The importance of good skincare goes beyond your appearance. As the largest organ you have, the health of your skin affects your overall health. That is why having an intentional skincare routine is essential (especially during the harsh winter months).
Many beauty and skincare companies offer effective but usually costly solutions for every skin concern; however, much of your skincare routine relies on simple habits and a healthy lifestyle.
Here are 6 easy, low-cost ways to keep your skin healthy and glowing all year round.
Know your skin type
Creating an effective skincare routine and choosing the right products really depends upon your skin type— normal, oily, dry, combination, or sensitive–and your skin concerns.
If you are unsure of your skin type, you can perform this simple test to figure it out. Wash your skin with a mild cleanser and do not apply any other products. Wait 30 minutes to an hour, and pay attention to how your skin feels.
If it feels itchy and tight, you probably have dry skin. If greasy, you have an oily skin type. If it feels tight on your cheeks but oily on your forehead and nose (also known as your T-zone), you are a combination.
Your skin type will likely change over time and can be affected by changes in your life like age, location, medications, pregnancy, etc. so be sure to reevaluate your needs as needed.
Wash your face
It seems obvious but regular skin cleansing is vital for maintaining healthy skin. Washing removes dirt, makeup, and other build-up on your face, helps manage the PH levels on the skin, and helps other helpful skincare products properly penetrate and do their jobs well.
Keep your skin type in mind when choosing the right cleanser. Dermatologist, Dr. Lela Lankerani writes: “If you have dry skin you’ll want to avoid cleansers with high alcohol content. People with oily skin need a cleanser with a lower PH level. For sensitive skin you’ll want a basic cleanser free from heavy fragrance and additives.”¹
It’s best to wash your face with lukewarm water; hot water will strip your skin of its natural oils but cold water won’t give your skin the clean it needs. Pat your face dry with a towel when you finish to keep some moisture on the skin.
Speaking of washing, you will also want to make sure you keep your makeup and makeup tools like brushes, bags, and sponges clean to avoid the buildup and spread of bacteria and grime.
Similarly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will also help keep your skin glowing.
Healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and flaxseed play a particularly important role in protecting your skin from damage. Antioxidant rich foods like fruits and vegetables contain Vitamins like A, C, E that protect and repair skin cells.
Limiting inflammatory foods will also help ease a host of skin problems and flare ups.
Stress levels also play a role in your skin’s appearance and health. Studies have shown both acute and chronic stress can cause skin issues like rashes and hives, as well as exacerbate skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis.²
Finding ways to reduce stress can help manage these conditions. Consider developing a new hobby, limiting your caffeine intake, and exercising regularly to balance the challenges and pressures of everyday life.
In addition to stress-relief, exercise also offers its own benefits for your skin. Working out increases blood flow throughout the body helping to bring vital oxygen, nutrients, and minerals to the skin.
Get your beauty sleep
Your body repairs itself while you sleep so getting a full night’s rest is vital for maintaining your overall health and your good looks.
Skin makes new collagen when you sleep, which prevents wrinkles and dryness and reduces cortisol levels that may contribute to early aging and acne flares. Sleep also boosts blood flow to your skin which helps to keep your complexion looking youthful and vibrant.
Getting outside and into the sun can offer many benefits to your overall health; however, without the proper precautions it can prove damaging to your skin.
The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause early wrinkling, sagging skin, age spots, and even cancer. You can’t really “undo” this damage so you need to take steps to protect your skin from these harmful rays throughout the year.
Always use sunscreen on exposed skin (yes, even in the winter or on cloudy days). Wear clothing that blocks the sun like a wide-brimmed hat. And limit your time in direct sunlight.
February is the month for all matters of the heart–including its health.
Throughout February, also called “American Heart Month,” health experts nationwide encourage a focus on improving your cardiovascular health through exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.
The human heart pumps blood throughout our body, supplying oxygen and nutrients, and removing toxins and waste. We owe a lot to this small but mighty organ.
However, arteries leading to the heart can become clogged causing serious consequences including heart attack and stroke. In fact, heart disease remains the #1 killer worldwide and specifically in America, according to the most recent statistics from the American Heart Association. ¹
Take some time this month to educate yourself on risk factors associated with Heart Disease, as well as preventative steps you can take to lower your risk and keep your heart healthy and happy.
Control the Controllable
According to the Center for Disease Control, “almost half of all Americans have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease.”² These key risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking while diabetes and obesity also greatly influence heart health.
While age and genetics does affect these risk factors, your lifestyle choices also play a major role in determining heart health. So, control what you can control when it comes to your cardiovascular health:
Eat a nutritious diet that includes food high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol.
Limit sodium and sugar intake
Limit your alcohol consumption as it can increase your blood pressure
Reduce your stress
Schedule regular appointments with your doctor
What area(s) in your life do you notice a need for improvement? Intentionally choose one or more from this list to focus on during this year’s Heart Month.
A consistent fitness routine can help strengthen your heart muscles, control your weight, and prevent damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
There are three different types of exercise on which you should focus to keep your heart in good shape:
Cardio or Aerobic exercises are designed to raise your heart rate. They can help improve your circulation and lower your blood pressure, as well as reduce your risk of diabetes.
The CDC suggests that every adult should get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, like walking or dancing. Or if you’re short on time, one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise like running or swimming laps.
Resistance training, or strength training, can also help to improve your cardiovascular health. When combined with cardio, this type of workout can help lower your bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Both the CDC and the American Heart Association suggest strength training exercises at least twice a week. These sessions should work all of your major muscle groups: arms, legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abs, and back.
Although stretching and flexibility exercises do not directly contribute to heart health in the same way that cardio and strength do, they can help to reduce stress and ensure your body can participate in more vigorous activity on a regular basis.
Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D. says that flexibility is important “...because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.”
Every Pietra Fitness class begins and ends with a time of stretching to help your body get the most from your workout.
Much research supports the notion that greater muscular strength can enhance the ability to perform general sport skills such as jumping, sprinting, and change of direction tasks. Further research indicates that stronger athletes produce superior performances during sport specific tasks. Greater muscular strength allows an individual to potentiate earlier and to a greater extent, but also decreases the risk of injury¹. Stretching plays a vital role in an athlete’s training and performance.
Whether you want to improve your form, increase flexibility, or relieve pain and tension, stretching can help.
Read on to learn about the benefits of stretching, tips for stretching safely, and Pietra Fitness classes that will specifically help athletes improve in their sport through both stretching and strengthening workouts that target specific sports.
Benefits of Stretching
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching activities be done at least two or three days per week.²
Stretching offers numerous health and fitness benefits, especially for athletes:
Increase flexibility and posture
Increases range of motion
Reduces pain and risk of injury
Relieves stress and help your body recuperate after a workout
Improves athletic performance
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
There are two main types of stretching: Static stretches and Dynamic stretches. Each type has a specific purpose, unique benefits, and plays an important role in your fitness routine as an athlete.
Static stretches are those in which you stand, sit, or lie down to hold a single position for 20-45 seconds. They help increase your flexibility and reduce your risk of injury. Some studies have shown that Static stretches may actually decrease athletic performance if done before you play or compete so you should only perform these stretches during the cool-down portion of your workout.³
Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues for performance. You should perform these types of stretches before any athletic event (including practice) to improve speed, agility and acceleration.
Of course, while whole-body stretches are important, the primary focus area of your stretching will be determined by your sport. For example, a soccer player will want to focus on warming up their knees and feet, while softball players will focus more on stretching their shoulders and arms.
Each class offered by Pietra Fitness incorporates both Dynamic and Static stretches to help you improve your athletic ability and to help keep your body safe both on and off the field.
Tips for stretching safely
As previously mentioned, if done carelessly it can actually decrease your performance and cause serious injury.
Warm up the muscles before stretching.
Stretching isn't supposed to hurt. You want to feel some tension but if you experience pain, you should stop immediately as you run the risk of injury.
Don’t forget to breathe while you stretch.
Best Workouts for Athletes
Looking for effective, full body stretches to use as a warm up before your next game or as a wind-down after practice? Or maybe you are looking for a class that will actually enhance and improve your athletic performance? Pietra Fitness has something for you with our new series for athletes.
Pietra Fitness has just released a Fitness Series specifically designed with athletes in mind. The Athlete series will transform your athletic performance through full-body workouts that will improve your flexibility, balance, range of motion, and strength.
Meet the Instructor
Lori’s background as a competitive baton twirler and Feature Twirler for the Detroit Lions, in addition to being a physical therapist in sports medicine helps her to guide, modify, and relate to clients – both in the clinic helping an athlete get back to performance and while leading Pietra Fitness classes. She has a special interest in “body sports” or sports that require a heightened awareness movement and postures such as dance, martial arts, golf, cheer, and gymnastics. She also loves to teach and share. Pietra Fitness has ultimately brought all of Lori’s strengths together: mind (physical therapy) + body (wellness) + spirit (Scripture and prayer) plus passing it forward (teaching).
Try one or all of the classes in this series:
Athlete: 17-minute Warm Up
Focus: Whole Body Warm Up Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Athletes place a high amount of stress on their bodies to compete in sports so they should prepare and be ready! Warming up is a crucial part of preparation. This 17-minute general warmup can be used before any sport or activity. Lori takes you through dynamic exercises that increase the temperature of the muscles, increase the heart rate, and send blood flow to the working muscles. The movements will also enhance the neuromuscular relationship between the muscles in the body and the nerves, which will help athletes to be in better control of their movements and functions.
Athlete: Rotational Sports
Focus: Rotational Movements Level: Advanced
Every sport requires rotational movements, but this movement is necessary in higher demands in certain sports such as tennis, golf, figure skating, dance, baseball, and gymnastics. The athlete in these sports uses twisting within the torso to perform the movements needed to play. Lori prepares the rotational athlete by working on strength and mobility in the core and hips as well as the entire body. You will leave the class ready and able to practice your skills in a more improved way. The meditation will have you thinking about God’s plans for you.
Athlete: Footwork Sports
Good footwork is necessary to a certain degree in all sports, but it is so important in certain sports that increased speed and agility can make or break the game. When you are prepared to move on your feet quickly and precisely, you will start to see that you are in better control of your body throughout your movements. This skill can take your game to the next level. It can also help to reduce the risk of injury as you learn to maintain proper form during quick changes in direction and initiating movements. The meditation will have you focusing on God’s constant gaze of love.
Athlete: Running Sports
Focus: Running Form and Mechanics
This class is great for those wishing to improve their performance in running sports. Many runners focus solely on hitting the pavement but lack the skills necessary to enhance their running outcomes. Lori focuses on running form, mechanics, and knee drive especially using the core. She also focuses on building all those slow- and fast-twitch muscles in your body that will effectively change your running for the better. Be prepared to improve your stamina, speed, strength, and skill! The meditation will have you contemplating the primacy of love.
Athlete: Upper Body Sports
Focus: Upper body Stretching and Strengthening
For athletes, upper body strength and flexibility can be crucial, especially for certain sports like rowing, baseball, tennis, volleyball, and pole vaulting. When an athlete is weak in these areas, they can be susceptible to numerous kinds of injuries. Also, the low back muscles often compensate for the arms and shoulders which can result in injury or strain. This workout focuses on building strength in the upper body as well as stretching necessary muscles needed to support upper body movement. The meditation will have you contemplating God’s gift of rest through sports.
Athlete: Post Activity Stretch
Focus: Whole Body Stretch
The best remedy to staying injury free is to have a consistent program of stretching after your sport or practice. Stretching after your game or workout can help increase your flexibility and range of motion, reduce the risk of injury, decrease muscle tension and stress in your body, and promote increased circulation. It can even help improve your performance the next time you play. The extra time you spend stretching is well worth it; your body will thank you!
The New Year is always a sign of hope and of change even in the secular world. We are created for excellence, goodness, and beauty, and every cell of our bodies responds to the innate desire to flourish. We crave new beginnings! Because God created our body to be inseparable in life from our soul, our bodily movements are of great consequence, and our New Years’ inclinations to renew health and strength are fundamentally correct. If we really want to change our lives, habits, and health, we must not only pay attention to our interior disposition, but bodily as well.
In order to sanctify our movements and align our physical postures to a goal of healing, we must allow our bodies to become a living testimony to the healing power of Jesus Christ. That means becoming aware of our postures as an act of surrender, thanksgiving, and worship, in response to God’s will for our lives.
A Posture of Surrender
For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ~ Matthew 16:25
During my college years, I was blessed to briefly share a residence with Franciscan TOR sisters. It was not uncommon to see sisters in the chapel, day or night, often in a posture of surrender. They would pray in a deep bow on the knees or fully prostrate before their Eucharistic King. I chose to stay upright on my knees or in my chair, but their physical prayer expression of total surrender changed the way that I prayed interiorly, and it would come in handy years later when I was a young mother.
It was during those years of new motherhood that I was caught in a cycle of chronic illness, depression, and fear. My body betrayed me. I set goals that I could not accomplish. Over and over again, I was crushed beneath the weight of failures. Every New Years’ I would begin again with the rest of the world, and every February, I would bury my sobbing head in my hands … and give up.
As I became weaker and more discouraged, I eventually hit rock bottom, with no choice but to surrender all failures and victories to God and to rebuild according to His timing, in His way. Instead of grinding away at my goals (fitness, relationship, professional, spiritual, etc.), I began to treat my body with the dignity with which it is bestowed by Christ. I became smaller interiorly, giving up my ego and fear of failure, trusting the outcome to the Lord. I also began to imitate physically what I had seen from the sisters. If I was laid low in a puddle of tears, I would extend myself onto the floor and surrender. I would beg Him for the courage and strength to begin again … and simply rest in His Presence…
I am so little, Jesus. I have nothing for You today. Tomorrow, I will rise and try again. At this moment, I lay myself entirely at your feet, broken and weary. Grant me the grace to keep trying. Grant me the grace to desire it. Be my everything.
A Posture of Gratitude
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Colossians 3:17
As I grew smaller in stature both interiorly and physically, I was no longer consumed by stress and fear. I was grateful for the freedom to let go of control and give it all to the Lord. I cleared my schedule and paid attention to the very small–but rightly ordered–actions that honored the gift of my body and, consequently, its Creator.
I knew the discouragement of having to say “I cannot.” I knew the stress of saying “I have to.” But I finally discovered the freedom of being able to say “I GET TO.” Little by little, gratitude allowed me to find a motivation outside of myself, to slough off the enormous obstacle of self-pity, and to move forward with enthusiasm toward whatever goal I had discerned.
Sometimes I would doodle pictures of the saints and I noticed that their arms were often extended in an expression of thanksgiving and prayer. It made sense. When the heart is overflowing with gratitude, the body can’t help but follow. We must find ways to express in our physical lives that which is so rightly ordered from the heart…
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the abundant gifts of my life. My strengths are from you and for you. My weaknesses are allowed by You for my good and Your glory. I rise up today in the face of known and unknown trials, and I do it with joy… because I GET TO. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
A Posture of Worship
...let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28
Looking back at my Catholic school years, I realize that my peers and I pressured each other to suppress our enthusiasm for holy things. Eventually, many of us lost what we suppressed, reserving that enthusiasm for concerts and sporting events and things of the world. Now I understand…
The human person is created for worship. Physical worship! And if we do not lift our hands and voices in exuberant praise of the Creator, we will find an object (an idol) for that innate need. I have spent my adult life trying to recover that lost joy and rightly ordered expression of praise. As the heart and mind fall into love and knowledge of God, the body desires to follow.
It is no secret to Catholics that the liturgy is a place of true healing, but we forget how physical this need is; how much we need sacred space, silence, community, and physical orientation of our bodies and words towards the Beloved. Perhaps we also forget that we carry our own Temple of the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go.
With a bow of the head, a lifting of the arms, stretching toward His Sacred Heart, nourishing the cells He designed, standing in His sunshine, and maybe a little dancing-like-David in the heart of our homes… we can recall that healing of all kinds is possible when we pursue His holy Presence.
Lord, I want my life to be a gift of constant praise to You. You created every cell of my body for this purpose and then you united it with my soul. For your glory, let me grow in enthusiasm for worship… for total union with You.
Perhaps if this type of music is unfamiliar to you, you might wonder why we would choose to incorporate this type of music into our sessions.
The short answer: Gregorian Chant nourishes your body, mind, and spirit.
Gregorian Chant began as pure melody with lyrics from Latin verses of Scripture–particularly those verses found in the Mass ordinaries, Divine Office hymns, antiphons, and responsories.
Monasteries and convents around the world kept this tradition alive for centuries though it is once again growing in popularity. And with good reason.
Gregorian Chant stands in stark contrast to today’s pop hits. It speaks to our souls in a way that other songs cannot. It goes beyond entertainment and brings the listener into the realm of the Transcendent.
The Power of Music
Beauty–true, transcendent Beauty–plays a necessary role in the life of the Church particularly in the liturgy. It captivates us and opens our minds to wonder, drawing us ever-closer to the source of all Beauty.
Beauty paves the way for a deep, life-giving (and life-changing) love.
We can encounter God’s beauty through so many mediums–art, literature, nature– but few are so transformative as the power of music particularly because of its role in the liturgical celebrations of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church writes: “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art…[because] it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy.” (CCC 1156)
Since the pontificate of Pope Gregory the Great (540-604), Gregorian Chant has been the musical language of the Church; it communicates the sacred to us.
Gregorian Chant was made to accompany the liturgy in order to make the mysteries of God, specifically the Paschal Mystery, present to the people.
When it is sung during the Divine Office or listened to in your home, it extends the liturgy throughout your day making your whole life an offering to God.
By encountering this form of contemplative prayer at the end of each Pietra Fitness class, its ancient beauty and mystery will pull your eyes heavenward and your heart into the Beauty and Mystery of God.
Nourishing the body, as well as the soul.
However, the benefits of Gregorian Chant goes far beyond the spiritual ones.
Professionals in various fields of science and medicine have discovered that Gregorian Chant has positive impacts on both bodily and mental health.
For instance, Dr. Alan Watkins, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London in his research on chanting noted that “the musical structure of chant can have a significant and positive physiological impact,” and that chanting has actually been shown to “lower blood pressure, increase levels of DHEA and also reduce anxiety and depression.”
Similar studies also suggest that Gregorian chant can help the right and left hemispheres of the brain communicate more effectively, therefore creating new neural brain pathways.
Benedictine nun Ruth Stanley, head of the complementary medicine program at Minnesota’s St. Cloud Hospitals found great success in easing the chronic pain of patients by having them listen to chant.
French audiologist Dr. Alfred Tomatis found that monks of a Benedictine monastery suffering from fatigue, depression, and physical illness regained their well-being after re-establishing their daily chanting. He concluded that Gregorian chant could charge the central nervous system along with the cortex of the brain which directly influences overall health and feelings of happiness.
By including Gregorian Chant at the end of each class, we hope you will feel more at peace in body, mind, and spirit, and that you come to see yourself as a beautiful cathedral for God’s glory. Also, we hope you start to fall in love with this type of music and allow yourself to be transported beyond the material and into the presence of God.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!...or is it?
With trying to balance the demands of Christmas shopping, family gatherings, parties, and out of town guests, the holiday season can often feel more overwhelming than festive.
Instead of excitement and joy, you may find yourself experiencing feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.
The holiday blues are not uncommon but they don’t have to ruin your Christmas. Use the following tips to help manage them.
Set reasonable expectations
The commercialism of the holidays can make you overly concerned with the details surrounding your celebrations--you need to have a large home-cooked dinner, you need fancy gifts and expensive toys for your children, you need the perfect Christmas tree.
However, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if your expectations for the holidays are unrealistic and unattainable.
If you find yourself stressing about the things that you need or should do to make this Christmas special, let it go and focus your energy on what you can do. Take mistakes and missteps in stride. The significance of the season goes far beyond what the world tells us.
Stick to your routine (as much as possible)
With all of the travel, festive gatherings, and added commitments on your calendar, sticking to your regular routine may seem impossible during this time of year. And while some of your routine will change during this exciting season, maintaining important parts of your routine will help manage feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, regular meals, and spend some time (even if only 15 minutes) in prayer each day. Give your body, mind, and soul what they need to thrive.
Maintaining some semblance of routine will also help you keep up on your healthy lifestyle choices which will contribute to your overall health and wellbeing even during the chaos of the holidays.
In order to maintain your peace (and stick to your routine as much as possible), you’ll sometimes need to say “no” to an invitation or two.
Take some time to consider what you want for yourself and for your family this season. Communicate your needs open and honestly to family members and friends and allow yourself to say no when you need to.
Don’t over indulge in the holiday goodies
When feelings of depression or anxiety come on, you may feel yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms--like binge drinking or overeating-- to feel in control.
However, overeating can lead to uncomfortable physical and mental responses like gas, bloating, sluggishness that won’t help you feel better. And alcohol, a depressant, can actually exacerbate negative feelings.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink or two at your family party, or eat a few of your grandmother’s famous cookies, just make sure you enjoy everything in moderation and not as a response to feeling sad.
Last month, I wrote about laying a foundation for healing during Advent. Everything during this time of preparation should be oriented toward receptivity to the great gift of Christmas, which is encounter with Christ the King. The point of healing is not simply to be well for our state in life (although that is a great good!), but so that we might approach His manger-throne with clarity and purity... to be capable of full surrender to His sovereign love.
Haven't had the most focused Advent? It's okay. Let's start again. Jesus is waiting to make all things new. We can do this by entering into the season with authenticity, childlike energy, and total surrender.
We prepare during Advent to celebrate Christ, yet it is tempting to make the celebration only about Him instead of deeply rooted in Him. A superficial Christmas is similar to posting a meme about prayer on Facebook without actually praying it. We might go through the motions, expressing every external piety, and fool ourselves into thinking that we have reached the pinnacle of Christmas…
Filled with cheer. Sated with food. Arms filled with gifts. Family present. And yet we often fail to go deeper, into the depths with Christ, the Divine Healer.
To avoid making an idol of Christmas for its own sake, our faith must become deeply sincere and practical. The first step is acknowledging the need for transformation and opening up to the possibility that an authentic Advent might not look like anything we have experienced before. Perhaps begin and end each day with a sincere and simple prayer, something like this:
“Lord Jesus, please show me your face. Make Your will my will. I surrender. Change my life. Transform me by your grace, that I may look back on this Christmas as the beginning of a radical new life in You.”
Healing is not a passive effort but involves a tirelessness which knows when to run and when to rest. It requires our will and our intelligence, to correctly discern which efforts bring health and which leave us depleted, stagnant, or backsliding. But it also requires a childlikeness which expands our capacity for hope and healing.
Not all energetic efforts are the same. To run energetically towards Christ is not the same as racing frantically toward Christmas Day, so we must discern which actions are wasteful and which are healing. We also have different levels of energy depending on our health status or state in life. I am not suggesting adding busyness or an increased pace, but a childlike stretching for what is beautiful. God does not wish to be an accessory to our Christmas, but He wants to be our everything.
How many of us sacrifice the gift of our health, our peace, and our awareness of Christ so that we might meet the superficial demands of the world? We elevate the idea of innocence and wonder… but undermine it in ourselves.
During prayer or throughout the day, perhaps imagine yourself as a young child running energetically towards the Christmas tree. There are no presents wrapped there, only the Christ Child. Your heart’s desire is to hold Him, to sit with him, and to dance forever in His beautiful peace.
On the first Sunday of Advent this year, I lost a dear family member. A week later, we said goodbye at the cemetery and now step unsteadily back into the flow of the holiday season. The grief is a burden, but the Rite of Christian Burial always brings an anointed clarity. We are reminded that Christmas Day is not the goal line, and our hearts must not stay fixated there.
As a mother of a large family, I am convinced that the art of Christmas preparation is really the act of surrendering with joy. I can’t recall a holiday season which didn’t have a significant disruption because of sickness or other life circumstances.
I’ve lost presents and ruined meals. We’ve had stomach bugs and busted plumbing. Sometimes relationships are painful or strained. And yet…
The repeated act of surrendering the mind, body, and will to Christ and to His eternal truths makes Christmas transformative, as it ought to be. We don’t have the power to change anything without Him. Whatever our circumstances, the light of Jesus Christ is the answer to our need. It is only in true encounter with Him that deep healing is possible.
“We will be better able to cope with life, more efficient and capable of life, if we open ourselves to the instructions of this coming night. Let us hike and journey onward, neither avoiding nor shunning the streets and terror of life. Something new has been born in us, and we do not want to tire of believing the star of the promises and acknowledging the singing angels’ Gloria–even if it is sometimes through tears. Our distress has truly become transformed, because we have been raised above it.”
Simply restricting what you eat won’t work because it leads to feelings of deprivation and anxiety that often contributes to the problem of overeating. Instead, follow these suggestions to help you eat in moderation and to more fully enjoy all of the tastes this season has to offer.
Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals might seem to make sense; if you “conserve” calories earlier in the day, you can overindulge later, right? Well, not exactly.
When we skip meals, it tricks our brain into thinking that food is scarce which leads to overeating at the next opportunity. It also lowers your metabolism making it harder to burn calories, as well as your blood sugar making it difficult to concentrate.
Instead, eat at regular intervals during the day and try to make most of your meals healthy and nutrient-dense.
Practice Mindful Eating
When it’s time to sit down for that big holiday dinner, approach your plate with a mindfully.
According to Harvard Health, “mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food” and can combat the mindless eating habits that often contribute to overeating and obesity.¹
Practicing mindful eating during the holidays will not only help you to make healthier choices when it comes to food, but will also help you more fully enjoy everything on your plate.
To practice mindful eating:
-Eat slowly, savor the flavors, and stop when you feel full.
-Eat with others and at designated times. (No sneaking bites of the Christmas dinner until it’s time to eat).
-Do not eat while multitasking.
-Eat when you feel hungry, not as a response to a negative feeling like stress or anxiety.
Banish the guilt
The key for eating this holiday season is moderation. You can enjoy all the delicious smells and tastes the season has to offer. You can celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming man, with the most human of gifts: food.
But you cannot approach the table freely with an unhealthy mindset.
Avoid using words such as 'cheat meal' to describe your holiday eating habits. Guilt is not empowering; it doesn’t motivate you to stick to your goals.
Feelings of guilt and shame around food can perpetuate unhealthy eating habits like overeating. Like anything off-limited, “forbidden” foods often become more exciting then before.
Fostering a balanced mindset when it comes to food will encourage a more balanced approach to eating especially during this Christmas season.