Christmas tree

Living with Scoliosis: Staying Healthy for the Holidays

It’s that time a year again. Between traveling, late nights, events, and sugary sweets, holidays can take a toll on our bodies. While most people enjoy more relaxed schedules during Christmas and Thanksgiving, any change in routine can affect back-pain and energy levels of people living with scoliosis.

For me, any little change, from a chair to a different bed, can make my muscle pain flare up.  Knowing that I would have to make some sacrifices, I worked with Jessica from Battle Born Health to come up with a holiday plan to limit back pain while traveling to visit family this season.

Traveling for the Holidays with Scoliosis

Here’s how I plan ahead for a trip to stay healthy and productive:

Add extra activity into your schedule

I always feel my best when I’m more active. Sitting for long periods has always been my struggle with scoliosis, so I make sure to add in extra activity when I’m visiting family and friends. Each year, my family does a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and it’s a great way to get active on the holiday.

Eat regular meals and moderate sugar

Good nutrition is important for keeping up energy when you have scoliosis. While holidays may be full of richer foods, it’s important to not skip meals and eat at regular times. I try to limit sugar and have only a “few bites” of dessert if I’m in the mood for it.

Make the best of your sleep situation

Sleeping in a firm bed is best for my back. Couches and other sleep arrangements aren’t great for my back. However, if it’s just for a few days I’ll try to bring my own pillows or try to make the arrangement as comfortable as possible.   

Do physical therapy exercises and stretches

Before my trip, Jessica worked with me to review the exercises I could do while out of town. We prepared my workout schedule and exercises before the trip and I made sure I’d have the right equipment handy.

Stay positive and breath through anxiety

Dealing with pain and fatigue during the holidays never creates good memories. As much as I try to stay healthy, certain points of the trip are always harder than others. During these times, I try to breath and focus on ways I can relax my muscles or get extra rest during the trip.

While no holiday is perfect, these tips keep me feeling my best throughout the season so that I can enjoy all of the festive activities with my friends and family.

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*Disclaimer: My writing is from personal experience and meant for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional for medical advice concerning scoliosis. Battle Born Health is happy to answer any questions regarding back pain and treatment options.

Holiday Diet Implosion

So you’ve been on a “diet” or have made a lifestyle shift in your eating habits. Whether it’s been watching carbs, going gluten-free, eliminating dairy or nightshades, or maybe you’re on the Whole 30. Whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter because what does matter is that you have been feeling great! Now its November and the holiday train is coming right at you. EEK! You try and hang on to your seat (literally!) as it’s can be wild ride, full of temptation.

holiday-coffee

For my issues, I needed to commit to different dietary standards Ie. NO Gluten, soy, dairy, and corn products but I LOVE holiday foods! My mother in-law is an amazing cook! Peach cobbler is her specialty and I have been caught in the kitchen polishing off the baking dish as I was “cleaning up “at Thanksgiving more than once. It took me five holiday seasons of feeling terrible from November until March to figure out that in the bustle of family gatherings, holidays, and parties, that I can’t eat the holiday table “regulars”, and that I can’t cheat. How was I going to get through this?

holiday-diet

At first I stayed pretty committed to a diet with an occasional cheat that I couldn’t resist. The last time I “fell off the wagon” we were on a trip and I had some soda, coffee and ate the icing off the cake, (really just the icing because it was still “gluten-free”) and a few other “cheats” because it was convenient. When I came home from our vacation, I was having difficulty sleeping, anxiety, gastric issues, weight gain, and fatigue. I also noticed a huge change in my workouts. I had been doing great with my spin class prior to the holidays. I was able to get my max heart rate up to 171 and recover quickly.

After that one week trip with a bunch of cheats, my heart rate wouldn’t go over 140. It took me almost 4 months to regulate my digestion, sleep and return to almost the same fitness levels. After that experience, I decided I had to follow a specific diet. I couldn’t cheat, not even on holidays. I found out almost 2 years ago that I have Hashimoto Thyroiditis. I started GAPS almost 2 years ago with success. I am not willing to risk my health for the holiday treats. GAPS, especially in the beginning, is very strict and limiting.

holiday-tree

There were a few months I had to bring my own food with me everywhere. Bar Mitzvah’s, dinner parties, holiday parties, ski days. I am not going to lie, it sucked…Not only can the “diet” aspect be hard, but also the questions, the looks of pity or concern, or that you are crazy! It’s my mom wanting to feed me. My friends inviting me to dinner and trying so hard to cook for me. My family anxious to go grab a bite to eat after a soccer game. As you can see, with the holidays, it’s more than just about the food… yes, there’s, apple pies and Chinese food ( What?! I am Jewish that’s what we eat on Christmas eve) and that all taste great, but its more about being part of the celebration and being included.

Even though I am there, not taking part in the dinner or having to prep my own “special meal” in the corner makes me feel left out. The hardest holiday for me was Passover, I couldn’t have matzo-ball soup… My grandmother and I had made matzo-ball soup many times together when I was a kid, it was very emotional not to eat it with my friends and family. I can’t say I have the holidays 100% completely figured out but have a system that has been working for me.

This tip list has helped me through 5 gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free holidays and 2 gaps legal holiday seasons.

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1. Know your WHY. Why are you doing this diet/lifestyle? Is it an allergy, an auto-immune disease, weight loss, or training for a big race? When you have that deep real why, then you can tell yourself that particular food is or is not worth risking it… and sometimes it is worth it (its ok, if its ok).
2. Be PREPARED. If you go to party hungry, you are more likely to eat impulsively what is in front of you. And if your diet is AIP or GAPS (or another limiting diet), most likely there will be nothing you can choose from. Always have food with you.
3. CONTAINERS.Thermos, fork knife spoon set, cute lunch box tote. Find some items you like keep them with you. Looking for something fun?  Try these containers. 
4. REMIND yourself it’s not about the food. It’s about spending time with family and friends. It’s about feeling good the next day, and that a food hangover that stops you from playing with your kids on Christmas morning isn’t worth it.
5. Pick a FOOD PREP DAY. Cook in bulk ahead of time, so during the craziness of the season you can grab some roasted chicken, veggies, lettuce and an avocado to throw in your fun container or tote bag to take with you.
6. Offer to BRING A DISH TO SHARE to the party. Find a dish you really like, that fits your needs and bring it to include in the pot luck. Vegetable tian, roasted chicken, warm cranberry spinach salad (links below) have been great for me.
7. Find someone who can SUPPORT you, either because they eat as you do or they truly believe in what you are committed to. If you can’t find that person look to a health coach that can help you with accountability.
8. Do your best to ENJOY what you are eating. Look for other parts of the holidays that you can be grateful for, that you may have ignored before. Now is the time to embrace new and different.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Here are links to recipes I have used for holiday dinners that have proven popular with most everyone, dieting or not!

http://www.saveur.com/provencal-vegetable-gratin-tian-recipe
I would use a ghee or saturated fat (tallow, duck fat, schmaltz, or avocado oil vs olive oil with this recipe)