The holiday season is notoriously packed with parties, office happy hours, and family gatherings. Although these events are probably not the time to announce your road to gluten freedom or discuss your latest cleanse, the holidays don’t have to be one long painful backslide into unhealthy habits. No one wants to be a buzz kill with food limitations but you also may not want to undo your hard work in the gym or enter 2016 feeling less than fabulous. Here are ten super simple tips to help you enjoy the holiday season while maintaining your waistline, your health, and (possibly) your sanity.
1 – Nail The Basics.
The first step in staying healthy and sane through the holidays is nailing down your basics and non-negotiables. Do you know what few things make you feel good and keep you going no matter what? Jot down your top three healthy habits and stick to ‘em like glue. Mine are water, workouts and staying gluten-free. Knowing my non-negotiables helps me navigate the indulgences with some ease.
2 – Water. Speaking of water….I always keep a bottle on hand and sip throughout the day. Winter weather usually ushers in dryness. Between harsh temps and heating units, dry skin and drier internal conditions are inevitable if you aren’t paying attention. Plus when it is 10 below you are less likely to sip on a glass of water than when it’s a sunny 92. In addition to helping keep skin looking supple and keeping your gut moving in top shape, water can help you fend off cravings. We know that food cravings can often be dehydration in disguise. When you feel a craving coming on take 5 minutes and hydrate first with a cup of lemon water or even herbal tea. Still hungry? Great! Time for a healthy snack.
3 – Schedule your workouts like you do your parties.
Making your health and fitness a priority during holiday season will help you keep your energy up, keep your immune system in top shape and keep you feeling fabulous. When I get busy this time of year I check my week schedule on Sunday night and jot down on each day what time I plan to workout for the upcoming week. Monday? 430pm HIIT session. Friday is always morning yoga. Post-it notes in the bathroom, laying your clothes out the night before and employing an accountability partner all help. Yes scheduling a 6am yoga session with a pal may feel painful on a cold December Thursday morning, but you both will be better for it. And hey it may even just help you not reach for that 2nd and 3rd glass of Pinot at Wednesday’s happy hour.
4 – Sleep.
Yep, you heard me. Getting into bed and getting your 8 hours will help you stay fresh and healthy going into 2016. When we get sleep deprived, we are much more susceptible to colds and viruses especially this time of the year. This is not the time to skimp on sleep. I know this may mean DVRing the latest episode of Scandal but by tucking in early, your body will thank you!
5 – Keep your daily meals in check by meal prepping.
Pre-cooking a few dishes on Sunday such as a soup, a few chicken breasts and a big batch of vegetables like sweet potato and sautéed greens can help you stay on track during the holidays. You may not be able to control much about what Aunt Marge serves on Christmas Eve….but I am betting most of your breakfasts and lunches during the holiday season are up to you. By having a meal ready and waiting at night or by pre-packing your lunch you can stop from mindlessly reaching for holiday snacks, catered office lunches or grabbing a less than healthy dinner when you are tired.
6 – Bring a dish to share
This is a tried and true basic for making sure a gathering has a dish you can enjoy, especially if you have food restrictions or allergies. It can also help the host feel more comfortable if they are nervous about cooking a dish to your limitations. Reach out a week in advance to your host and offer to bring a side dish or two to help take some weight off of their shoulders since they are graciously hosting! A few of my favorites to share are: a roasted cauliflower and kale salad, shaved brussels sprouts with cranberries and quinoa, rosemary and garlic mash, or this SUPER simple Ina Garten appetizer.
7 – Aim to keep alcohol to 2 days per week
It is so easy this time of year to fall into the habit of enjoying a cocktail (or four) multiple times per week. Happy hours with co-workers, catching up with friends, holiday parties, and gatherings with family are endless. Alcohol is full of empty calories and the impact on your waistline is compounded by the occasional martini-fueled food choices (fries anybody?). When planning your week and your workouts(refer to item 3!) pick a couple of events each week that you plan to enjoy. This will help you keep the other 5 days in check.
8 – Enforce the ‘worth it’ rule
I don’t believe in depriving yourself of something that only comes around once a year. But there is an important distinction to be made. Treats and less-than-healthy dishes are practically always within arms reach during the holiday season. I like to ask myself before eating something I normally would not eat, “is this worth it”? This is the chance to check yourself before your wreck yourself. Ask if you are mindlessly diving into a day-old cookie tray from the break room table because you are stressed at work…Or are you about to take a nice slice of grammy’s apple pie that you only get at Christmas? Is this your dad’s famous Christmas Eve appetizer or a weird pig in the blanket at the office happy hour? When your dish passes the ‘worth it’ rule, have your serving, eat slowly, and enjoy it!
9 – Relax and Breathe
Your holiday season will not be perfect–we don’t live in a Norman Rockwell painting. Family members can stir up old stuff that is upsetting. Your travel plans may be foiled by delays or cancellations. Taking a breath and accepting what is in front of you is a great first step to keeping your holidays light. I love using the meditation app Buddhify, which has guided meditations aimed at helping you breathe your way through various scenarios. At work? Feeling anxious? Traveling? The app has mediations for these and more. It helps to check out of your own mess and check into your breath for a few minutes. You may be surprised at what a six minute meditation can do when you are stuck on a plane idling on the tarmac.
10 – Stop Worrying and Start Enjoying.
Yes, I hope you workout, hydrate, get rest, and pick your treats wisely. But if you take one tip from this article, it is to stop sweating “these last 10 lbs” or how “gross” you feel from a weekend ski trip with pals filled with wine and take out. Go read this on the Sakara Life blog. The author brilliantly explains why we waste a whole heck of a lot of time sweating what we ate last night, a missed workout and the elusive last few pounds, instead of savoring the moments that brought us joy in the first place. May your holiday season be filed with laughs, a few workouts, a little meditation, some really really good food and a healthy entrance to 2016.
Guest Blogger Megan McGrane is a Physician assistant, health coach, former college volleyball player, Autoimmune Warrior.