How To Have a Happy, Healthier Holiday Season!
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Healthy Eating Tips and More…
Merry Everything to You!
We’re all back in the world this holiday season, and that means holiday parties and gatherings!
For many, sticking to a healthy routine goes out the window during this time of year. The weather is cooler, the days are shorter, yet another something yummy is baking in the oven, and there’s always a holiday party or family gathering to attend.
It’s easy to let your diet or exercise routine slide when faced with so much temptation. While the holiday season is certainly a time to relax and enjoy yourself, don’t ruin the fitness or healthy eating progress you’ve made thus far. Holiday calories count, no matter how much we wish they didn’t. But how can you stay on track with your diet and workout routine while still enjoying yourself this as your social calendar gets busier and busier?
Read below for some of my healthy eating tips and more for having a happy, healthier holiday season.
Stick to an Exercise Routine
The winter months make sticking to an exercise routine more challenging. Cooler weather and shorter days motivate you to snuggle under the covers, not pump it out at the gym. Plus, holiday travel can mess up your usual fitness routine.
Sticking to an exercise routine is the most important thing you can do for yourself this holiday season. Not only will it help you burn off extra holiday treats, but it will improve your mood and give you more energy for dealing with those special people in your life….you know the ones that make you want to add a lot of rum to your egg nog. Restraint takes a lot of energy!
Do your best to make exercise a part of your daily holiday season routine. Go for a walk around your neighborhood, do a quick bodyweight workout while waiting for your cookies to bake, or convince a family member to walk/run a holiday 5K with you. Any opportunity you have to get some exercise this holiday season, take it.
Opt for Shorter, but More Intense Workouts
Being pressed for time is one of the many excuses we make for skipping out on workouts during this time of year. While it’s certainly true that holiday shopping and family engagements make getting to the gym more difficult, it’s not impossible.
Instead of skipping out on the gym altogether, opt for shorter, but more intense workouts. In this way, you will still get a good workout but in much less time. Try a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout that will get your heart pumping but can be completed in 30 minutes or less. Ask your Pilates instructor if 30 minute sessions can be an option until the new year. These types of intense workouts don’t take up as much time, but can be just as effective as an hour-long session at moderate intensity.
Keep Track of Your Blood Sugar
Letting your blood sugar get too low or too high can have disastrous effects on both your health and mood. Those active days and nights can keep you so busy that you go long periods without eating. Then when the hunger pangs start, the holiday season is great at having plenty of sweet treats & empty, savory carbs at the ready. Chips, pretzels and crackers can throw your blood sugars off the same way a tray of Christmas cookies can.
Stop the vicious cycle by making sure you’re maintaining your blood sugar throughout the day. If you miss mealtimes, pack nutrient-rich snacks with you to eat on the go. Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day will keep your energy levels more stable and prevent you from bingeing when it is time to eat.
Don’t Starve Yourself
It may be tempting to restrict your calories, fast, or skip meals to make up for the extra calories you’ll consume at a holiday season party. But restricting doesn’t work in the long run. By restricting your food intake during the day, you’ll be more likely to consume even more calories come mealtime. Plus, not eating can put you in a crabby mood.
Maintain a healthy, normal meal schedule during the holiday season. When you do indulge, enjoy it, but try not to go overboard. If you do, make up for it with an extra workout or by getting more steps during the day instead of starving yourself.
Bring Your Own Food
One of my most useful healthy eating tips is to show up to a party with a dish you know you can enjoy, guilt-free! For example, if you’re attending a potluck holiday gathering, bring a dish that fits into your eating plan. Not all party meals need to be indulgent. A healthy, flavorful salad or low carb dish will be much appreciated by all.
Bringing your own food will help you stay on track with your diet while still allowing you to participate in festivities. Not that kind of party? If you can’t bring your own food to a gathering, eat beforehand. Being full before you show up will make it less tempting for you to binge on sweets and treats.
Get the Good Stuff First
Of course, holiday season buffets are full of not-so-healthy foods. While I fully believe in not depriving yourself, I also believe in moderation. You shouldn’t eat the bad stuff in exclusion of the good stuff.
What I mean is, eat the good stuff alongside the treats. Fill your plate first with the good…you know, your greens, lean proteins, healthy fats, etc. Make sure you’re getting your nutrients before going back for the bad stuff, like the sugars and starches. Doing it this way lets you have the best of both worlds and prevents you from overeating treats.
Eat Away From the Buffet
Speaking of holiday season buffets–don’t eat near them. One of my other best healthy eating tips is to stay as far away from the buffet as you can. Once you’ve filled your plate, move on.
If you hang around the buffet table all night long, you’ll be more inclined to go back for seconds, thirds, and then pick at it like a vulture the rest of the night. Trust me, I’ve done it many times. Eat your fill then keep yourself busy elsewhere at the holiday gathering.
Holiday parties and gatherings are social events where you’ll be doing a lot of talking while eating. The problem with that is, you’re more likely to mindlessly eat. Talking while eating is a distraction. How many times have you mindlessly picked at a plate of chips or fries while listening to a friend ramble on about their relationship problems?
When you mindlessly eat, you don’t give your brain and stomach enough time to register fullness. Seriously, it can take up to 20 minutes for some of us to feel satisfied. Combat this by being conscious of what and how much you’re eating. Slow down while you eat and make your meal last as long as you can.
Dance It Off
Dancing is excellent cardio that is a ton of fun and burns a ton of calories. If you’re going to a party where dancing will be involved, don’t be shy! Wear your dancing shoes and hit the dance floor. Your party host will be so grateful, too…no one wants an empty dance floor.
Dancing will help you work off some of the calories you may have consumed from that night’s sweet and salty buffet. Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends, bond with your old ones, and help make the party livelier.
Easy on the Alcohol
The holiday season might not feel the same without your favorite candy cane martini. However, consuming too much alcohol is not only bad for your health, but also for your waistline. Alcohol is just empty calories. It’s pretty much sugar in its purest form. It does nothing good for you but rack up your calorie intake, through off your blood sugar, and make you more likely to embarrass yourself at your company or family holiday party.
Take it easy on the alcohol this holiday season. If you do choose to imbibe, stick to drinks with fewer calories, like vodka soda or white wine. Also, make sure you’re drinking water between drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic that dehydrates your body, which makes a hangover more likely. Chase down every 4 oz alcoholic drink with at least 8 oz of water, flat or sparkling.
Get Those Zzzs
The holiday season is busy, but you shouldn’t be sacrificing your sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with higher stress levels, bad mood, and weight gain. When your body is low on energy, it craves more caloric foods to make up for it. You’re more likely to binge eat when you’ve only had a few hours of sleep.
Do your best to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Turn off your electronics and go to bed early. Gift
wrapping can wait until you’ve got your 8 hours of sleep in.
Another healthy eating tip for those who love to indulge, is to indulge purposefully. Holiday season buffets have many options to choose from but why blow calories on foods that are just, well, meh?
For example, if your mom’s tiramisu is your favorite holiday dish, let yourself indulge on a generous portion (or two). Balance it out by skipping out on other dishes that aren’t your favorite (like your aunt’s upside down pineapple cake).
By choosing beforehand which foods you will indulge on and which foods you’ll skip, you’ll eat less. Don’t feel like you need to have a helping of every food just because it’s there. Be picky with your food choices and only go for the things you feel are worth extra time in the gym.
‘Tis the season for stress and it can take a real toll on your mental health. If you’re struggling, take a moment to get outside. Fresh air and sunlight can instantly help relieve stress and improve your mood. It’s also one of the best ways to get vitamin D, an essential vitamin vital to a healthy immune system.
Put on your winter jacket (or sandals if you live in a tropical environment) and get out the door. A brisk walk in nature can do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
The Bottom Line: Have Fun!
My last and final tip for having a happy and healthy holiday season is to have fun! The holidays are meant to be a time where family and friends come together and celebrate. If you’re ever in a situation where you’re feeling stressed or not having fun, consider why that is. Taking care of your health and being around positive people who truly care for you are what life should be about.
Make a point to fill your life with health and happiness and, watch…
you will have an amazing holiday season!