Thanksgiving is upon us Americans in just a few days! Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the entire holiday season, which for most of us, means lots of celebration and time with loved ones. But the holiday season is also an extra busy time of the year that can throw a wrench in our normal healthy living routines.
There are some things that I put into practice each year to make sure that I keep on implementing healthy habits & feeling great throughout the holiday season. While I’m currently in Spain on vacation and sort of skipping over Thanksgiving this year, these techniques are probably even more relevant to me than usual because I’m traveling for half of both November and December. Travel always makes it harder to be super healthy, but by following these guidelines, it’s doable. Let’s get to it!
1.) Don’t be all or nothing. Above all, this is the #1 rule to not finding yourself with belly bulge after the holiday season. Moderation in food & fitness is something that is tough for most people – myself included. It’s easier to either be 100% in or to say screw it, and I used to gain weight during the holidays by having this mentality. In recent years, I’m more mindful about practicing moderation, and it pays off when I don’t have to go into the new year regretting overdoing it.
Putting it into practice, if I eat a bunch of Christmas cookies while baking one afternoon (which is pretty much inevitable!), I’ll skip the bread at dinner. Or if I drink wine a few nights in a row while celebrating the holidays with family, I make sure to then skip the alcohol for a night or two.
2.) Pick one splurge meal in the day. I really like keeping this one in mind, and it goes along with the whole idea of moderation. For me, I usually like to eat a bit heavier at dinner, and that’s also when the holiday parties tend to happen more often, so I’ll plan to eat lighter for breakfast and lunch. Or if I’m going out to brunch and I know that I’m going to want to order waffles or pancakes, I’ll plan on eating a light salad or something along those lines as an afternoon meal.
3.) Treat my workouts like a meeting I can’t miss. I don’t let the holidays deter me from working out, even if I’m traveling or chaotically busy. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and what I often do is think about when I can fit a workout in ahead of time. Then I block that time off or make a mental note, and I do everything I can to stick to it. You might need to adapt to your situation by making your workout shorter, waking up earlier, or skipping a happy hour, but exercise tends to have a domino effect and make you more likely to keep up with your other healthy habits.
4.) Eat a lot of fiber. Not only does fiber keep things, ahem, moving in your digestive system, which helps your tummy feel good, it also makes you feel more full. If you feel satiated, you’re less likely to mindlessly overeat. Fiber-rich foods to incorporate into your diet include beans, broccoli, berries, oats & avocado.
5.) Get in my fruits & veggies. This ties into eating a lot of fiber because fruits & veggies naturally are high fiber, but during the holidays I often do a little checklist in my head of how many servings of fruits & veggies I’ve had throughout the day. I make sure to get at least 5-7 servings each day. If I realize at dinner that I haven’t had a veggie all day, I make sure to get a lot of greens in during that meal. Being mindful of my produce intake also tends to make me eat less of the unhealthy foods, because I’m filling up on those fruits & veggies.
6.) Do Intermittent Fasting. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting regularly for the past year or so, and the basic gist of it is that I fast for about 14 hours out of the day, and eat small meals and snacks for 10 hours during the day. I don’t find it that difficult to do: I typically stop eating by 7 or 8 at night, then I don’t eat breakfast until 9 or 10 the next morning.
A couple of believed benefits of fasting include that it increases the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar, facilitates fat burning, and helps control hunger; beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease; and enhancing the body’s resistance to oxidative stress (which leads to aging and chronic diseases) and inflammation.
7.) Choose lighter alcoholic beverages. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruity drinks and fancy cocktails… but a lot of the time those types of alcoholic beverages have more calories and sugar if I’m not making them “skinny” myself. Often I stick to red wine during the holiday season so that I can enjoy a glass or two with a lot less calories.
8.) Stay hydrated. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean that I’m going to slack off on drinking lots of water. After all, I know that my body functions best when it’s nicely hydrated. Staying hydrated also prevents us from mistaking thirst for hunger, not to mention that it helps to stave off hangovers from the alcoholic beverages that we might be enjoying.
I tend to get dehydrated when I travel, so one thing I do is only order water when flying at every chance I get. I also bring a water bottle around with me when I travel, as I usually do at home – because if it’s there, I know I’ll sip it.
9.) Get my beauty sleep. It’s not always possible to get an ideal amount of sleep, but as much as I can I try to get a solid night of sleep. Lack of sleep fries your hormones and lowers your willpower, making you more likely to binge on unhealthy holiday foods and skip your workout.
10.) Start the day on a healthy note. Our days can get unexpectedly super busy, especially during the holiday season. So I try to at least start my day off on a healthy note, no matter what’s going on in the rest of my day. A bit of yoga, a quick cardio session, a walk with my pup or my family’s pups (as long as it’s not freezing!), a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea… These are a few things that I like to do in the mornings to start them off on the right foot. Plus, movement first thing in the day gives me a boost of endorphins and just makes me feel good!
Tell me… What are some of your holiday plans this season? Anything you’d add to my list?