone’s water needs differ, so if you’re going to try this one out, don’t take 3L as your magic number. You may have to experiment a bit to see how much water you have to drink for your body to feel its best.

3. Stop eating after dinner

Whenever I eat after dinner, it’s not because I’m hungry, it’s usually just because I feel like snacking on something as I complete the last few tasks on my to-do list for the day. When I eat too close to bed time I don’t sleep as well, and I’m also more drawn to sugary foods at this time of the day. So it’s definitely a better choice to eat a filling dinner and then avoid food after that.

4. Drink lemon water

Lately I’ve been trying to get in the habit of drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning, before I have my breakfast. Adding lemon to your water in the morning provides an extra boost of vitamin C, is beneficial for digestion, and some studies have shown that it boosts metabolism. Drinking a big glass of water in the morning as soon as I get up will also help me meet my goal of having 3L of water each day.

lemon water

5. Do ten minutes of body weight exercises each morning when I wake up

This is a new habit I want to try out to see whether it helps me shake off some of my sleepiness in the morning and start the day on a positive note. Each day when I get out of bed, before I make breakfast or start the coffee machine, I’m going to set a timer for ten minutes on my phone, and do a few basic exercises until the timer goes off. This will consist of body weight moves like push ups, crunches, planks, squats, and lunges. I haven’t decided whether each morning of the week will have a different focus (like arms and abs one day and legs another), but I’ll play around with it a bit until I find a routine I like. Out of the five habits I’ve decided to add in to my day, this is the only one that I haven’t tried out in the past, so I’m interested to see how it will work out (pun intended).

bicycle crunch

If you think any of these habits would help you improve your health in the New Year, give them a try! And let me know in the comments how it goes.

 

How to Become a Morning Person

Waking up early can be the key to greater productivity. If you work efficiently in the morning and get the most pressing tasks done before noon, it takes the pressure off you for the rest of the day. This leaves you free to spend the afternoon getting ahead on less urgent work, or taking time to pursue your hobbies. But, despite the benefits of an early start, pulling yourself out of your warm comfy, especially before the sun rises, can be challenging.

Before this year, I hovered between being a night-owl and an early-bird; I’d go to bed around 12 and wake up around 8. But I found with this routine I was too tired to do much work in the hour before I went to bed, and I woke up too late to enjoy the quiet hours before the rest of my house was awake. Part of working most efficiently is determining the time when you do your best work. For me, implementing an earlier bedtime and morning alarm allows me to capitalize on the times when my brain feels the freshest.

Now, if you’re a committed night-owl, the tips I have below probably won’t magically change the morning into your most productive time of day. And that’s okay – what’s important is finding the routine that works best for you. But if you find you’re having trouble working efficiently with your current schedule, try out some of the habits that I find helpful.

Jump out of bed, take 10 deep breaths

As soon as your alarm goes off, don’t give yourself a chance to debate hitting the snooze button and rolling over. Hop out of bed, turn on a light, and immediately take ten deep breaths. The oxygen will wake up your brain, and with the light on you’ll be less inclined to go back to sleep. I’ve found that the worst part of getting out of bed in the morning is the first 30 seconds after the alarm goes off when I feel SO TIRED. I’ve found that taking deep breaths is the best way to shrug off that initial feeling of exhaustion, and once that first 30 seconds has passed, I’m usually full of energy to start the day.

Get a housemate or friend on board

If I want to wake up earlier, making an agreement with one of my housemates that we’re both going to get up at a certain time helps hold me accountable. My bedroom is right beside the kitchen, so hearing my friend outside my door making her breakfast and starting a pot of coffee is good motivation to get out of bed. It’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one who is up early and getting a head start on school work. Even if you don’t live with housemates, you can still make a plan with a friend to get up early, and text your friend in the morning to let her know you’re following through on your commitment.

Plan an awesome breakfast

Another great way to get yourself out of bed at an early hour is to have a delicious breakfast prepped and waiting for you in the fridge, or to have a plan to make something yummy once you wake up. Then, you can enjoy your breakfast and a cup of hot coffee while you get started on your work. For breakfast options, I often look to some of my favourite bloggers for inspiration. Here are a few breakfast recipes that make me excited to get an early start:

Carrot Cake Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Brownie Batter Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Pumpkin Pecan Baked Oatmeal from Healthy Liv

One-Skillet Sweet Potatoes and Eggs from Healthy Liv

My other go-to breakfast option: any kind of omelette, or an egg and veggie scramble with fruit on the side.

Get to bed earlier

This is the tip that is so obvious yet so frequently overlooked. It’s going to be hard to pull yourself out of bed in the morning if you haven’t had enough sleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, try setting an alarm on your phone 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed to give yourself some time to do your nighttime routine. If you’re worried about not completing enough work when you have an earlier bedtime, remember: you’re waking up earlier to be more productive, and it will be easier to work efficiently when you’re well-rested.

Give yourself a break

As university students, we often don’t appreciate the importance of sleep in the maintenance of overall health. There are times when I find myself thinking that it’s okay if I’m sleeping less to get school work done, as long as I’m still eating healthy and exercising. This is not sustainable in the long run, and will lead to burn-out. Additionally, it’s hard to have a joyful day if you’re too tired to do any of the activities that make you happy!  So if you stay up late getting an assignment done, don’t force yourself to wake up early. Give yourself permission to rest. When you’ve spent enough time sleeping, the hours during the day that you are awake will be more productive, and you won’t be as influenced by distractions.

Are you more of a night-owl or an early-bird? Do you have any tips for making it easier to get out of bed in the morning?