How to Maintain Your Healthy Lifestyle During the Holidays
Okay, here’s a confession: I love food. And yes, I maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s just who I am. But believe me when I say it, you’re absolutely right – THE HOLIDAYS ARE HARD. It’s cold and dreary, which makes working out absolutely dreadful, schedules are hectic allowing for fewer hours of sleep, and obviously, there’s pounds and pounds of food.
How can anyone possibly maintain a healthy lifestyle with all of that going on? Well although the task seems daunting, it’s totally doable, and I’m going to tell you how.
Tackling the Table
The first and most important thing is to realize that you’re going to eat during the holidays. But what’s more important is to not punish yourself for eating. You need to eat at least 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy body weight, so that’s why I’m going to say focus on weight management, instead of weight loss. There’s an vital distinction here: who wants to be that person at the Christmas dinner table announcing, “Oh, sorry. I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet.” Let’s face it, that’s torturous! DON’T PLAN ON DIETING during the holidays, this will only tempt you to steer off course. So instead, focus on HOW MUCH you’re consuming, not necessarily what.
There are many ways to do this. To start, use a smaller plate. This will help you to control how much you’re eating in one sitting. Weight management during the holidays is an honest feat, so use your best judgement on what’s acceptable and what’s tilting the scale. Secondly, eat a snack before the meal. This sounds unusual, I know, but it will help. For example, eat a small serving of carrots, apples or celery before the holiday dinner so you don’t show up starving and overeat.
We all know how emotional the holidays can be. There’s a lot of family time, unanticipated conflict and the stirring of the emotional pots. Don’t fall into the habit of emotional eating, whether happy or sad. Paralleling this concept, avoid consuming empty calories. What this is really pointing at is alcohol, it may seem harmless, even if it’s “clear,” but the scientific reality is that your body will naturally metabolize alcohol into sugar, giving you extra calories your body doesn’t need or want to process. Even I know it’s impossible to completely avoid during the season, but it’s important to be conscious of how much is being consumed.
Survive with Z’s
Confession #2: I am a workaholic, therefore, I don’t get my recommended dose of sleep. But I do try! Not only does sleep help your body with weight management, but it will increase your happiness making the holidays easier to swallow. Now we all know that the recommended number of sleep is 8 hours per night. But a more realistic average in the U.S. is 6-7 hours per night (double the amount of high level executives who only achieve 3-4 hours per night). But because I am a 6-7 hour per night sleeper, I’ve gathered a few tricks.
If you’re like me, you like to vegge before bedtime with a pleasing novel or a dose of television, but I’ve noticed that I get more rest if I turn off all electronics one hour before bedtime. This helps to calm my brain by taking away excess stimuli that keeps it running. I also try to avoid over caffeinating during the work day. I typically finish up all cups of coffee by 11am then turn to water. Surprisingly, water, especially cold water, helps keep me awake during the late afternoon when working becomes increasingly harder.
Avoid the morning woes by performing a hobby before the work day. The morning rush is all too familiar – missed your alarm, jump out of bed to throw some half-clean, wrinkled outfit on, hop in the car and make it to the office before the boss notices you’re late…That’s extremely stressful! Not only that, but it doesn’t allow for your body to slowly wake up. Gradually introduce the day and just lay in bed for a few minutes, don’t look at your phone, just lay. Get up and enjoy a cup of coffee while writing in a journal, painting, etc. I promise, this will make mornings more enjoyable and will help your body acclimate to the day.
Strengthen the Season
Whatever you do, don’t stop moving! It seems unrealistic to work out during the holidays, but it will help release seasonal stress and keep you energized for days of shopping and socializing. Stick to your daily routine, this will keep you on track for when the holidays are over. Rule of thumb: one week out of the gym will set you two weeks back from your ultimate body goals, so keep up the good work. Go for a walk, beat that holiday food baby with a long walk after your holiday meal and no matter what activity you perform, stretch. It will keep your muscles fresh and loose so you can hit it hard in the New Year!