How to Stay Lean and Healthy During the Holidays

1
Relax and Stay Healthy

Group of people with broken Christmas crackers.
Think Healthy to Stay Healthy. courtneyk / Getty Images

The holidays are meant for quality time with family and friends, some indulgence, laughter and good cheer. Unfortunately, it has also been labeled a time of stress with power shopping, holiday road rage, and the push to have everything perfect. Fear of weight gain from eating unhealthy also causes additional stress and anxiety.

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax. Enjoying some of the sweet and savory temptations we deprive ourselves during the year is expected. What would the holidays be without a slice of grandma's pumpkin pie? Living a fit lifestyle doesn't mean deprivation but a healthy mindset about food intake. Eating right isn't about perfection nor should we be burdened with food guilt because we ate a brownie.

Enjoying the holidays will be more meaningful and special if we take on a more relaxed approach. As we gather together to laugh and be merry, there are ways to stay lean, healthy and feel good with our choices.

2
Maintain Healthy Eating

Enjoying a few splurges during the holiday will not break your fitness bank. Maintain your usual healthy food intake between selective indulgences. Ensure the refrigerator and pantry are well stocked with nutrient-dense foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If you’re eating super clean at 90/10 (allowing 10% splurge), consider dropping down to 80/20 or 70/30 for the few days traditional holiday temptations are calling your name. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is never about restriction but creating healthier habits.

Holiday Eating Tip:

Eat a healthy meal or snack before attending holiday functions. This will remove hunger pangs and the temptation to grab and gobble. Enjoy one or two of your favorite holiday foods in proper portion size and move on.

3
Portion Control

The holidays provide a bounty of beautiful foods and it will be important to adhere to proper portion size during your meals. Take a look at your palm as a portion guide of the amount of food to put on your plate. When available, choose a smaller plate for visual satiety to help you maintain the right portion sizes overall.

Holiday Eating Tip: 

Eating the right portion size will help keep calories within your normal daily range. Remember calories in vs energy out influences weight gain. 

4
Carry Healthy Snacks

Part of the holiday fun is shopping for our loved ones. There is nothing worse than becoming famished during the process. This is the time we are tempted to find the nearest food kiosk and inhale an extra-large bag of buttered pretzel bites. Very delicious going down but now the guilt of a diet mistake is ruining your shopping experience. Skipping a healthy meal should never take priority over gift purchases. Hours of holiday shopping call for healthy snack planning and stashing.

Holiday Eating Tip:

Plan holiday shopping with health in mind. Stash healthy snacks in your purse or jacket pocket to stave off hunger. Great portable snack ideas include sandwich bags filled with portioned out raw nuts and dried cranberries or healthy nutrition bars with minimal ingredients.

5
Maintain Your Workouts

Holiday Survival Tips
Don't Skip Your Workouts During the Holidays. JGI/Jamie Grill Blend Images/Getty Images

Holidays can be busy with additional shopping, cooking and social activities creating minimal wiggle room in our calendars. Maintaining your workout will be important during this time to help manage additional caloric intake and stress reduction. Use the holiday as a motivator for your workout and quality gym time to unwind, recharge the batteries and take a break from the hustle and bustle.

Holiday Workout Tip: 

Schedule your workout on the calendar and don’t cancel. Pick a time that doesn’t conflict with holiday events even if that means going to bed earlier to complete a morning exercise session.

6
Drink Plenty of Water

The holidays bring wine and spirits and water intake is often forgotten. Excessive thirst and dehydration can sneak up on you. Becoming thirsty while shopping is also a concern. Holiday foods are typically heavily salted requiring additional water intake. Maintaining electrolyte balance is also essential. Consider the human body is over 60% water and this fact alone should explain our natural need to maintain hydration.

Holiday Nutrition Tip:

Bring a water bottle to holiday events or when out shopping. Be mindful to drink water several times throughout holiday celebrations to flush out toxins and maintain a well-hydrated body.

7
Limit Alcohol Intake

Alcohol is a big part of holiday celebrations. It can be enjoyed smart by keeping alcohol to a minimum and drinking water between cocktails. Drinking too much is never a fun time and adverse effects can easily happen when alcohol has been reduced or eliminated from your healthy lifestyle. You would be more susceptible to alcohol sensitivity causing several miserable visits to the bathroom, and the remainder of your time lying on the sofa eating saltine crackers.

Holiday Drinking Tip: 

Keep alcohol to a minimum (no more than 2 drinks) or avoid it all together. Wise alcohol consumers will drink 8 ounces of water for every 3 ounces of booze to dilute and flush toxins from the body. 

8
Reduce Stress

We have enough stress in our daily lives to allow it to ruin our holiday season. Stress stimulates cortisol release and is linked to weight gain. This fact alone should send us to the meditation mat for deep breathing exercise or to the gym for a positive endorphin release.   Maintaining a stress-free holiday should be our goal. Remembering the reason for the season should help keep it to a minimum.

Holiday Survival Tip:

Let go of stress during the holiday and realize it’s a time meant for family, friends, and meaningful moments. Forget all the hectic stuff, grab a board game and have some fun.

9
Cut Yourself Some Slack

We tend to be hardest on ourselves with our bodies, fitness and really everything involving our life. You're following a fitness plan, feel great but now the holidays are bringing doom and gloom instead of joy. Your holiday thoughts race to getting fat, over-eating and each day those feelings swell to overwhelming heights. The first step is letting go of unrealistic feelings and expectations unattainable by anyone. Perfection doesn’t exist and only progress as we adopt healthy lifestyles.

Holiday Survival Tip: 

Cut yourself some slack this holiday and gift yourself permission to relax, enjoy some treats, and understand it isn’t going to derail all your positive efforts.

Sources:

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), HOLIDAY EATING: ALCOHOL, APPETIZERS, AND DESSERTS! OH MY!, Emily Bailey, 11/17/15

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), SIMPLE NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES – PART 1, Fabio Comana MS, MA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, 12/24/13

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), RELAXATION TECHNIQUES FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON, Brian Sutton MS, MA, PES, CES, NASM-CPT, 12/12/13

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