The holiday season is here. It began with a sugar overload on Halloween. Then came the daylong feast known as Thanksgiving. Now, in December and January come holiday parties, long days of shopping, trips to visit family and any number of disruptions to our typical routines. Nutrition suffers, workouts get postponed and extra pounds can pile on.
But is this inevitable?
The thing to remember is that a holiday is really just one day. There’s no harm in celebrating but try not to overindulge all season long.
It’s just that simple, right? I understand that it’s not, which is why I have included my top five tips for staying healthy during the holidays.
Start most days with exercise.
The biggest benefit here is that you will feel better all day long. Yes, you will burn some calories to help offset the cookies and treats, but don’t make that your primary focus. Try to do something that you enjoy this time of year. Maybe that means running a holiday-themed 5K. If you have family in town, invite them along to a group exercise class. Perhaps you need a little time to yourself. Hop on the elliptical, lift some weights or simply take a walk for some well-deserved peace and quiet. As long as you’re moving, you’re good.
Balance the rest of your meals.
Before heading off to that holiday party, have something to eat. Make it a filling, high fiber, protein packed meal to avoid hunger cravings. Try to limit holiday favorites to a single meal instead of grazing on them all day. Shoot for a light lunch or dinner, depending on when you’re having your holiday meal. Are you having multiple holiday meals with both sides of the family? Try to limit your portion sizes at each meal. This leads right to my next tip.
All things are fine in moderation.
Are any foods off limits? I don’t think so. Simply try to control your portion sizes. Take just one pass through the buffet line and try to keep your plate from overflowing. Is dessert where you get into trouble? Try to cut each portion in half. If that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, then make an even smaller plate during dinner so that you can have that full piece of pumpkin pie.
Take a walk after dinner.
One to two hours after a meal is the ideal time to engage in low level physical activity. Make it a tradition for the whole family to take a walk together. Exercising after a meal has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and triglycerides. Not to mention, it’s a lot harder to continue grazing or go for your third round of dessert when you’re on a walk.
Share the leftovers.
As I said before, a holiday is just one day, unless you’re eating leftovers for a week. Send a bit home with your guests, especially the desserts. They’ll love you for it and you won’t have to worry about sneaking down to the fridge at midnight for an extra piece of pecan pie.
Above all, remember that holidays are joyous occasions. Try to incorporate as many of these tips as you can without feeling deprived. And if you do overindulge a bit, remember it’s just one day. You’ll be back on track tomorrow.
Mason Stevens is owner and exercise physiologist at MET-Fitness in Columbia. He has his bachelor’s in nutrition and fitness, and has more than 10 years of experience in sports conditioning, coaching and fitness.