I’ll be honest – the holiday season is the one time of year that sometimes, I just don’t feel like being healthy. The treats are yummy and tempting, but the real problem is that I love celebrating with people and as luck would have it, a lot of holiday traditions that families partake in at this time of year are not the healthiest. Aside from the occasional family that does a Turkey Trot together on Thanksgiving, working out is not a pre-integrated activity this time of year. Pies, cakes, cookies, wine, liqueurs, potato products (my favorite!) and Chex Mix (at least in my house) abound. I have read one million articles about how to “stay healthy” during the holidays … some common advice: alternate alcoholic beverages with water, make time to workout, throw leftovers away after the big holiday meal, etc. I’ve tried to come up with a few coping mechanisms that work for me but haven’t been done to death in previous articles.
1. Pick your poison. For me, it’s usually dessert OR booze. If I’m really loving wine that night, I avoid the sweets table like my life depends on it. If booze wasn’t really on the docket for me, I don’t feel so badly about having a few cookies or a piece of pie (I don’t like cake, which I know makes me one of the luckiest people on Earth.
2. If you DON’T go to the gym (which is a fairly safe assumption during the holidays themselves – no one wants to cut into family time on Christmas morning to go for a long workout), make your workout your whole day. Case in point: I just did NOT want to go to the gym on Friday. I knew traffic would be the worst (Black Friday) and I wanted to relax after hosting our first holiday meal (more on that later). So, whilst we decorated for Christmas, I danced a little more vigorously around the living room to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” I took the dog(s) for quite a few extra walks (more stair time) and made sure to jump around a bit to stay warm while they sniffed. I threw in some pushups, crunches and planks for good measure. This strategy used to be a bit of a difficult one for me as I never felt like these activities justified skipping out on the gym. HOWEVER, since I have been wearing my BodyMedia armband, I’ve realized that sometimes I burn a heck of a lot more calories outside the gym.
3. Wear your skinniest jeans. If you put on your Thanksgiving sweatpants (a la Joey on Friends), you won’t feel any obligation to stop. Not the most scientific method, but it keeps me just a little bit more aware.
4. Just remember the give and take. It’s not the end of the world to gain a couple of pounds around the holidays (I usually do). You just have to make a few sacrifices later to burn it off (which is harder than not gaining it in the first place, but where’s the fun in that?). If it’s going to cause you mental anguish, then you’re better off just skipping all the treats altogether instead of fretting over every calorie burned/consumed. Everyone is in the exact same boat as you – people just react differently.
5. Host a holiday – you have no idea how many calories you burn whilst shopping, cleaning, prepping, cooking, cleaning again. Not to mention that if you are in charge of a majority of the menu, you can make a few healthy substitutions. My mom hates when we mess with classic dishes to make them healthier, but this year, we were able to get away with a few key ingredient replacements that tasted just as good but made me feel a little better about indulging.
6. Walk it off. Even though it’s wintertime, which for many folks means chilly temps and inclement weather, it’s a good time to walk where you’re going. If you live in the city, skip the el or get off one stop ahead of where you need to go to attend a holiday party. If you’re in the suburbs or going to someone’s house, park further away. If you’re going to the mall during the month of December, you won’t have a choice, which is awesome. Honestly, people should have to pay to park further away. It’s much better for you.
7. Pack a healthy snack (I’ve seen this one quite a few times in the past but actually think it’s really worth repeating). If you’re going to a party with snacks that sit out the whole time, you will honestly eat them just because they’re there (or because you’re hungry from all that walking!). If you brought a veggie tray or have a bag of trail mix in your pocket, you don’t need to eat the chips, because you have options.
8. Buy yourself a sweet water bottle and take it with you everywhere. Whether you are alternating water with every beer you have or not, staying hydrated at all times throughout the holiday season will keep your metabolism up, boost your immune system and keep you from getting (as) hung over. I have a Camelbak with a straw attached and I love it. No idea why drinking things out of a straw is so entertaining to me at the age of 28, but it is.
So, either try to find ways to keep up a healthy lifestyle all throughout the holiday season OR just keep your life merry and bright … and ask for workout clothes for Christmas. An amazing additional resource comes in the form of an eBook, written by a longtime friend of mine, Keri Ford! Just head to this link to download The Holidays: GUIDE2SURVIVE