The holidays are a time of anticipation and excitement, but as the season progresses, most people find themselves feeling stressed and fatigued. In the midst of a season where our schedules are filled with countless social events, family gatherings, and an abundance of food and drink, it’s important to stick to a health and wellness regime. Below, are my top 10 tips to stay motivated and healthy all season long.
1. Connect to your health and fitness goals.
At this time of year it’s so tempting to indulge in eggnog lattes, hearty meals, and sweet holiday treats and skip your workout all together. As tough as it might be to stay motivated, it’s incredibly important to stay active and eat mindfully throughout the holiday season.
2. Choose your indulgences mindfully.
Perhaps you look forward to your grandmother’s homemade gingerbread on Christmas morning. Maybe you can’t wait to savor a warm, jam-filled Sufganiyot during Hanukkah. Being mindful simply means knowing the difference between the foods you truly enjoy and the ones you aren’t as fond of and could go without eating. Always keep moderation in mind when plating something indulgent but most importantly, savor and relish every bite.
3. Rethink your drink.
‘Tis the season for peppermint schnapps and hot buttered rum. If your social calendar is packed with parties and holiday events it might be a good idea to swap your sugary cocktail for a dry red wine or a vodka soda with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime. I know that my body doesn’t respond well to alcohol, so I tend to savor a glass of wine or two when I’m with close friends or family. In social situations outside of that, I will usually sip on a San Pellegrino with a squeeze of lemon. There is really no need to drink just for the sake of being social.
4. Show up satisfied.
One of the worst things you can do is show up to a social event hungry. Having a satiating, healthy snack before a party or an event is a great way to ensure that you won’t overindulge or make unhealthy choices. Some of my favorite options are:
- An apple with a serving peanut or almond butter.
- A serving of nuts or seeds (almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
- Raw veggies with 2-3 tablespoons of hummus.
5. Don’t skimp on sleep.
We all know that lack of sleep wreaks havoc on the mind and body. Aside from decreased cognitive function and increased irritability, it also throws ghrelin and leptin levels off. These two hormones are responsible for cuing hunger and satiety to the brain. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body produces more ghrelin (the hunger stimulating hormone), which can unintentionally lead to overeating and weight gain. I always say this is one of the easiest tips for weight management because all you have to do is sleep!
6. Don’t skip meals to “save your calories for later.”
I hear this line more often than I would care to. Skipping meals is never the answer if you are trying to shed a couple of pounds or just maintain your current, healthy weight. Eating regular meals and snacks maintains your blood sugar levels and keeps your metabolism firing throughout the day. By skipping meals you are setting yourself up for overeating later in the day and often times with food choices that are high in fat and sugar. With your metabolism already performing at a less than optimal rate (which happens when there are several hours between food consumption) your body will be more prone to storing those extra calories as fat.
7. Share the love.
The best way to ensure that there is a dish that suits your dietary and lifestyle choices, is to ask your host if you can bring something to share. By bringing something delicious that suits your dietary needs you also have a non-imposing way of introducing people to your lifestyle and healthy habits. I recently brought a vegan, gluten-free mushroom risotto to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and it was a total hit! Even though it wasn’t laden with creamy sauces and a stick of butter like most traditional Thanksgiving fare – it was satisfying and packed with flavor and complimenting textures.
8. Don’t forget to sweat.
It can be tempting to cuddle up on the couch with a glass of spiced mulled wine and forget your workout all together. As difficult as it might be to find time for exercise during the holiday season, you should make an attempt to do something everyday. If all you have time for is 15 minutes, make the most of that. Do some push ups, sit-ups, or run around the block. Engage in anything that gets the blood flowing and your heart rate up. Keep in mind that any movement burns calories: cleaning and decorating your house, holiday shopping, and even cooking totally count.
9. Savor some quality time for yourself.
This is something we tend to put last on our to-do lists, but it’s so important. This time of year often involves spending, giving, and attending more than any other time of year and there can be a lot of pressure that comes with that. Taking even 10 minutes out of your day, just for you, can benefit your mental state of being significantly. For me, that means getting ready for bed early in the evening, and spending an hour or two in my PJ’s in bed reading or watching TV. For others, it can mean taking a relaxing bath, practicing yoga and/or meditation, or spending some time journaling. It’s important to find what works for you and stick to it whatever it may be.
10. Relish in the joys of the season.
Ultimately, it is the season to eat, drink, and be merry! As long as you are responsibly indulging and staying connected to your wellness goals you will have no problem staying fit and healthy during the holiday bustle. I encourage you to savor the time you have with your family and close friends: put your phone down and really engage with the people you are surrounded by. Most importantly, have fun and take in everything this beautiful season has to offer.