How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

I have a HARD time during the holidays when I’m trying to stick to my healthy diet and workout regime and I’m surrounded by yummy, unhealthy foods for almost an entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I know I can’t be the only one who suffers from this right?! Well, fear not, my friend! Here are some ways to help combat the craziness of the holidays without completely derailing your diet and fitness!

To begin, realize that your health comes from a few different areas. We need to touch on mental health (holidays are always a source of stress with all the extra people around =) ), physical health (like working out), and nutrition (what you’re eating).

Lets start by talking about your mental health… It is SO important to not stress during the holidays. I know this can be hard. For me, I’ll be driving almost 8 hours each way just to visit my family for a few days. All that extra driving and traffic plus spending a jam packed week visiting as many people as possible and trying to get quality time in wherever you can, can be overwhelming. This stress leads to sleep disturbances and deprivation as well as influxes of different hormones and even a decrease in your immune system so you’re more likely to get sick! The problem with these different hormones is that these stress hormones can actually cause your metabolism to slow down (read more about that HERE) and can cause you to gain a bit of weight! =(

So how can you stress less during this holiday season? There’s a few simple ways that I can think of right off the top of my head! The first one is to make a list of all the things that you need to do. This way you won’t be feeling overwhelmed or like you’ve forgotten something. It will help you rest a little easier when you feel organized. Be efficient. When you have tasks scheduled, you won’t feel like you’re running around from place to place. Anticipate your needs and plan for them. For me, as I start to get busy and stressed, little things can catch me off guard, so if I have to get up in the morning or have a busy day ahead of me, I’ll set out my clothes and my bag for work the next day, or pack my lunch and snacks the night before so I won’t have to be thinking about it at 4 in the morning when I’m getting up! Above all else, just try to keep everything in perspective. Remember that this holiday season is really no different than any other and even if there’s different things going on, it all still ends and everyone will go back to his or her regular routines in just a few weeks. Plus, use whatever you learn this year to help you even more next year! For example, if you’ve always put on Thanksgiving dinner and somehow this year, you forget to assign someone to make the Pumpkin Pie, I bet that next year, that will be the first thing you do! =) Lastly, make sure you get enough sleep! Get all of your packing and last minute preparations done ahead of time so you’re not stressing about it and losing out on some VERY important sleep. Research has shown that missing out on even just a few hours of sleep the night before can make you more susceptible to catching a cold the very next day and the last thing you want is to be sick over the holidays!

Now, how to stay healthy on the fitness front… Traveling, relatives staying on your couch, extra hours of work trying to get everything done before the holidays, shopping for presents, etc can all TOTALLY derail you from your regular fitness regime. Instead of doing what a lot of people do, which is essentially just take the entire month off from working out, just be more aware that you’ll be busy and plan a bit better or get creative!

If I know that I’ve got a jam packed week coming up, I’ll look at the schedule and actually schedule myself a workout or a class because if I have it down on paper, I’m less likely to bail on myself, plus, I’ve already allotted time for it so I won’t be missing out on something else. If I’m going shopping, I wear my running shoes and take an extra lap around the mall to do some window shopping while getting a little cardio in! If I’m going out of town, I get to look forward and get excited for a new running route around my neighborhood! You can even plan activities with family or friends that you intend to spend time with anyways, but make them fitness activities. Instead of chugging down a 500 calories drink from Starbucks with a girlfriend, grab some regular coffee and go on a walk in the park with her! I know I’ll be taking my nephews to the playground and probably running around in circles racing them! =) Lastly, I try to have fun with it. If I know that I have to clean the entire house or do the dishes or laundry, I’ll blast some loud music and dance around when I do it to burn just a few extra calories!

Last but definitely not least… how to eat right during the holidays! This can be the hardest one for most people because not only are you usually not in your regular routine, but you’re also surrounded by so many unhealthy options! Here are a few tips to keep you on track! Plan ahead! (Boy this one seems to come up a lot, huh?) If I know I’m going to the mall and will be gone all day, I’ll pack a few small, healthy snacks to take with me so I won’t be tempted to eat unhealthy mall foods or go hungry! I also make sure to eat a full, healthy meal before I leave so I don’t even get hungry while I’m there! Make sure to avoid the “Splurge/Starve” cycle! I hear this all the time from my clients. People are under the impression that if they overeat the night before, that they should skip breakfast and lunch to “make up” for the extra calories they consumed. That is a DOWNWARD SPIRAL and should be avoided at all costs! If you overeat, realize that you overate and be done with it. Don’t beat yourself up or punish yourself because it will only do more damage. Instead, start your morning with a quick walk, a light and nutrition breakfast, and fill up with a glass of water to help keep your metabolism up and burn more calories! I even tell my clients that although I don’t promote it, I’m ok with them eating a few small, unhealthy items. That way you still feel like you’ve enjoyed the holiday and aren’t holding yourself back. Just make sure you’re eating A LOT more healthy items like fruits and veggies prior to that unhealthy choice and chances are you won’t even want it or you’ll be full before you finish that slice of pie! Lastly, remember that most beverages contain calories as well! Alcoholic drinks, home-made punches, and coffee drinks often have a lot of unexpected calories in them, so make sure to consume them in moderation!

Finally, enjoy your holiday! The more active you are and the healthier you eat, the better you’ll feel overall and the more excited you’ll be coming out of this holiday season!