How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays.

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  From late October to early January, there are holiday parties, family get-togethers, time with family, and lots and lots of yummy food.  However, this time of year can also lead to stress, late nights, over indulgence of food (& alcohol,) and a reduced amount of exercise.

Ever wonder if it’s possible to stay healthy during the holidays?  Read on for some of my top holiday tips:

1. Keep Moving.

This sounds way simpler than it actually is in real life.  If you’re anything like me, you’re scrambling to figure out how to balance work, parties, cooking/prepping/planning…all while finding the extra time to exercise.  Try these tried and true tips!!

  • Stick to 30 minute workouts.  Instead of aiming for lofty goals long, grueling workouts, keep it simple.  Include strength training and cardio to keep your metabolism high while keeping your body healthy and strong.
  • Write your planned workouts down in a calendar at a time that you know is doable.  If it’s on your planner, it will happen!  Treat it like an important meeting that is non-negotiable!
  • Increase your movement in daily activities.  Take the stairs.  Park far.  Take a 5 minute walk break every hour or so.  All these little bouts of movement can really add up big time!

2. Stay balanced.

If you’re going out to a party at night, and you know there will be appetizers, wine, desserts, etc., then balance things out by making your breakfast and lunch extra nutritious.  Perhaps a bowl of oatmeal with bananas, pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup for breakfast.  How about a couple of scrambled eggs, some roasted sweet potatoes and a veggie stir-fry for lunch?

Stay balanced with your day by eating regular meals and snacks, including plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables (since these will likely be lacking at most holiday meals, am I right??)  Also, make it a priority to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help your body stay hydrated.

3. Give away leftovers.

Let’s face it.  Eating what we want for a couple of major holidays isn’t that big a deal.  But have you ever noticed how the holidays just seem to spread themselves out over days and weeks, thanks to all the leftovers?  If you’ve ever found yourself eating pumpkin pie a week after Thanksgiving, only to then prepare yourself for the upcoming holiday parties at work, you’re certainly not alone.

My secret to avoiding a little too much over indulgence?  I enjoy what I want on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, etc.  It’s one day, and I believe that food is meant to be fully enjoyed.  And then I give away as much as I can of the desserts, stuffing, sides, appetizers, etc. so that my one day of holiday eating doesn’t turn into two months of holiday eating.

4. Don’t skip meals (or snacks!)

If you take away just one tidbit of advice from this post, I would ask you to please, please, please never punish yourself this holiday season.  Too many of us feel guilt around food, and the holidays seem to bring this out even more.  Food is meant to be savored, enjoyed.  There’s something special about gathering with friends and family, sharing recipes, traditions, memories, etc.

If you over-do it at a party with a little too much food and wine, move on!  Don’t beat yourself up and certainly don’t skip breakfast and lunch the next day.  Resume normal eating by having a healthy breakfast, a mid-morning snack and a normal sized lunch.  This will help you resume a normal routine, rather than creating a negative cycle of over-eating followed by guilt followed by starvation followed by over-eating.  Try your best to avoid this type of self sabotage!  Skipping a meal is never the answer.

5. Focus on getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.

Did you know that lack of sleep can actually cause you to overeat?  Ghrelin is a hormone that basically tells you “hey, I’m hungry…eat something!”  Leptin is another hormone that tells you that you’re full.  Neither of them work all that well when you’re sleep deprived, but ghrelin (the hunger hormone) is actually increased while leptin is decreased.  This can cause you to feel more hungry throughout the day.

In other words, when you’re getting 4-5 hours of sleep (or less..gasp!) and you’re facing a platter of cheese, crackers, olives, dips, etc. it’s going to be next to impossible to resist.  Get some zzz’s!!!

6. Stomp out stress.

Take a bubble bath.  Go for a walk with your dog.  Buy yourself an adult coloring book.  Flip on some of your favorite tunes.  Make a cup of tea.  Bring over a box of cookies to your neighbors and take the time to chat for a few minutes.  Look through old pictures.  Be a kid and build a snowman (why not?)  Spend 30 minutes doing absolutely nothing.  Take a yoga class.

Whatever you find to be incredibly relaxing, just do it!!  Taking the time to take care of you is an investment that will help you take care of everyone (and everything!) else.

7. Focus on what really matters.

Remember that there is more to the holidays than JUST food.  I’m a huge foodie and nothing excites me quite as much as trying something new and interesting.  However, when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it’s relationships that truly matter the most.  Spend less time at the appetizer table and get yourself up and socializing.  Chat with an uncle you haven’t seen in over a year.  Play with your niece or nephew.  Make a new friend.

I hope that this year and always, you enjoy the simple things.  Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!!!




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