The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for just about anyone. There’s so much to plan for, presents to buy, food to cook, and decorations to hang. With all that extra work, it’s no wonder that it can be the most stressful time of the year, too. And with that stress and over scheduling, healthy habits often go out the window. Watching the number on the scale slowly climb only adds to the strain of the holidays.
If you think about it objectively, it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because the season of good cheer is here again doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fall into bad habits or make poor lifestyle choices. Never mind what you did in years past. With just a few easy strategies, you can stay fit and healthy while still focusing on the enjoyable things that really matter this season. What’s more, you’ll be able to slide into the new year with more energy and a better outlook by getting a jump start on those resolutions now.
1. Portion Control
One of the best parts of the holidays and Christmas is the food. In fact, many would argue that food is the best part of the celebrations. There are so many amazing home-cooked dinners, great-grandma’s secret dessert recipe, and maybe even a few incredibly tasty gifts under the tree. You don’t have to forego all that fabulous cuisine just to stay healthy during the holidays. Indeed, it would be best if you didn’t deprive yourself of the experience as it will only breed resentment and irritation.
Instead, think about the portions. Take less than you normally would, but savor every bit, really tasting and appreciating the flavors, textures, and aromas of each unique dish. Eating smaller amounts can help you reduce your caloric intake and keep your waistline in check.
2. Avoid the Alcohol
A little eggnog? A glass of champagne? Some wine to go with dinner? You definitely don’t want to miss out on the holiday cheer, but you still want to stay fit during the holidays. Alcohol can be a significant stumbling block when it comes to staying healthy, not just during special celebrations, either. Can you have your cake and eat it too?
It depends. Not only do alcoholic beverages contain quite a few calories, but they also loosen your inhibitions, meaning you’ll be more likely to forget your commitment to portion control and binge on a few servings of your holiday favorites.
Medical experts recommend that you limit yourself to one or two drinks a day to lower your risk of certain conditions and diseases. And many people find that cutting back or avoiding alcohol altogether has a surprising side effect—no hangovers. Waking up early with a clear head and a sense of well-being is a priceless gift you can give yourself this season, and one that will keep on giving for many years to come.
3. Be a Little Picky
Maybe you’re a mashed potato lover, or you absolutely can’t get enough of your mom’s homemade pumpkin pie. Perhaps you spend all year looking forward to the amazing fudge your sister always brings. Whatever the case, stick to your favorites.
There’s no rule that says you must eat the green bean casserole or the stuffing if it’s not your first choice. Indulge in the foods that you love while leaving the rest behind. If you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) or don’t want to offend your hosts, take only a small spoonful. Sometimes just a taste really is enough.
4. Pick up the Pace on Fitness
If there is one thing you should stick to during the holidays, it’s your fitness regime. And rather than scale it back, you may want to add on a few extra minutes each day for good measure. But what if you’re strapped for time?
Use your busy schedule during the holiday season to burn a few extra calories and stay fit on-the-go. For instance, instead of ordering your groceries online, take the time to power walk through the store to gather what you need. Or grab some ankle weights as you hit the mall for those last-minute gifts.
Take the stairs, park a block or two away, jog in place for two minutes—Do whatever it takes. Be creative in adding a little extra activity to your day, and you will counter the extra calories the coming weeks are sure to bring.
5. Find a Healthy Option for Stress Relief
Believe it or not, your mental health has a big impact on your physical health. Your body will actually store more fat as your stress levels rise. If you feel yourself drowning under the weight of buying presents, decorating, and preparing huge meals, take a step back and think about the real reason for the holidays: love and family. In the end, as long as you get to spend quality time making memories with the ones you love, does it really matter if the tree was perfectly decorated?
When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to be mindful, and practice deep breathing. Turn your face to the sun and enjoy the warmth or use a guided meditation app to decompress.
If you need to stay productive during your down time, relax while cleaning out your email inbox, catching up on blog posts, or even making some extra cash for gifts by taking taking surveys for cash. For some people, action is the most comfortable form of recreation.
6. Get Some Sleep
Another essential way to help maintain your health is to get enough sleep every night. This goes hand in hand with keeping your stress level down, and it can play a significant role in your overall level of fitness. Put down the baking sheets and step back from the tinsel; give your body the rest it needs to stay healthy this holiday season.
7. Stay Hydrated
Getting enough water during the winter can be a challenge. It’s cold outside, so you don’t feel hot or thirsty, and you’re super busy getting ready for your celebrations. It’s easy to overlook that water bottle in favor of a piping hot chocolate or coffee. Becoming dehydrated, though, wreak havoc with your metabolism and increase your weight gain. Make it a habit to keep water with you wherever you go to help maintain your health all year round.
8. Bring a Healthy Dish
Most holiday celebrations include potluck style buffets, where everyone contributes something to the feast. Use that to your advantage by bringing healthy options to help fill your plate. Nobody will notice, and it will give you a guilt-free backup plan should you find yourself surrounded by too many carbs.
If you have no idea where to start, google healthy potluck recipes until something catches your eye. Beware, though, you might want to give any new dish a trial run first. A big, tossed salad with a couple of healthy dressing selections is always a hit if all else fails.
Final Thoughts on Staying Fit During The Holidays
A good rule of thumb for this time of year is an 80:20 approach. Allow yourself to indulge 20 percent of the time while sticking to your good habits about 80 percent of the time. This will keep you from feeling like you’re being deprived. Being too strict can actually increase the likelihood that you fail in your healthy habits altogether. Give yourself some wiggle room to ensure that you achieve your goals of staying fit and healthy throughout the holiday season.