Updated: Jan 31, 2020
How to Keep Well
Happy Chinese New Year. Hope the Year of the Rat brings you health, happiness and prosperity. I guess this gives me a great opportunity to talk about how to keep well during Chinese New Year. And even more importantly, whether you are staying in Hong Kong or travelling abroad during the holidays, please take care, remember to wear your face masks and wash your hands regularly.
Stick to Your Simple Habits
If you have read my previous post, I hope you are already incorporating one or two healthy habits into your daily routine. No worries if you haven't got round to it yet, any day would be a good time to start. As soon as you feel ready to pick a simple habit to fit around your lifestyle, you should be able to experience the benefits from these healthy practices over time and in a sustainable way.
As for me, I am having fun trying out meditation and strength training and I know it will take time for these practices to stick. As long as I keep regular reminders of my intention, and keep these habits relatively aligned with my general routine, I feel pretty good about keeping up with these activities during the holidays. I also feel it is probably fine to take it easier for a couple of days if I keep my goals in sight.
Keeping Well or Breaking Bad
How do you feel about Chinese New Year, or festive holidays in general? Would you be worried about breaking your healthy habits? Or are you looking forward to a couple of days off work, more sleep, a bit of relaxation, some time to catch up with friends and family, and finish up all the things that you didn't get round to do like DIY projects, admin, paying bills and doing your tax returns? In which case, all festivities and public holidays can be a good thing, as they offer the opportunities to rest and reset.
Intention, Mindset and Attitude
These are just a few ideas on how to keep well during the Chinese New Year festivities. There is nothing you don't know already. The key is to be really intentional about your long term goals. Don't let what happens in a few days of festivities throw you off. Go back to what your motivations are, who you want to be and how you want to feel. It's all about having the right mindset and attitude to achieve a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
So, here we go.
Enjoy the Festivities
Chinese New Year (or any other major festivities) is such an important part of our history, tradition and culture. The focus is being with our families, enjoying their company, and appreciating delicious, traditional food. You should enjoy the food, be thankful to whoever has prepared that food for you, be grateful for having a healthy body to enjoy it and having people to share your meals.
Pause, Breath and Be Present
If you have a tendency to indulge too much, whether it's food, drink, cigarettes, candies or anything, It is always a good practice to take a pause. Just a five-seconds pause can make all the difference. Take a couple of deep breaths. Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are thirsty or hungry or just want a little bite or taste of something. Imagine how taking the bite would make you feel. The art is to eat roughly the right amount that tickles your fancy, not creating that bloated feeling or unwanted regrets.
Chew Your Food
Eat mindfully and thankfully. Look at the food, what colour is it? How does it smell? What sort of texture is it? Think about how it was made. Take small bites, chew thoroughly and eat slowly. The better you chew your food, the more surface you create for your digestive enzymes to work on, the better the digestion and absorption, and the better the nutrition for your body.
Having adequate sleep is so important for making the right food choices. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to be hungrier, have more cravings for sweet, salty or crunchy foods that are high in fat and high in carb. Beyond making the appropriate food choices, having a good night sleep can put you in a better mood in a social setting, which is especially important during Chinese New Year.
Make sure you are well-hydrated and do not mistake thirst for hunger. I mean water, not soft drinks or juices or alcohol. Try to drink water first thing in the morning and between meals. Add a piece of lemon, ginger or some apple cider vinegar to aid digestion. Whilst having a glass of water before food can help suppress appetite, avoid drinking too much water before meal because water can affect the acidity in the stomach and its ability to digest well.
Eat Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
Think about how you can add some form of fresh vegetable or fruit every day. The fresher, more seasonal and least sweet the better for you. Fresh and lightly cooked vegetables are way more nutritious than deep fried veggies.
Don't Skip Meals
Even if you are expecting a massive meal that day, skipping breakfast or lunch is a bad idea and may cause you to binge later on. You can have a normal-sized or smaller meal before the big meal. Consider how you can include some high quality protein (egg, fish) and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). Do not let yourself get 'hangry' or your blood sugar tank right before the big meal.
Choose Your Snacks Wisely
Assuming you are well-rested and you have a well-balanced meal, you will be better positioned to avoid the highly palatable, processed foods loaded with refined carbs and sugar. As a general rule, I would say the best options are to eat a properly satisfying meal rather than snacks. If you are into the snack department, ideally go for raw, unsalted and organic nuts and seeds, and small amount of dried fruits. The fresher, the less processed, with the least amount of artificial colourings and flavourings the better. Dark chocolate (>70% cocoa content) is better than any conventional chocolate.
Get Your Body Moving
If you are very much into an exercise routine, try to fit in your regular training during Chinese New Year, as long as it is enjoyable to you. Don't even think about using a punishing exercise as a way to work off excess calories. You are much better off taking a gentle walk, move around more, do some housework, walk the dog or do a few squats or stretches here and there. The idea is not to burn calories. You should always get your body moving in a way that you enjoy, maybe do this with your family and friends. Moving is good for your digestion, your microbiome and creating a sense of well-being.
Why Should It Be Different Any Day?
The above tips really look like the same healthy habits I described in my previous post. That's the idea! A real habit should stick whether it's a work day or holiday, like brushing teeth and taking a shower, which you do daily and automatically. Think sustainable. Think gradual. Think long term.
What other ideas have you got in your mind? Please share with me. If you are travelling during Chinese New Year, watch out for some travel tips in my next post.