It’s the holiday season, and while some may call it “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s easy to sometimes feel otherwise. That’s because the nonstop festivities from the end of November until Jan. 1 can really take a toll on your health-related goals. And that causes stress, despair and general disdain for what’s supposed to be a happy time.
But, fear not: Just because the world around you is descending into cookie-fueled madness doesn’t mean you have to, too. With just a bit of premeditation and a whole lot of self-confidence, you can win the battle of holiday-party-induced stress once and for all. Here are my favorite ways to stay fit and festive from Thanksgiving ‘til New Year’s Day.
Choose Active Activities
I don’t know about you, but my holiday calendar is packed with reunions and get-togethers. It’s great: All my oldest friends are home for the holidays, and we can get together for our yearly reminiscing sessions. But it can also be tough to navigate party after party, where the snack spread is just the same as it was in high school — while my metabolism is very, very different.
So, instead of food- or drink-centric get-togethers, I try and schedule my reunions over some sort of wintry activity. A favorite is, obviously, to head downtown or to the nearest big city and go ice-skating around a picturesque, Christmassy rink. But you can also try skiing, sledding, wintertime walks — go mobile, and you’ll feel alllll the good vibes that come with reuniting with friends, without any of the post-cookie-smorgasbord regret.
You know what your favorite holiday flavors are, and which ones you dislike. Whether you’re “meh” about eggnog or not fussed by fruitcake, you can save yourself so much grief by avoiding the Christmas classics that just don’t do it for you.
Instead, I choose to indulge in my favorite once-a-year treats. Again, everyone’s tastes will be different here, so I’m not going to tell you how to divide your plate. Whether it’s your grandmother’s secret chocolate-chip cookie recipe or your dad’s asparagus and hollandaise, go for your must-haves and leave the mediocre options on the buffet table. There’s no need to over-pile your plate when you know what you love.
Plan Ahead When Traveling
If you’re anything like me, the second you hit the road for a holiday getaway, you want snacks. For me, it’s those giant bags of popcorn — as soon as I’m in the passenger seat or the backseat, I’m looking to get my hands on some gas station treats ASAP.
But I realized after a while that, after the initial high of eating my favorite snack, I felt guilty for finishing off the entire bag myself. So I started planning better, and I use some mindful eating tactics while I’m on the road and once I arrive at my holiday destination. For one, I listen to my body. Even if there is popcorn in the car and even if I do have a few handfuls, I stop when I feel full. And I always try to stick to the same eating schedule I do at home, so I’m not sending my body for a loop.
Start With the Good Stuff
I already advised you to steer clear of any foods you don’t really enjoy. I also touched on planning ahead for your travels so you have healthy treats on hand. Another tip to avoiding unwanted overeating is to fill up on the good stuff first, before the indulgent options start coming out.
This strategy tends to apply to dinner parties or dinners out, where you’ll have a starter, a main course and then dessert. If you start with a soup or salad, and pair that with a protein-rich dinner, you won’t feel the need to dig into the dessert plate as soon as it arrives. Instead, you’ll be able to rest your spoon after a few bites — you’ll already be satisfied, and a few bites will give you enough of a taste so you’re not missing out on that sweet treat the rest of the table’s eating.
Drink Lots of Water
Water is kind of magical. Hydration is the secret behind so many of your body’s best tricks, from glowing skin to weight loss to happy moods. But when the holidays roll around, water seems to fall by the wayside. I love a glass of bubbly, a bottle of wine or a tasty holiday cordial as much as the next person, but I’ve simply realized I can’t drink alcohol without intermittent glasses of water.
For one thing, staying hydrated helps me avoid the dreaded post-party hangover. For that reason alone, I love drinking water in between my wines. But taking a water break always slows down my drinking so I don’t end up guzzling thousands — literally, thousands — of calories worth of alcohol. I can still get a nice buzz while taking things slowly, and I help my body in the process. And, I can still drink booze — it’s a win-win-win!
Be Kind to Yourself
Even with all these health-centric tips in mind, I urge you not to let your holiday schedule drag down your self-esteem. If you find yourself feeling guilty after every meal, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate: Is it worth feeling that way? Do you look any different after a few cookies?
It may take some work, but your holiday season will be so much cheerier if you ditch those voices in your head that only keep telling you all your decisions are wrong. In reality, you look amazing, you’re enjoying yourself and you can get back on track tomorrow. If you need a little help, study up on your self-love tips. And laud your body for all it does for you and all you do for it — you deserve a treat every once in a while. With these six tips in mind, my holidays have become way less frightful and way more delightful. You’ll feel the same way, too, and you’ll start 2018 — and every year beyond — with a smile on your face and good vibes in your heart. As corny as it may sound, I wouldn’t want my holidays any other way.