During the holiday season, it’s easy to overstuff your gut and regret the results later. All that glorious comfort food begs to be eaten. What are you supposed to do?
Gravy over everything, please! It’s all going to the same place.
You can still have your comfort food, but you also have to remember your health. It’s tempting to forget exercise routines, deny yourself sleep, and skip healthy food choices. Fortunately, there are plenty of little ways to invest in and maintain healthy routines this holiday season.
1. Eat healthily, otherwise
The holidays are the worst time to start a diet because the overabundance of rich food will tempt you to binge eat, and there will be endless banquets of potlucks in the near future to satiate you.
Leading up to a holiday, make healthy food choices with a balanced diet: The key is evening out your plate with protein and colorful sides, like leafy greens and carrots. Eat the rainbow. You’ll feel less guilty about treating yourself the day of.
2. Compromise on holiday food choices
When the holidays come around, go halfsies. Compromise on food choices for a healthy balance.
We’re not saying you have to deny yourself favorite treats—just be realistic and practice smart portion control. Whether it’s Auntie Rose’s pumpkin pie, or Uncle Fred’s fried turkey, pick your guilty pleasure and serve yourself up a reasonable amount. Balance the rest of your plate with healthy choices. Skip the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes. Put more green on your plate.
If you have to be the one to bring the healthier option, do it. How about a fruit tray or hummus dip with cucumbers substituted for chips? Healthy appetizers are the best to fill up on.
3. Hydrate, and hydrate some more
Before you ingest food, drink an 8-ounce glass of water and wait 15 minutes. Are you still hungry after drinking water? Sometimes, cravings signal a need for water instead of food. Some say cold water also helps suppress appetite. Hydrating properly helps your body digest food in a timely manner and avoid bloating.
4. Take it easy on the alcohol
Some family gatherings will encourage you to imbibe, either from all the drama or from the fact that your family members love their holiday toasts. It’s OK to opt for water or pour yourself less wine.
When drinking, don’t mix your alcohols, and it’s reasonable to limit yourself to one or two drinks. Just make sure you drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you have. You don’t want to get pulled over by the police, and too much alcohol will encourage you to eat more.
5. Get moving
Add movement to your day. Any kind of movement is an improvement.
Go for a walk after dinner. Do a few stretches before your morning coffee. Shake it all about—do the hokey pokey!
Take dance lessons once a week—after all, dance has been shown to improve memory, and it’s one of the most accessible ways to exercise and make new friends.
6. Yoga for stress
Yoga is a safe and effective way to reduce the effects of stress that have built up in your body (tight back neck and back muscles, clenched jaws, tension headaches). Yoga has been shown to calm stress response systems, effectively lowering blood pressure, easing respiration, and improving heart rate as well as improving pain tolerance in patients with fibromyalgia. Integrating yoga into your daily routine will help you cope with stress and become more present and mindful of the small things in life that bring great joy. You can think of your yoga practice as living medicine.
7. Quality shut-eye
The holidays are full of hustle and bustle as you try to complete your shopping list and arrive on time for family meals. It’s easy to sacrifice sleep for stuff on your to-do list.
However, sleep deprivation impacts your mood and enjoyment of the holiday season. Prolonged lack of sleep also affects your physical health, since you aren’t giving your body time to heal itself.
Get your seven to eight hours in, even if you have to break your sleep into two slots of four hours. Introducing a bedtime routine, such as reading or turning down the lights, helps cue your body into sleep mode.
8. Practice small acts of self-care
Who has time for themselves this holiday season? You do.
You have to make time for yourself, or you’ll get stressed out trying to please everyone else. Practice small acts of self-care and kindness. Take a long bath. Close your eyes for an extra 10 minutes of sleep. Stop for cheesecake on the way home. Write down your worries and what you are thankful for.
9. Be thankful
Stop and smell the roses. Appreciate what you have going for yourself. You may not be able to afford a grand feast this year, or you may feel gross. Instead, look at your situation in a new light.
Your home is filled with love. You have amazing eyes. You worked your butt off and finally got the promotion you deserve. Go you!
10. Pay it forward
The point of the holiday season is love and goodwill unto others. One of the best ways to feel interconnected is to give back. Pay love forward with small acts of kindness.
Donate food to the food pantry, even if it’s a few cans from the dollar store. Hug a friend. Pay for a stranger’s food.
It’s incredibly easy to get stressed out and sacrifice your health during the holidays. It’s easy to give into temptation and forget healthy routines you’ve established.
It’s better to be kind to yourself, compromise on food choices, move your body a little at a time and be thankful for what you have. When you have the chance, give back. May you have a healthy and happy holiday season!