How to enjoy the holidays while remaining fit and focused

While the holidays are wonderful, they can add extra items to a to-do list that is already chocked full, like increased social commitments, gift shopping, decorating, cooking, and houseguests. This disruption of routine can cause anxiety or stress, even if you look forward to all of the traditions of the season. So, we’ve put together these tips to help you maintain your calm, stay fit and focused through the holidays, and ease the chaos of the season!

We’re going to start with some holiday eating tips because we all deserve to indulge in our favorite treats!

Next, we will give some exercise and stress management tips. Our hope is that all these tips will help you have a more enjoyable and a little less stressful holiday season!

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and celebrating. It’s also a time when our diets and exercise routines can go out the window. With all of the parties and gatherings, it can be hard to stay on track. However, there are some things you can do to stay fit and focused through the holidays.

Holiday Eating

The holidays are here! New traditions and nostalgic memories blend together as family and friends gather for food and fun. How can health-oriented partygoers relax and enjoy holiday feasts?

First, try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Don’t skip breakfast and/or lunch to “save space” for more food…this just sets you up for overindulgence. Consider eating a healthful snack or small meal prior to going to your party. Pick something that is low in calories yet high in volume like a small salad with lean protein or a piece of fruit with a cheese stick.

Here are some tips from Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, Rikki Rabbin, MS, RD, LDN to help you stay on track this holiday even with all the parties and eating! She encourages us that there is no need to worry… just make a plan!

  1. Eat a large helping of salad so you’re not ravenous when the heavier dishes are passed.
  2. Show up fashionably late to avoid hors d’oeuvres. “Finger food and mingling are a dangerous combination!”
  3. Some people find it helpful to fill a plate only once. That way, you can see the volume of food you eat, whereas second and third helpings may mask how much you really put on your plate.
  4. Survey the food table
    • Find your absolute favorites – the 2 to 3 food items that your holiday wouldn’t be complete without.
    • Take a portion that’s equivalent to 3 to 4 normal-sized bites. Enjoy them without guilt and fill the rest of your plate with sensible choices (assuming they are available). When in doubt, go for the vegetables.

Should you change up recipes to make your favorite dishes in a healthier way?

Rabbin says… it depends! “If the food is your favorite part, don’t try to switch to all low-fat, low-sugar, low-taste versions. You’ll miss the nostalgic tastes that make the holiday special. Focus instead on portion sizes.” On the other hand, “If you could take or leave traditional holiday foods, go ahead and try a new healthy recipe,” Rabbin suggests. “Or eat a high-fiber dinner beforehand with a big mug of tea or other low-calorie beverage, so you’re not as hungry when you go.”

What should you bring to holiday parties?

Rabbin says you could go a few different routes.

  1. Bring a healthy salad or vegetable dish.
  2. Be mindful of snacking during food prep and how you portion your leftovers.
  3. Another option is to “prepare something that you can’t sneak a taste of… like cake. People would notice a missing slice!” Bring it on an inexpensive serving plate that you can leave there (with any extra cake) for the hostess to keep. Voila, no leftovers in your house!
bowl of vegetable salad

What about dessert?

“Dessert is not a dish I typically encourage people to change. You waited all year for Grandma’s pecan pie — why deprive yourself? A better direction here is to satisfy your cravings while eating fewer calories.” Rabbin encourages a combination of three tricks:

  1. Survey the options. There will always be treats that make you think “meh” — skip those.
  2. Use a small plate so your plate looks fuller with a reasonably sized piece of pie.
  3. Savor that pie! Eat it mindfully and stop when you’re full or the slice runs out — whichever comes first. A special dessert is not the time to be sucked into an engaging conversation. Enjoy the dessert, then talk the night away with your coffee. Or the reverse: while everyone chats, stick to a low-cal beverage. When it starts to quiet down, enjoy that slice of pie, no guilt allowed!

Whatever strategy you choose, Rabbin reminds us, “One day of overeating won’t ruin your nutrition goals.” Remember the goal is to stay fit and focused during the holidays, that is not equivalent to perfection!

Move your body every single day

Make fitness a priority even when life gets hectic…especially on days you know you’ll be attending a holiday party and eating/drinking things you don’t normally eat. On days you can’t manage a workout, just move your body somehow. Park further away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand instead of sit, take a walk… just move!

Keep your gym schedule:

It can be tempting to throw your gym schedule out the window when your schedule gets full. Don’t. Maintain your sanity by maintaining your workouts! Consistent workouts will help to boost endorphins and help burn off those extra cookies that may find their way to your plate. Plus, if you’ve been good about keeping your schedule, you’ll fly right into the new year with good habits.

Now is the perfect time to squeeze in quick workouts at home! with limited time, you may want to invest in your own home equipment and put that gym membership on pause. When times get busy, we kept it simple with our Smart Self-Guided Equipment! The workout is preplanned and embed right on the equipment, perfect for a quick workout session. Try our Smart Medicine Ball workout today!

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Yoga and Stretching:

Try adding a short yoga or stretching sequence to your morning routine. Starting a busy day with a mind-body connection can be grounding and can leave you feeling better prepared to tackle your full schedule.

Need a quick break? Try this!

Massage or Foam Roll:

Don’t let the tension and anxiety get out of hand. Schedule a mini-session massage or foam rolling at the end of the day to relieve those worked-up muscle spasms. Those extra trips around the mall can leave your feet sore, so treat them to a little foot care while catching up on your favorite seasonal movie during some downtime.

Managing Stress through the holidays

Consciously scheduling moments to rest and rejuvenate can help you hold on to the joy this season is all about. Try these ideas for to stay fit and focused through the holidays.

Let Go Notions of Perfection: It’s not always easy but keep a realistic idea of what can and cannot be accomplished at this time of year. Find joy in the people, places, and things that come your way this season, and let go of the burned pies and negative emotions that will inevitably make an appearance this time of year.

No shame in opting out: You may feel increasing pressure to say yes to every invitation and person. Be sure to identify boundaries and really recognize the obligations you are truly capable of. It can cause undue stress to fulfill the ones that don’t work for you. If you feel bullied or pressured into meeting another person’s expectations, take the “opt-out route” if it conflicts with your needs or the needs of your loved ones.

Taking time to mindfully reflect on what truly matters, helps us keep our perspective and keeps the joy alive in our hearts.

There are many benefits to living in the present, including: increased enjoyment, reduced stress, better relationships, and increased efficiency with daily tasks. When we cut out multi-tasking, we are able to focus on the subject at hand (i.e., a job, a loved one, or simply relaxing). Being present takes practice, dedication, and patience. It can be hard to take a step back from all the technology and constant communication; however, stopping to enjoy the “little things” is what life is all about.

Staying fit and focused through the holidays is no easy feat! Take time and enjoy season!

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