While the bells jingle louder as we inch closer towards Christmas, we thought we’d prepare you for the beautiful yet toughest time of the year. Not only are you required to socialize with and tolerate your entire extended family, you’re also expected to control your cravings and not finish the entire cookie jar in one sitting.
Whether you’ll be on shift or on vacation this holiday, this survival guide is for you. I think no one can deny how tough this year was, and this Christmas won’t be any easier. We are here to keep you informed and accountable to being the healthiest doctor you can be. Your patients deserve this!
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For now, here are a few pointers and reminders before you log off into holiday mode.
1- Your body is not hungry, your brain is.
You’re not hungry most of the time your body is telling you to eat. There are so many factors to this statement. Take additives for example, have you heard about MSG? Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer commonly added to fast food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. Despite the FDA’s approval, health activists have denounced the use of MSG, arguing it may influence eating behavior, inducing a loyalty for glutamate enriched-food and therefore an addictive behavior. MSG boosts the flavor of foods by stimulating taste receptors and has been shown in research studies to increase the acceptance of particular flavors.
It is so easy to fall victim to this lucrative business, especially if you’re spending the holiday season at the hospital or clinic. Don’t get trapped in emotional eating, especially not food that has additives like MSG. Sometimes all you need is water to wash down all these flavor enhancers making you cling on to your cravings.
2- Stay away from the hospital free candy
You have just gotten out of that surgery, or finished seeing that autoimmune patient that is driving you crazy, and you are staring at an incredibly seductive bowl that has all the sweets you loved as a kid.
You think you deserve one, but trust us, you don’t! The candy will give you a short energy boost and will make you come crashing. Get something substantial! (see rainbow foods below)
Keeping the festive spirit alive, candy is usually everywhere in the hospital during the holiday season. Although this actually goes against all what every medical institution stands for, candy always finds itself around.
Well, the first step we would highly recommend is that you take matters into your own hands. Go to the administration and suggest that they change the candy into a healthier alternative. There’s plenty of those; apples, strawberries, cherries… and if they argue that fresh fruits are not sustainable, go for dried fruits, or nuts. That way you would have not only made sure that you’d stay away from the candy, you protected the entire hospital.
3- Eat the rainbow
Try to have at least three different colors on your plate. The color of your food can tell a lot about your nutritional intake. Eating a rainbow of colors is one sure method to get as many of those vitamins and minerals as possible.
Make time to meal prep before going to your shift. It doesn’t have to be laborious, the more your food doesn’t need cooking the healthier it is. So that leaves you with some granola, a green apple, a yellow banana, a few dried red dates, cold cuts of protein and brown bread. Looks a lot like a rainbow!
4- There are simple proven ways to start an exercise routine that will carry you far into next year
There is sufficient evidence now to show that your exercise routine does not need to start with an intense TRX workout. As a matter of fact, when you start exercising by doing way more than you currently do, you will most likely not be able to keep it up. That’s what happens with all the new year's resolutions that go down the drain in the second week of January.
There is a beautiful rule I live by and that has been proven to work. It is called the 2 min rule. Want to run a marathon? Start by taking a 2 minute walk. Yes, only 2 minutes! You’re probably thinking “Well, what good is a 2 min walk?”. The secret behind habits is that it is all about consistency. As long as you do it EVERYDAY, you will reap its rewards over time. Walk 2 mins everyday today, next week make it 5, once you’ve got the hang of that, push yourself with a 2 min jog in the end, and so on. Do this and you will finally hack exercise.
Remember, the energy you start the new year with is likely what’s going to stay for the entire year. Be careful what energy you bring into 2021 (fingers crossed). A great thing to secure is a workout routine. You still have time to develop a fitness plan to regularly abide by. Make this a prototyping month for a routine, see what works, what doesn’t and start grooming your mind and body towards getting used to it.
One thing that is proven to be successful is slowly blending in old routines with new ones in order to trick your body into thinking this is something it has always been used to. Allow me to get a little personal, to keep up with my workout routine, I bought so many plants. That way I could go jog in the morning, work out for 20 minutes, then prepare my french press and as the coffee brews I water the plants. If I stayed on this routine for the entire December, come January, if I slacked one day and just woke up and watered the plants, skipping over my workout, I would feel so disoriented. Not only have I blended in some old routines, but I have also added an incentive, not to kill the plants.
5- Indulge in non-food activities
Instead of taking a lunch break, go outside and light up a cigarette. Kidding! One very dangerous thing to do to your body is associating breaks with food (and smoking). Make it a habit to take a walk during your breaks, meditate, call your mom or a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Now that you reached the end of this article, we trust you’re safe. Enjoy your holiday and keep the resilient spirit.
Before you head out, let me tell you a bit about Resilient Doctor. It’s a holistic program, for doctors, by doctors. We’re a bunch of health advocates working against physician burnout. The coaching program is divided into several modules. This month our participants are passing through the nutrition module, attending webinars, getting coached, and taking part in challenges. For more information, sign up to our newsletter here.