Now that we’ve had our Thanksgiving festivities, we have officially entered into the winter holidays. For many of us, that means overfull calendars (and overfull bellies). I know how hard it can be to make our wellness a priority this time of year with all we have going on, but I also know that if we face the holidays head on with a plan, we can stay healthy, happy, and fit all the way through January and beyond.
No doubt about it, holidays mean food. We enjoy family dinners and parties with all of our favorite dishes, and some of it is not the healthiest. Fair enough that we do plan on indulging — it’s the holidays right? But after eating so much more than we actually intended (as much as 4,500 calories in one meal), we usually don’t burn the calories we've consumed. Many of us don’t get much exercise from Thanksgiving through New Year’s (the walk from the couch to the fridge doesn’t count!). It can seem impossible to fit in a workout when there's so much to do! It doesn’t help that we're out of our normal routines, and often away from our fitness centers and equipment. In the end, we're left with indigestion, guilt, and extra pounds.
Even though we do enjoy time of year, those late nights and early mornings of traveling, cooking, cleaning, wrapping gifts, decorating, and socializing can sure leave us mentally and physically exhausted. Cherished family time can also come with tension — maybe that one family member who gets on our nerves, or just the noise and chaos of too many bodies in the same space. It all turns out okay in the end but, in the meantime, the stress combined with sleep deprivation can sure put a damper on our energy, mood, and immune system. Who wants to be grouchy, tired, and sick when we're supposed to be enjoying ourselves?
Why even plan for wellness? It’s really only a 6 week period we’re talking about here. It’s a time of fun and celebration. But personally, I don’t really feel my best during weeks and weeks of overeating and neglecting my exercise and sleep. I want to feel and look great all season long and I bet you do too.
Here are my top tips for better health during the holiday season:
Healthy (ier) eating:
Traveling-pack your own healthy snacks/meals. That way you will be prepared and not need to stop for less healthy options.
Parties- be the one to bring a healthy dish or appetizer- like a veggie tray, salad, or fruit.
Always eat light healthy meals or snacks throughout the day. Yes, even the day of the “big meal.” If we wait too long to eat and allow ourselves to get too ravenous, we are more likely to make poor food choices and eat way too much. We really don’t save very many calories by fasting earlier in the day.
Think small- even 5-10 minute bouts of physical activity are beneficial
Use videos or apps for mini workouts while you’re away from home (and don't forget to pack your workout clothes/shoes).
Get up 30-60 min earlier to get in some exercise before the day’s activities begin
Make family time active time. Plan active games, walks/hikes, biking, or skating rather than sitting around. It can even be as simple as kicking or throwing a ball around in the yard.
Be realistic in your expectations of yourself and others.
Spend some time outside- even if it’s cold out
Play happy music while you’re cleaning/cooking
Plan time on your calendar each day for relaxation- even 5-10 minutes of meditation or deep breathing can be enough!
Stay organized- make to-do lists and plan your time so you can get to bed when you need to.
Try to stick with consistent bed/wake time each day.
Shut down electronics and do something relaxing before bed like read a book or take a bath.
And above all- Listen to your body!
Don't put off your health until January 2!