With Halloween and Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, we are officially at the peak of the holiday season. As special as this time of year may be, though, it can also be a black hole of sugar, alcohol, and stress. Amidst a whirlwind of holiday parties, cooking and baking, and family gatherings, it’s easy to fall out of healthy habits.
As a health and weight-loss coach, I’ve spent decades crafting trustworthy strategies for enjoying your favorite holiday indulgences without going overboard. I hope the following advice helps you make the most of this season—and end the year feeling great!
First, Get A Clear Sense Of Your Schedule
Learning to manage indulgences can be difficult—but it’s crucial for maintaining healthy habits (and weight) long-term.
Our schedules get packed with added errands, stressors, and parties this time of year. Spend a few minutes each week to look at your schedule for the week ahead and get a better sense of the potential indulgences coming your way. Identify parties, dinners out, and any other special occasions.
Once you have a sense of your commitments, identify all of the remaining opportunities to eat well, exercise, and stick to your usual routine. Isolate special events as single instances of indulgence—and surround them on all sides with healthy habits. (Just because you have a cookie exchange Friday night doesn’t mean you can’t eat well the rest of the day on Friday!)
On days that don’t involve parties or gatherings, plan to stick to your regular healthy lifestyle as closely as possible. Prep your meals, schedule your workouts, and get to bed early.
Beware Loads Of Sugar
One of the most insidious health saboteurs during the holidays: sugar. Suddenly there are sugar cookies at work and gift baskets showing up at your front door.
As you’re bombarded with sweets, remember: Most of these treats are not innately special. In fact, you can probably buy or make most of them at any other time of the year. (Yes, I’m talking about peanut butter cups shaped like Christmas trees.)
Save your indulgences for the treats that truly matter to you, instead of agreeing to any sweet that crosses your path. After all, sugar is addictive. Once you start, you open up the door to cravings. Be picky about when you open that door!
When you’re faced with surprise sugar, check in with yourself about how the unexpected treats impact your plan for indulging for the week—and how worth it they are, on a scale from one to 10. If you choose to treat yourself, adjust your plan for the rest of the week accordingly so you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.
Have Healthy Food Ready
Endless errands and extra socializing can leave you hungry and tired this time of year. To stay fueled and nourished, keep an emergency snack in every bag or briefcase you carry—and in the car.
If you get caught up and find yourself hangry, you’ve got a nutritious, pre-portioned snack to tide you over. (After all, no one wants to walk into a holiday party or stand in a mile-long store line hungry!)
I recommend stashing a serving of nuts or trail mix—or a low-sugar protein bar—in your bags and car. Other great carry-along snacks include: apple slices with a single-serving packet of nut butter, baby carrots with a to-go cup of guacamole or hummus, or even cheese and celery.
Take Time For Yourself
With all the craziness this time of year, I can’t overstate how important it is to manage your stress and make time for yourself.
For many of us, the time spent shopping, traveling, and prepping for holiday festivities, squeeze our self-care or exercise time out of the calendar. No matter how busy the days get, though, I encourage you to be uncompromising in prioritizing your healthy habits.
Related: 5 Ways Stress Can Impact Your Health
Exercise and rituals like meditation, yoga, or even massage reset you, mind and body. Prioritizing these practices may mean saying ‘no’ to some events or activities to avoid becoming over-scheduled, stressed, and vulnerable to abandoning your self-care and healthy lifestyle. Don’t feel guilty turning down any event that doesn’t truly bring you joy. Family and personal well-being come first!
Plus, when you arrive at a party you don’t want to be at, you might overeat or drink just to pass the time, or out of boredom or stress. Make this season one that is filled with balance and joy, instead.
10 Quick Tips For A Healthy Holiday
When in doubt, refer to the following quick tips to enjoy the holidays and ring in the new year with your healthy routine intact.
- Pull out a monthly calendar and write in every single occasion that may involve indulging. (This will help you plan your indulgences—and see that you still have plenty of opportunity to put your health first.)
- Schedule workouts in your calendar like meetings—and find a workout buddy to keep you accountable.
- Avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking. If you have what you perceive as a ‘slip-up,’ let it go immediately and begin again. Every moment is a new opportunity!
- Stay hydrated. Drink around 100 ounces of water per day for energy, clarity and health.
- Be discerning and picky about your indulgences. Enjoy the treats you truly love and pass up anything mediocre.
- Always make your first party beverage water or seltzer and try to have a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage you may have.
- Make walking dates with friends instead lunch dates. Social activities this time of year are centered around food enough as it is!
- Pick a weekly limit on indulgences and keep track of them by jotting them into your calendar.
- Don’t let the indulgence of one holiday party spill over into the rest of the day or the next day.
- Remember that a peanut butter cup in the shape of a Christmas tree is still a peanut butter cup. The only thing special about it is how it’s marketed.
Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on.