It’s that time of year again. The holidays are just around the corner. That means epic holiday parties, rich holiday foods, loads of sweets, and your favorite drinks are around that corner, too. Don’t even get us started on enthusiastic relatives that wouldn’t hear of you refusing seconds when it comes to their specialty dishes dripping with calories.
If you find it more than a little challenging to stick to your health regimen over the holidays, you’re in excellent company. However, it’s important to keep in mind that “challenging” isn’t the same thing as “impossible.” Here are a eight tips for staying on track all season long.
1. Never show up to a holiday party hungry.
By now, we all know we shouldn’t grocery shop hungry. The same goes for attending holiday parties and get-togethers on an empty stomach. The hungrier you are when you show up, the more likely you are to cave when it comes to taking seconds of your favorite dish or gorging on high-calorie snack foods.
Try having a nutritious snack at home to help you maintain your self-control once you get there. If you ever find yourself arriving ravenous, drink some water before hitting the snack table. Many people find it helpful to keep healthy snacks stowed away in their purse or glove compartment on an ongoing basis as well.
2. Careful of mindless, social eating.
The holidays make it easier than one would like to eat mindlessly instead of staying aware. People love to stand around food and socialize, or hang out in the kitchen noshing on goodies the entire time. That’s the easiest way in the world to end up consuming hundreds of extra calories without realizing it.
Stay aware. Avoid eating or drinking anything but water while you’re standing around talking, watching television, or simply killing time. Otherwise, it’s too easy to lose track of what and how much you’re eating.
3. Avoid eating when you’re not hungry.
Learning to listen to your body is one of the best habits you can develop when it comes to staying on track with your health routine. This is the case all year round, not just over the holidays. You don’t have to eat just because the clock says it’s “lunch time.” Get in the habit of waiting to eat until you are hungry instead.
On that note, you don’t have to eat just because everyone else is eating or chow down just because the food is there, either. Remember, listen to your body, not the clock, and certainly not peer pressure.
4. Manage your meal portions.
Say “yes” to your favorite foods, don’t deprive yourself, just manage the portions. You can easily enjoy just about anything you want so long as you exercise a little self-control. Go ahead and have your pumpkin pie. Just take a much smaller slice than you otherwise would and indulge in it less often. If you had a sliver for dessert after Thanksgiving dinner, consider passing when you see it on the menu again at Uncle Joe’s early Christmas party a week later.
5. Keep holiday alcohol consumption in moderation.
Yes, alcohol – especially the sugary, punchy stuff you see a lot of around the holidays – is high in calories. However, that’s not the only way drinking too much can derail your good habits over the holidays. The more you drink, the less control you’ll have over what you choose to eat and the less you’ll care about the quality of the choices you’re making.
Set a strict limit on the number of drinks you’ll have at a given event and stick to it. If you feel out of place without carrying around a drink of one kind or another, stick to club soda or water once you’ve hit your limit.
6. Approach buffets with a strategy in place.
Holiday time always brings its share of buffets along with it, usually complete with all of your holiday favorites. However, it’s still more than possible to enjoy the offerings without overeating.
Choose the smallest plate available and avoid stacking any of the food. Make sure you opt for the simpler foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always a safe bet, as are options like steamed seafood or shrimp cocktail. Steer clear of anything covered in rich sauce, dressing, or loads of cheese.
7. Use technology to keep your health goals on track.
Your trusty smartphone is good for a lot more than just keeping up with your Facebook friends or checking the weather forecast on the go. It can help you stay on track when it comes to your health goals as well.
Get the jump on the holidays now by training yourself to use apps that help you track food consumption, count calories, and, otherwise, manage your eating habits. There are even apps that help you make better, healthier choices at the grocery store, at restaurants, and – yes – at parties or other special events.
8. Don’t slip. Stay fit over the holidays.
It’s not just the food and the alcohol that make staying healthy over the holidays more difficult than most of us would like. It’s the way full social schedules and cold weather can make it less desirable and, therefore, easy for people to fall off the wagon. Once you’re off the wagon, it’s easier to stay off than it is to struggle to get back on.
Don’t fall into that trap. Make a promise to yourself that you’ll continue to make fitness a priority throughout the holiday season. Schedule a regular date and time for your workouts. Consider finding yourself a workout buddy or hiring a personal trainer for the season to help you stay accountable.
If you haven’t already done so, investing in some good quality in-home fitness equipment is a great way to make sure working out is as easy and convenient as possible. This way, you can keep up with your cardio routines, your strength training, and more. Explore the possibilities today and stay, feel, and look healthy all year round!
Since you can have both, what are your favorite treats and health goals this holiday season?
Contributed by Carole Klein: Carole has a B.S. in exercise physiology and is a fitness industry expert with more than 20 years of experience as a competitor and personal trainer. She works for Unique Fitness Concepts and lives in Chicagoland area. In her spare time she enjoys all facets of physical fitness, gardening, contemporary art, and is a huge 60’s music and Beatles fan.