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Staying healthy during the holidays is no small task. By placing your focus on a few key areas, you’ll be able to enjoy the season while putting your health and wellness front and center.
My eyelashes fluttered and shifted as I stole a glance from across the room. It had been months, but I hadn’t forgotten. I couldn’t.
Breathing out slowly from my nose, I turned my gaze back to my brother, who was talking about his latest vintage machinery purchase.
“You can do it,” I thought to myself. Inhaling, I raised my chin high and relaxed my face to signal that I didn’t care in the slightest about them, teasing me from my parents’ kitchen. That they were powerless over me. That they wouldn’t hurt me again. Of course they were powerless. I’m a grown woman!
Staying Healthy During the Holidays
It’s easy to fall off the wagon during the holidays. One more cookie swap, cocktail party, or special meal, and those skinny jeans won’t fit. Staying up late to shop online, wrap gifts, and prepare meals leave you begging for sleep. Parties at work, celebrations with loved ones, jam-packed schedules, and pressure to pull off the perfect everything can send you into a tailspin.
The holiday season is supposed to be treasured time with our friends and family. But the truth is, life is busier, we have more obligations, and less time to do it all in. Because of this, However, a few simple shifts can help you feel your best and enjoy the holidays.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Drink lots of water. Every day. Aim for at least 8 glasses or 64 ounces per day. Hydration is an important part of staying healthy during the holidays, and any time of year.
The benefits of drinking plenty of water are well-known. Water keeps you hydrated, can help combat dry skin, and helps you eat less by feeling fuller.
Not a water fan? I get it. I ran on Diet Coke alone for almost 15 years. Here are some easy ways to get your 64 ounces:
Get a cute water bottle
I use this Under Armour water bottle in Rebel Pink. It’s huge and adorable. Plus, it holds 64 ounces. I fill it with water and ice in the morning, and tote it around with me all day.
Make water part of your daily routine
Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning, before every meal and an hour before bed. See? 5 of your 8 glasses covered already!
Drink carbonated or flavored water
If plain old water is boring to you, try mixing it up. San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water is my go-to. I also love naturally flavored bottled water. Or, you can make your own infused water at home. Search Pinterest for “infused water” for some inspiration.
Choose lighter, healthier options for meals that aren’t special occasions. There’s no reason to waste precious calories on run-of-the-mill lunches or ordinary weeknight meals.
Instead, choose simple, healthy dishes like grilled chicken, whole wheat pasta, or vegetarian lasagna. As a result, you’ll be able to indulge during special meals without feeling the consequences or guilt. Check out my Healthy Dinner board on Pinterest for some inspiration!
Looking to save time, too? Whip up a mega batch of an easy, healthy meal, like my impostor fried rice. Put it in the refrigerator, and eat it for lunch or dinner all week.
Be Prepared for Parties
One of the best things about the holidays is gathering with friends and family. And those good times are usually accompanied by good food and drinks. Part of staying healthy during the holidays is indulging in those special holiday treats in a healthy way.
I’m not going to tell you to stand around at parties, entering the aperitifs into some calorie-counting app. That takes too much time and will make you miserable.
Instead, here are a few suggestions that will allow you to indulge a little bit, while helping you avoid going overboard on rich holiday foods.
Eat Before You Go
Have a healthy snack and a full glass of water (There’s glass 6 of 8!) before any function. Parties, school recitals, even meals with friends or family. As a result, you’ll feel fuller sooner, which means you’ll eat less. Try a piece of fruit, some carrots and celery, a bowl of low-calorie soup, or a few slices of toast.
That day when I was impossibly distracted by something in the kitchen? A big, beautiful plate of flaky, delicious jam cookies was taunting me. My mom makes these special cookies every holiday season. I hadn’t eaten anything before I went. I did my best to resist the siren song of those blackberry, cherry, and apricot cookies. In the end, I was so hungry I ate about 12 of them, and made myself sick. If only I’d eaten before I went… 🙁
Share the Health
If appropriate, offer to bring a healthy dish to parties or gatherings. By doing so, you know you’ll have something light to snack on. I compiled a list of yummy, healthy dishes in my posts on healthy Thanksgiving recipes and healthy holiday appetizers.
Be a Sampler
Rather than loading up a plate with full-sized servings of everything that looks tasty, take sample sizes instead. Then, go back for seconds of the 1 or 2 items you liked the most. Because you’re taking small portions, you’ll end up eating less. Plus, you get a little reward in the form of seconds of your favorite!
For pre-portioned foods, such as sliced cakes or pies, ask someone to split it with you. Or, just take a bite or 2, and scrape the rest into the trash can. No one expects you to eat everything on your plate!
Limit Special Drinks
The parties you attend are bound to feature some special drink. Mulled wine, cider, eggnog, punch, and champagne are all good in moderation. But more than one serving can quickly add up in calories. I’d rather save mine for pumpkin pie! Allow yourself to indulge in 1 glass of something special per party, and sip water, coffee, or hot tea the rest of the evening.
Packed schedules, hosting, and holiday to-dos often mean less sleep. However, the holiday season is probably the most important time of year to get a full night’s rest!
It’s well-known that skipping sleep can negatively impact your mood, cognitive skills, metabolism, energy (Obviously!), and immune system.
I could write a book on ways to get more sleep, and that’s an issue for another post. Here’s the bottom line during the holidays:
Don’t spend so much time and energy taking care of everyone else that you neglect yourself.
Go to bed early enough to get 7-8 hours of sleep, unless you have a special event scheduled at night. You deserve to enjoy the holidays, and that’s hard to do when you’re tired and stressed out.
Sneak In Some Exercise
Lots of women exercise all year long, then fall off the wagon during the holidays. It’s cold outside, their calendars are full, and they’re exhausted from all the extra stuff they need to do.
But part of staying healthy during the holidays is committing to get some daily exercise, in whatever form. I’m not saying you must go to the gym every day. No way! You can have fun exercising, even when it’s cold outside:
- Go for a jog in the cold air (It’s surprisingly refreshing!)
- Go up and down the stairs in your house 10 times in the morning and evening
- Walk the dog every day
- Turn on some upbeat holiday music and clean your house (because guests)
- Do your Christmas shopping on a tablet while you walk on a treadmill or use a recumbent bike
If you’d like to get social, or you don’t want to feel like you’re doing exercise, try these:
- Build a snowman
- Have a snowball fight
- Go ice skating
- Take a walk with friends or family to look at holiday lights
- Go to the mall and do a few extra laps in between shopping at each store
Be (A Little) Selfish
During the holidays, the focus is often on others (And rightly so!). But, denying yourself some quality down time can lead to more stress, less energy, and a bitterness second only to Scrooge. Commit to setting aside 30 minutes a day for yourself.
Put your phone away, put a “do not disturb” sign on the door, and do what relaxes you. Take a bath, read, listen to music, paint, meditate, do yoga. Don’t think about what’s on your to-do list. Think about what’s going great in your life, your favorite moments from holidays in years past, and what your hopes are for the new year.
Taking some time for yourself will help you relax, get you centered, and leave you feeling re-charged to tackle your portion of Santa’s to-do list.
Give Yourself Grace
At some point during the holidays, something will go wrong. You’ll accidentally leave someone off of your gift list. You’ll forget this or that. Or maybe you’ll (Gulp) burn the turkey.
You are human. Your job is not to make everyone else happy 100% of the time. Part of staying healthy during the holidays is keeping your sanity. Don’t hold yourself to such a high standard that you are terrified of failing. Be kind to yourself when you mess up. Self-criticism will only cause more stress and keep you from enjoying the season.
So when something doesn’t go as planned, smile and move on. If you’re too exhausted to pipe snowman faces on those cookies, don’t do it. If someone isn’t impressed with your tree, your party, your gift… Merry Christmas to them. Working endlessly to please them isn’t worth sacrificing your self esteem, mental health, or spiritual well-being.
The Keys to Staying Healthy During the Holidays
The most precious time of year can also be the most draining, if you let it. A few simple changes can put you on track for staying healthy during the holidays. Here’s a run-down of the keys to staying healthy during the holidays:
- Drink plenty of water
- Have a snack before parties (So you can easily ignore those cookies taunting you from across the room)
- Share healthy foods
- Take sample-sized portions of rich foods
- Limit yourself to indulging in 1 glass of a special drink
- Get plenty of rest
- Sneak in exercise, either alone or with others
- Set aside time for yourself
- Give yourself grace when things don’t go as planned
How do you stay healthy during the holidays? Which area do you struggle the most with? Let me know in the comments below!