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It’s November, and you know what that means – the beginning of the winter holiday season, and for many, the time when our health goals are most in peril. The United States is gearing up for Thanksgiving, a holiday known for its traditional large meal shared with family and friends. With things looking a bit different this year due to the pandemic, it’s possible that smaller groups may be celebrating together, if at all. But it’s likely that many people will keep up at least some sort of traditional feasting, snacking and lounging.
Unfortunately, these traditions can bring with them dreaded holiday weight gain and a general malaise as we push aside healthy habits. Moderation is not something on our minds when we indulge in a traditional holiday meal.
With a few small changes, however, this festive time of the year doesn’t have to come with feelings of regret. You don’t have to end the year lamenting choices that ultimately lead to a January filled with resolutions of damage control. There are simple strategies that will fit right into your established holiday routine that leave you feeling just as good (or better) than when the season began. We’ve come up with a few great ways to stay healthy through the holidays.
Although there are many opportunities to relax on the couch with a fun holiday movie, holiday parades or big football games, it’s important to stay active (and make time for the couch before or after too!) Taking a stroll through the neighborhood to enjoy holiday lights or to help digest a big meal offers the perfect chance to connect with your holiday companions, get fresh air and stay active during your holiday routine. Of course, you can also go for a jog or do an online fitness class with a friend, too. Staying active will help balance your lounge time by making sure your holiday laziness is well earned.
Drinking lots of water is always paramount to maintaining your health. With the holiday hustle and bustle, this is a step that can easily get overlooked in the rush. Remember to pack your big water bottle before embarking on holiday errands, even if they are just around your house. Staying hydrated will keep you feeling your best. Consuming enough water can also help you avoid overeating (which is helpful when you’re surrounded by so many tempting treats).
Get plenty of sleep
With the extra excitement that comes with the holidays, it’s easy to break out of our normal, structured sleeping habits. Whether you’re staying up late catching up with family or friends, or you’re just too excited to sleep, this time of year tends to disrupt our normal routines. Try hard to maintain your 6-8 hours of proper sleep, and your body (including your skin, metabolism and cortisol levels) will thank you.
Balance holiday meals
Part of the challenge during the holiday season is that there are tons of sweets or indulgent savory foods that make up a main part of holiday meals. This can quickly steer you off a healthy-eating path during this season, especially when moderation and portion-control fly out the window. Try bringing crudités to your gatherings so you have a healthy choice to share. This may not be the most popular dish on the table – but it’s nice to balance all those casseroles and sweets with a couple of fresh vegetables.
Drink in moderation
Preventing yourself from overindulging with alcohol is important to stay healthy and feel good year-round. While the temptation to imbibe is greater than usual during the holiday season, try to be mindful about the alcoholic beverages that you consume. You’ll feel better in the morning – and since many alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar, you’ll be reducing your overall caloric intake as well. Cutting back on the empty calories that come with alcohol is an easy way to stay healthy through the holidays.
Plan for your feasts
When you know a big meal that includes sweet treats and/or cocktails is coming up, you can prepare by loading up on fresh fruits, vegetables and water that you might otherwise miss out on. This strategy will help you maintain balance on days that you plan to have more delicacies than usual.
Practice healthy self-care
Stress can wreck your healthy habits and routines. Often the busy end-of-year holiday rush brings on excess stress along with the excitement. Stress can bring on negative side effects like raised cortisol levels, and it can contribute to overeating or drinking in an effort to soothe your nerves. Making sure you take time for self-care during the holidays can help you reduce stress in healthy ways instead. Try to carve out some downtime to read, meditate, practice yoga, spend time outside or whatever works best for you so you can relax a bit in the midst of a chaotic season.
By working some of these tips into your holiday planning, it’s possible to keep the healthy progress you’ve made this year while still having festive fun. Enjoying the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to mean falling off the feel-good wagon. Stay healthy through the holidays by incorporating some of these tactics into your celebrations.
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