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How to Stay Healthy In the Holiday Season

“Healthy” means different things to each person, but we’re going to talk broadly about how you can stay healthy during the holidays, which can be personalized for your specific goals and habits. 


Even in the year of social distancing, you’ll be facing the shift in diet and exercise. While perhaps you’ve downsized your holiday parties or opted not to travel, comfort food, holiday cookies, cold weather, and everything else can still throw your routines for a loop.


But don’t worry! You can both maintain your health and enjoy the holidays. 


Holiday Season Nutrition 

What comes to mind when you think about food during the holidays? Probably… Cookies, candy, hot chocolate, comfort food. Meaning, a lot of things that aren’t normally on the menu for you. 


Instead of telling yourself you can’t indulge and enjoy these foods, consider being mindful instead.


This is a practice called Intuitive Eating (1):

“Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995. Intuitive Eating is a weight-inclusive, evidence-based model with a validated assessment scale and over 100 studies to date.” 


While intuitive eating is a popular practice for many all times of the year, it can be a great way to keep your health goals in mind by relying on yourself instead of counting calories or restricting your diet (2).


Another way to stick to a healthy diet during the holiday season is to keep up with your normal eating habits to the best of your ability. Consistency is key, and by following a routine you can avoid overeating. 


If you’re planning on going to a holiday party for a meal, drinks, and snacks, do what you can to stay “on-track” during the day. Meaning: Just because you’re not going to be eating clean later on, doesn’t mean the whole day has to be out of your routine.


Lastly, don’t forget to stay hydrated! Keeping yourself hydrated from the moment you wake up is crucial to your health. Your body needs water to regulate your body temperature, lubricate joints, maintain organs, as well as to help you manage cravings and keep from overeating or excessive snacking (3). 


Holiday Season Exercise

The chilly holiday season brings a cozy home environment with toasty heat, warm blankets, and holiday movies to fill your day on TV.


While this makes the motivation and ability to work out more difficult, it can and should be done! It’s easy to “fall off the wagon” that is your exercise regimen, but if you change your expectations and set small goals, it will be much easier. 


Perhaps instead of your 2-mile outdoor walk, you switch to a 20-minute youtube guided workout! If you’re feeling too busy for a workout, take a look at your schedule and priorities and determine where you can squeeze in a quick workout. It’s always better to do a little than nothing at 


We’ve talked about it before, exercise is important enough to fit into your busy schedule!   


Some barriers to working out during the holidays might be cold weather, a busy schedule, travel, or stress/low motivation. 


These tips might be helpful for you: 

  • Always have sneakers and workout apparel on you so you’re ready for a workout anytime the opportunity comes up.
  • Plan and set small goals, it’s much easier to complete a workout if you have planned and prepared ahead of time.
  • Use an accountability partner or program. 


Your workout regimen is going to take a hit during the holidays, but it’s the way you react and handle that change that matters. Don’t push yourself too hard, but know it’s possible to keep up with everything even during the stress and excitement of the holiday season! 


5 Tips For Staying Healthy Through the Holidays!

Along with the tips mentioned above, there are a few more things to keep in mind over the holidays that will help you meet your goals and remain healthy!


Prioritize Your Mental Health

Mental health plays a huge role in your ability to eat and work out the way you want to. The stress of the holidays can cause anxiety, depression, low mood, and low motivation. By prioritizing your mental health, you will set yourself up for success otherwise.


Keep in mind the holidays are supposed to be a fun time! Do your best to avoid stressors and take the pressure off a bit. It’s okay to eat the cookies and it’s okay to miss a workout if it means enjoying yourself. 


Make Time for Self-Care

Alongside mental health comes self-care. Many of us put others first especially during the holidays, but this isn’t a healthy option if it means sacrificing your own health. Make sure you’re well rested and taken care of, so you can get the most from your selfless acts.


Make time for what you need, whether that be a nap, time to read a book, or the ability to indulge in a delicious meal.


Opt for Healthy Substitutes

Thankfully there are tons of options available when cooking and baking. If you’re in charge of a meal or appetizer, you can swap out some ingredients to a healthier or cleaner option. 


Some common substitutes include:


Cinnamon tea instead of egg nog or hot chocolate

Fruit instead of candy

Avocado instead of heavy cream

Dark chocolate instead of white or milk chocolate


Sometimes the healthy option is to simply eat less of whatever sweet treat you have on your plate. It’s okay to eat sugars and fats and filling up on the real food can help you from going overboard at the dessert table.


Move When You Can

Holiday shopping? Take the stairs.

Babysitting the nephews? Walk around the block.

Working from home? Set a timer to get up and move, or opt for a standing desk.


The little things add up, and if you can move instead of sitting, that’s always the better option!


Set Realistic Expectations 

Yes, again, set small goals! You are allowed to enjoy the holiday season and ease up on your otherwise year-round grind. 


Setting goals will help you stay accountable and ready to keep your routine as close to normal as possible while making it simple to achieve.


Instead of goals like: 

Workout 5 times per week, you may opt for goals each day that may sound like: Move somehow for 30 minutes. 


Keeping Holidays Healthy

By now, you should see the ability to create the healthy holiday season you are looking for. You may need to make a few tweaks to your usual, but with the help of mindfulness, goal setting, and holistic health in mind, you’re well on your way! 















SOURCES

1 https://www.intuitiveeating.org/definition-of-intuitive-eating/

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511603/ 

3 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/#:~:text=Drinking%20enough%20water%20each%20day,quality%2C%20cognition%2C%20and%20mood.