The holidays are known for many things: taking time off from work, catching up with family, deeply discounted shopping, wearing ugly sweaters…and throwing a Santa-sized wrench in all your healthy habits.
There are cookies. Potlucks. Eggnog. Unavoidable changes to your everyday routine.
And before you know it, that five pounds it took you all year to lose is right back around your midsection, like it never left.
With all these changes, making time for exercise is usually the first thing to go. Add that to elevated stress levels and nonstop temptation, and putting on holiday weight seems inevitable.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.
Wouldn’t it be nice – for once – to make it through December without having to rebuild your entire health routine from scratch?
If you can implement these five simple strategies, you’ll do just that.
Make drinking water your number one priority, every single day. Aim for 2-3 liters per day, and try “front-loading” – start early and drink most of your water by 4 or 5 pm. This is about more than just hydration — the mindfulness required to keep up with this habit will transcend into other areas of your life as well.
No sugar after 7pm. Nothing kicks you into a holiday sugar spiral quicker than sleep deprivation. And nothing contributes to sleep deprivation more than a late-night sugar binge. By cutting off your consumption earlier, you create a healthy cycle: the more well-rested you are, the more energy you’ll have to make healthier choices throughout the day. And so on.
Take a freakin’ walk. There are SO many reasons to skip your workout in December. If you’re a student, you’re slammed with exams. If you’re a professional, December is often a crazy time of wrapping up projects and squeezing five days’ of work into two. If you can get to the gym, great. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. But if not, take a walk! Anytime you can fit it in. The movement will help circulate your blood and lubricate your joints, and the fresh air and daylight will help combat Seasonal Depression.
Re-evaluate your traditional foods, and see if you can make any upgrades. As long as I can remember, my grandmother baked at least 7 different kinds of Christmas cookies. And YES — those particular types of cookies are a weak spot for me, because of the nostalgia (and the sugar). But as an adult, I’ve realized that Christmas is just as good with 2 or 3 different varieties, AND we’ve been able to swap out some natural sweeteners and different types of flour, to make them a little more healthy. Traditions can evolve as you evolve.
No matter what, eat a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is the one meal that’s least affected by the holiday crazies. Keep it simple, like scrambled eggs with spinach on whole grain toast, or a nourishing smoothie. If you’re traveling, stock up on some fruit and nut butter. By starting the day off healthy, you’re more likely to keep it going the rest of the day. And hey — if you spend the rest of the day drinking eggnog and eating chocolate, at least you got some nutrients at breakfast.
None of these are meant as hard-and-fast rules. Obviously you’ll sneak a cookie before bed sometimes, or have leftover pie for breakfast one day. That’s all part of the holiday fun. The mistake comes when you make yourself wrong for those things and beat yourself up.
That’s how sugar spirals start — so you better watch out!