Sticking to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise can be challenging, no matter what time of year. But the holiday season, with its social gatherings and excessive amounts of baked goods, is the toughest time of year to indulge with moderation.
While the average American only gains one to two pounds during the holiday season, a report in The New England Journal of Medicine found that most people never shed the pound they gained; leading to an accumulation of weight gain over the years.
You can't totally avoid temptation during the holiday season, but you can avoid weight gain and unhealthy eating by mentally preparing yourself. These simple tips can get you started.
Always plan ahead. If you’re attending an event, make sure to eat a high-protein snack before you get there. The protein will keep you fuller longer than a high-carbohydrate snack and making objective choices about what you’re eating is easier when you’re not starving. If you’re hosting an event, take some time to search for healthier alternatives to typical holiday foods.
Don’t drink your calories. Liquid calories are just as important as the ones you eat. Drink lots of water to stay well hydrated and avoid holiday cocktails that are made with heavy cream, sweetened juices or sour mixes. Instead, sip a glass of red wine or opt for clear alcohols with club soda and a splash of lime, and have a glass of water between each drink.
Focus on the holidays, not the food. The holidays are really about spending time with the people we love, creating memories and celebrating traditions. Find different things to do with your loved ones that don’t revolve around food. Stay active together, try a new exercise class together, go ice-skating, or even take a painting class to create memories revolving around the fun you had instead of what you ate.
Avoid emotional eating. Along with food, the holidays can also bring extra stress, and turning to food for comfort is easy because there’s so much of it around this time of year. No matter how busy you are make sure to take at least 30 minutes for yourself every day. Go for a walk, meditate, read a book or write in a journal; do anything you enjoy.
Make exercise a priority. Don’t skip your morning workout because you overindulged the night before. Instead use it as motivation to get you out of bed and give your workout everything you’ve got. Sneak in exercise as much as you can, try taking the stairs, doing sit-ups during TV commercials, parking a little further from the store, walking a few extra blocks before jumping into a cab. Any extra time you spend raising your heart rate is better than not doing anything at all, and you won’t feel as bad if you do skip a workout or two.
Get plenty of sleep. More social engagements means staying up late and getting less sleep. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your health; sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, cause brain fog and lower immunity, making you more vulnerable to sickness. Set yourself a firm bedtime and stick to it during the week. If you have several social engagements for the same week, pick and choose which ones are the most important to you and avoid the outings you’re not eager to attend.
Focus on your goals this holiday season and remind yourself why you made a commitment to stay healthy. Ask yourself “How is this going to impact my health?” and don’t lower your standards for quality.
If you have a favorite indulgence, make sure it’s made with high-quality ingredients and stay away from processed foods that can be damaging to your health.