The holiday season can be memorable and fun, but it can also be hectic, stressful and exhausting. It’s easy to let yourself go and enjoy every minute, only to realize when New Years Eve rolls around that you don’t fit into any of your party clothes.
I’m of the mindset that you should enjoy yourself, but try to keep up with your fitness and healthy eating regimes, at least in part. That works better for me than skipping all the festivities and moping while I’m at the gym, or crash dieting in January to get the unwanted weight off .
Below are some of the habits that I’ve learned over the years to help survive the holidays.
Cocktail Parties/Mixers/Work Events:
- Drink as much water as you can. A glass between each cocktail or glass of wine is ideal, but at the very least start with a large glass and have one before bed.
- Trays of appetizers and buffets have ruined many of us, the key to coming out unscathed is to focus your munching on the least processed foods and snacks. Fill your plate or napkin with fresh fruit, raw veggies, nuts, seafood, unpasteurized cheeses & unprocessed meats first. Try to stay away from thick dips, creamy sauces, bread and glazed meats.
- Stick to champagne, red wine or juice-based mixed drinks. Caffeine, syrup-based cocktails and white wine are all higher in sugar and can leave you feeling bloated and more hungover than warranted the following day.
- Concentrate on filling your plate with as many vegetables & whole grains as possible. Opt for Brussels sprouts, green beans (not green bean casserole!) and salad with brown rice, quinoa or risotto first. After you’ve filled up on high fiber and nutrient-rich foods, then allow yourself to partake of the more caloric sides like mashed potatoes and meats if you’re an omni.
- If you’re worried about your calories or have a restrictive diet or allergies, offer to bring a dish. I’ve never had a host or hostess take offense to my offer to bring something to add to their spread. Usually, they’re relieved since it takes some of the pressure off of them. Plus, it gives you a great opportunity to wow them with something they’ve never tried before!
- If you’re not comfortable bringing this up or if you’re a plus one and aren’t afforded the opportunity to speak with you host/hostess in advance, eat before you go. I always carry healthy, portable snacks with me (check out some options here) to eat either before or after a meal if I’m unsure what I’ll be served. Have a Larabar first and a huge plate of salad at dinner and you’ll be fine. And no one will be the wiser!
- Fit a workout in WHENEVER you can. Even if you only have 15 minutes to dedicate, do some HIIT (intervals) or a quick circuit with some walking lunges. Women’s Health even offers you a handful of 15 minute workouts each month, so grab an issue and squeeze in a little training session. You’ll be less stressed & calmer by the end, promise!
- Walk, walk, walk. Skip your morning taxi to work, leave your car at home when you run errands, walk to the mall, take a family stroll after dinner… Whatever it takes to get some walking in each day. It’s especially great if you can work in some Low-Intensity Fasted Cardio in the AM.
- Take the stairs! Just say NO to elevators and escalators and walk up the stairs to your apartment or office building each day.
Want some expert advice? Here are 5 things to keep in mind for the holiday season from a certified CrossFit trainer:
1. Maintain regular healthy habits. People will often eschew normal healthy habits during the holidays for all sorts of reasons. Traveling, social obligations and family stress, amongst other changes to our normal schedule can make it easy to disregard some of the healthier aspects of our lifestyles. But if your anything like me, it is substantially more difficult to implement new healthy lifestyle practices than it is to maintain existing ones. So if you regularly abstain from bread, always go for a walk first thing in the morning, or anything of the sort, do your best to stick to those same routines through the holiday season.
2. Do not fast in anticipation of a binge. In theory this makes sense, if you or your family is planning a huge feast its logical to try to compensate for the boat load of calories you’re going to consume at the end of the day by not eating anything before hand. But odds are if you walk into Thanksgiving dinner starving you’ll end up doing just as much, if not more, damage than you normally would by over-consuming and making poor food choices. It’s easier to justify four pieces of cheesecake instead of the one you would normally have if you starved yourself all day. Instead eat the healthy meals you would normally consume before dinner and that elusive holiday self-control might be a little easier to maintain when the main meal is served.
3. Try to do something active before and after a large binge. This is a good way to help mitigate the inevitable energy surplus and doesn’t have to be anything extreme or inconvenient. Something like walking an hour before and after you splurge is a perfect example. It can be done with a group, wont leave you sweaty, and you don’t have to pass a sobriety test in order to do it safely.
4. Not all booze is created equal. Alcohol is a very common nutritional land mine during the holidays and if your family is like mine, the notion of not drinking to excess during the holidays will get you blacklisted faster than being a communist. But just because you hit the sauce a little more than usual doesn’t mean there aren’t better choices that can be made. Quick explanation. When you eat or drink anything your body metabolizes the nutrients and either uses them or stores them in the form of fat. Alcohol is unique in that our bodies lack a mechanism to convert the alcohol to fat, so when alcohol is present our bodies metabolize and burn alcohol before anything else. While your body is busy trying to burn off the alcohol, which it cannot store, it is busy storing the other macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) which it cannot yet use. This isn’t a great of scenario, especially after you’ve spent the night stuffing your face with mashed potatoes. So how do you mitigate this during the holidays? First, if possible try to limit booze intake (as I said, not always an option). Secondly, try to separate drinking events and eating events. If you have an early Thanksgiving dinner planned, try putting the drinking off until a few hours later. Finally, try to pick drinks lower in carbohydrates. Spirits and dry red wines are better choices than Ales or sugary mixed drinks.
5. Be realistic. The holidays should be fun. It’s the time of year where its acceptable to be gluttonous and drunk at unusual times. Dont stress over having a drink or two too many or an extra turkey leg. Life is supposed to be lived, not scrutinized.
I hope you find some of these tips useful, and definitely share any holiday habits you have that you think others might find helpful.