12 Tips for a More Healthful Holiday Season

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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12 Tips for a More Healthful Holiday Season

I love everything about the holidays, especially festive decorations, good food, friends & family gatherings and gift giving! But, as you know, all that decorating, baking, socializing and holiday shopping can be a serious drain on time and energy, which can easily have negative consequences on our sleep, exercise and eating habits.

The holidays are brief, so we should certainly enjoy them, but part of that enjoyment should come from making ourselves and our health a priority too. To help us all get through the next 3 weeks, I put together these 12 tips for a healthier holiday season:

1. Make sure yule log! Logging food and exercise keeps us accountable, but it can be slightly more burdensome, and maybe even a little bit scary this time of year with all of those tempting holiday party hors d’oeuvres, desserts and cocktails around. Taking the extra minute or two to log those Pigs in a Blanket and that pomegranate martini in MyFitnessPal can allow you to better budget those calories and plan an extra workout in advance, so you can stay on top of your goals!

2. Take a weight loss vacation. If weight loss is a goal of yours, put it on the back burner during the holidays. Just aim not to gain any weight instead! In the grand scheme of things, taking a short amount of time off from trying to lose weight won’t hurt, but being overly ambitious in the face of all these holiday indulgences might be just discouraging enough to make you give up altogether. Go on, readjust your goals in MyFitnessPal and enjoy the bump in calories! You can pick back up on losing weight in January.

3. Sign up for a New Year’s race. Whether you’re a walker, jogger, cycler, swimmer or triathlete, there are lots of races happening during the holidays. New Year’s Day races are great because training will keep you active during the hectic holiday season. Sign up friends and family members for more fun, support and motivation! Just search the web for a New Year’s Day race near you!

4. Put new workout gear on your gift wish list. It sounds superficial but nice workout gear really can make you feel better during a workout, and be an incentive to get you moving. Those breathable, comfortable and flattering fabrics can get pricey though, which is why adding them to your gift wish list is a win-win. Your friends and family will enjoy giving you the gift of better health and you’ll enjoy exercising more!

5. Plan 1 active outing for every holiday celebration. While you’re adding those holiday parties and dinners to the calendar, pencil 1 active outing into your schedule as well. Participate in a holiday race, coordinate a family hike or sign up for a special workout class with a friend before the party begins!

6. Earn your treats before you indulge. Treats aren’t really enjoyable if they just leave you feeling guilty afterwards. Eat healthfully the day before heading out to that holiday party or work up a sweat before sitting down to a big holiday meal. You’ll likely enjoy what you eat even more if you know you’ve earned it!

7. Sleep more. Sleep deprivation literally messes with your mind and your appetite. When deprived of sleep, the body produces more ghrelin, a”hunger hormone” that increases your desire to eat… and eat… and eat. Simply by getting enough sleep your body will better regulate those hunger cues all on its own, which will make it easier for you to moderate your consumption of those tasty, holiday appetizers and desserts.

8. Remix your own recipes. We all have our own holiday dish traditions, but sometimes making just one simple ingredient swap or poking around the internet for a healthier version of your favorite recipe can make a huge difference, without sacrificing flavor. Cooking Light has over 15,000 delicious dishes in their recipe vaults, many of which are remixed versions of our favorite, sinful dishes. Want to try an ingredient swap yourself? Check out these 83 Healthy Recipe Substitutions from our friends at Greatist.

9. Weigh-in weekly. The point isn’t to obsess over every pound or two, but crossing paths with a scale once a week can be used as an early warning system for preventing weight gain. In one study, 75% of individuals who had successfully maintained weight loss weighed themselves weekly. If you don’t own or don’t like using a scale, a well-fitting pair of pants can give you just as much insight. Since muscle weighs more than fat, noticing how your pants fit might even be a better way to gauge if those workouts are helping you tone up and slim down.

10. Don’t wait until January to start exercising. It’s been shown that frequent exercise usually drops to its lowest point in the month of December. This makes now the perfect time to get to know your way around a new gym, find an exercise class you love and introduce yourself to a new trainer. Less people will be exercising, which means you’ll get more attention! Getting your foot in the door will give you a jump-start, and an advantage over all those folks trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. Plus, exercising during the holidays is a great way to relieve stress and offset those extra holiday treats.

11. Listen to your tummy. Our bodies have an amazing ability to regulate food intake, if we actually listen to them! If you overindulge at a holiday feast, hold off on eating until you truly feel hungry again. Don’t eat just because there’s only one slice of pie left on the table, or because your Christmas brunch begins at 10AM, sharp. If you’re not hungry, sip on some tea or coffee while everyone else digs in, and make yourself a small plate for later. It’ll be there when your tummy grumbles!

12. Focus on food & fitness Monday through Friday. You’re probably already on a schedule during the week so build as many healthy meals and workouts into your usual weekday routine. This will give you a little wiggle room, and an excuse to indulge or kick back and relax a bit more on the weekend!

I hope you find these helpful. Have a very happy and healthy holiday season!

What other tips or tricks do you have for staying focused on your personal health and happiness during the holidays? Share them with us in the comments below!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

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