For health-conscious people, the holidays are often equal parts wonderful and overwhelming.
“Not only are you constantly bombarded with office sweets, neighborhood parties, and cookie exchanges, but you’re also likely stressed, making it harder to eat based on physical hunger over emotional hunger,” says dietitian Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., founder of Shaw’s Simple Swaps. Even as a healthy eating expert, she experiences the same struggles this time of year.
Though the holidays may make staying on-track feel near impossible, the new year is the perfect time to get back on your A-game. Here, Shaw and other dietitians share how they reset after the holidays—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
1. They commit to Daily physical activity
Whether it’s an hour-long sweat, a 10-minute walk, or just taking the stairs, prioritizing some sort of movement every day is a must for Shaw as she resets after the holidays.
Even when she’s super-busy or traveling, Shaw keeps herself accountable by tracking her steps. “This may mean I’m pacing the airport instead of making it out for a morning run, but I’m fitting it in,” she says.
If you find this challenging, enlist the help of a friend. “I’m on the West Coast and one of my best friends is on the East Coast, but we constantly challenge each other through our Apple watches to help one another stay focused on our movement goals.”
2. They Double Down On nutrients
Even nutritionists can get into an eating rut when they’re busy and focused on other things. Once December has come and gone, Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., dietitian and author of Eating in Color, makes a point to add more nutrients to all her meals and snacks.
“Fiber is a big one, since it promotes gut health, keeps you regular and may even help you lose weight,” she says. “It’s tough for many of us to reach the goal of 25 to 30 grams per day if we don’t plan for it.” She makes a big batch of quinoa or barley once a week to use in grain bowls and other recipes throughout the week. “It really helps me achieve those daily fiber goals, and also plan for healthy lunches,” she says.
3. They stick to a consistent bedtime
Office parties and gatherings with friends and family tend to keep you out later than usual during the holidays. Often, the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night flies out the window.
After the holidays, Suzanne Dixon, R.D.—an epidemiologist with Cambia Health Solutions in Portland, OR—gets back on track by setting a bedtime and sticking to it.
“Research has shown that depriving people of even one good night’s sleep can lead to overeating the next day,” she says. “Plus, just one night of little sleep can increase insulin resistance, which means when if we do overeat, we’re more likely to store those excess calories as fat.”
4. They limit their alcohol intake
Whether it’s mulled wine or egg nog, many holiday festivities involve alcohol. “Too many cocktails takes a toll on the body, and most of us feel it in our GI tracts, fragmented sleep patterns, sluggishness, and fatigue,” says Dixon.
For these reasons, she cuts back on alcohol after the holidays. “It helps a lot of people reset mentally and physically,” she adds. (Intrigued? Jump on the “Dry January” bandwagon and ditch booze for the first month of the new year. Talk about a great way to reset after the holidays!)
5. They drink more water
Simple as it sounds, most Americans don’t drink enough water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One reason for this: Many of us don’t crave plain water—especially during and after a holiday season filled with festive, sugary drinks.
To help with hydration after the holidays, Dixon switches things up with fruity herbal teas and sparkling water (here are some more fun ways to jazz up your H20 intake). Shaw also puts a cup of water on her bedside table so she can sip as soon as she wakes up in the morning.