It’s the holiday season, and Santa’s not the only one celebrating with milk and cookies. We tend to focus on the good during the holidays, allowing ourselves to indulge and celebrate.
And yet this time of year is often stressful and marked by poor health habits. With so much time, money and energy exerted on things like shopping, cooking and prepping, it’s no wonder. People are left busy, stressed, thrown out of routines. The least you deserve is a sugar cookie.
Speaking of, you’ve probably joked about adding pounds over the holidays. According to Time Magazine’s Mandy Oaklander, while Americans gain an average of only one pound between November and January, we never lose that pound, either. The added weight just accumulates each year. As if that wasn’t enough, holiday stress puts a damper on the holidays, too.
Rich foods, busy schedules and cold weather all make it difficult to stay healthy. So here are some tips to maintain your health this holiday season.
When you can’t say “no” to holiday food, or don’t have time to eat well.
- Meal Plan. It’s a busy time of year for many. Cooking fresh, healthy meals daily can be challenging. Try meal planning before weekly grocery visits to save time. You’ll already have the right ingredients and can plan easy, fast recipes like these from the BBC. If you plan meals you look forward to, it’s easier to eat well.
- Don’t fall into the holiday eating trap. “I’m just going to eat junk during the holidays, anyway. Might as well start now.” What sounds worse, eating junk food for a few days or a few weeks? It will be easier to eat healthy again later if you didn’t eat poorly for long.
- Treat yourself. This sounds like conflicting advice, but eating well doesn’t have to be a punishment. Find healthy recipes that sound appealing, such as avocado toast or salmon. Not all treats must be enjoyed in moderation. Holiday foods can be healthy, too.
- Keep track of what you eat (without beating yourself up). You don’t need to record each calorie, but take note of how many cookies – and slices of pie – you’re eating. Try smaller portions, too. You’ll retain the stomach space to actually enjoy everything and there won’t be cause to feel guilty – more foods, less stress, better health.
When you can’t make your normal workout routine.
- Make (less) time. Consistent exercise is important, but walking 30 minutes on the elliptical beats skipping the gym entirely. In fact 30 minutes is recommended for your emotional health, too. If the weather is hospitable, brisk walks will do. You can suggest the whole family take one after a big meal.
- Do short bursts of activity. Raise your shopping bags like dumbbells while you wait to pay. Pop five squats while coffee brews. Jog in place for one minute while food is heating up. In the course of a day you might get back the 30-minute workout you couldn’t plan in.
- Play with the kids. If you’re celebrating with younger family members, keep them entertained. Even if you can’t play outside, you may burn more calories than you expect. According to Actively Northwest, enough “toddler squats” and “upside downs” in a day could work off a slice of pie. You can even make a game of it indoors: let your niece/son/younger cousin play your “trainer”. The kids will have fun and you’ll get a workout.
When you’re too busy/stressed to enjoy the time of year.
- Make time for yourself. If you’re overwhelmed, take a break. It will be easier to complete tasks, and maintain healthy habits, when your headspace is clearer. Savor your morning tea before rushing to work. Sit down to pet the dog for five minutes. Give yourself permission to pause. If it’s a busy day anyway, a breather won’t make it worse.
- Make time to connect with family and friends. Many feel depressed around the holidays. In addition to maintaining other healthy habits, connecting with loved ones can help combat these feelings. If you can’t be physically near friends or family, video and phone calls shorten that distance. You may also find it easier to relax when enjoying time with others.
- Keep a routine. If your normal routine is shot, make a new one for the holidays. Adjust your sleep schedule to keep a healthy minimum. Make time to eat meals (this counts as meal planning, too). Routine helps you keep healthy habits and minimizes stress.
Remember, you can enjoy the holidays and stay healthy, too. Just don’t forget to eat, drink water, and be merry.