Does anyone else feel like throwing in the towel when it comes to prioritizing a healthy diet around the holidays? For me, it used to be all or nothing: either turning down every passed hors d’oeuvres at holiday parties, orrrr on your third slice of pie and throwing caution to the wind. All too often I find myself waking up feeling frustrated at my lack of willpower to not overindulge at holiday parties. On the flip side, I’ve also found myself overcommitting to my health goals and missing out on fun nights with friends and family, only to regret not going to the party the next day. So, how to find that healthy balance?
In recent years, I’ve developed some healthy holiday strategies that allow me to relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year — without overdoing it and feeling anxious the next day.
If you’re worried that the next few weeks’ festivities are more than your schedule or waistline can handle, I recommend focusing on your Monday – Friday lifestyle choices. If you commit to staying healthy and sticking to your fitness and wellness goals during the weekday, you won’t need to sweat it come Saturday night when you’re sipping a spiked eggnog.
Scroll on for the weekday lifestyle choices I’m committing to this year, to make it a healthy and genuinely happy holiday season.
Have a 1 drink limit.
Because it’s just not realistic for me to say ‘don’t drink at all during the week’ this time of year, I’ve been living by a new rule: one and done. This year, I’ve put a one drink limit on myself during the week days, and it has really made a huge difference. I don’t wake up with brain fog, I’m sleeping great, and I don’t consume extra calories mindlessly just for the sake of having a drink in my hand. If you do drink during the week, be sure to make it a good one. Indulge in a really delicious glass of wine while catching up with your girlfriends or watching a Christmas movie. Get a yummy craft cocktail at your office happy hour, and really savor each sip. And once you’re done, switch to sparkling water or a mocktail – no one will notice or care that you aren’t drinking alcohol. It’s okay to go out and celebrate; it is the most wonderful time of the year, after all! Just don’t give into peer pressure to ‘stay for just one more’, because we all know what that one more can turn into.
Make exercise a non-negotiable.
Don’t skip your workout because you overindulged the night before. Instead, use it as motivation to get you out of bed and give it everything you’ve got. If you make it a non-negotiable to move your body every day throughout the season, you will feel so much better mentally and physically. That doesn’t mean you have to go to a barre or spin class every day. Although that would be great, fact is that it’s an extremely busy time of year for all of us, so it’s important to be realistic about what your workout looks like. Just make it a daily priority to move your body, no matter what.
Don’t forget that there are simple ways to get moving and sneak in as much exercise as you can during the day, too — take the stairs, stretch or do pushups and crunches while watching TV, park further away from the store, walk a few extra blocks before jumping into your Uber. Remember that any extra time you spend moving your body is better than nothing at all, and you won’t feel as bad if (when) you do end up skipping a workout class or two.
SLEEP. But really.
More social engagements during the holidays means staying up late and getting less sleep. And not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your health. Sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, cause brain fog and lower immunity, making you more vulnerable to that nasty cold and flu that’s been going around the office. Set yourself a firm bedtime and stick to it during the week. If you have several parties and engagements for the same week, pick one or two that are the most important to you, and kindly decline attending the ones you’re feeling meh about to stay home and catch some extra Zzz’s. When you make the choice to prioritize sleep instead of going to the party, you have to stick to it and not let FOMO trickle in. I promise you will be so happy tomorrow when you wake up rested and ready to tackle the day. (note to self…)
Drink a lot of water.
“Drinking water is the silver bullet for many of the challenges we face during the holidays,” says nutritionist Kate Geagan, author of Go Green Get Lean. Fact is, we don’t give H2O enough credit and it can have a dramatic impact on our overall health and well-being. When water levels drop in your body, even as little as 2%, you may start to see some side effects, from overeating and weight gain (you may mistake thirst for hunger), bloating (dehydration increases fluid retention in your body), trouble with digestion (it may lead to constipation), low energy, a negative mood, a headache, and dry mouth. Drinking a lot of water throughout the day will give you a much-needed boost and lead to less overeating. Power through these demanding days by staying hydrated, and you won’t need your 3 p.m. sugar fix. I like to carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go to help me remember to drink up. Give yourself a goal of refilling your water bottle 3-5 times every day, and see how good you feel (and look!) when you’re properly hydrated.
Take 30 minutes to yourself.
No matter how busy you are make sure to take at least 30 minutes for yourself every day. Go for a walk, meditate, stretch, read a book, or write in your journal; do anything you enjoy or that helps you recenter and get grounded. Taking a 30 minute breather helps me to not get over-stimulated with everything I have going on and burn out before the season is over. Practicing self-compassion and self-care is more important now than ever. Use this time to be grateful for your commitment to your health and happiness, and remind yourself of your goals. Give yourself a pat on the back during this time – you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and you should feel proud and unashamed for putting yourself and your needs first.
Here’s to a healthy, present, and cheerful holiday season. You’ve got this!