You’ve made it to November healthily, with help from the 5-2-1-0 program. You’ve filled your plate with fruits and vegetables every day. You’ve chosen water instead of sugary drinks like soda, and you’ve made it a priority to get an hour or more of physical activity each day.
But then came the holiday season filled with festivities and food—LOTS of food—and you find yourself eating more than you usually would, opting for heavier carbs and sweets, and skimping the gym for holiday events and parties. Temptations are everywhere, and you’re spending more time around the dining table at parties or snacking on foods you know you’ll regret later.
What to do?
If you’ve been overdoing it or overindulging this holiday season, don’t worry. There are easy, simple steps you can take to stick to a healthy lifestyle even while everyone else seems to be splurging. Consider these five holiday-proof tips for getting back on track with your nutrition and fitness.
1. Choose Activities that Don’t Involve Eating
Not every holiday gathering has to include food. There are several ways you can still celebrate the season and not feel guilty for overindulging. Here are a few suggestions for your next party or family get-together:
- Volunteer to serve a meal at the local shelter or food kitchen.
- Go pumpkin picking or carving.
- “Interview” your family members about what they’re thankful for and write down their answers in a family memory book.
- Host a board or card game night.
- Have a craft night. Make holiday decorations like wreaths, ornaments, or gifts for friends and family.
- Tour a holiday-themed exhibit at the local museum.
- Support a charitable cause, like a 5K fundraiser.
2. Eat on a Schedule
Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking up, then eat every 3-5 hours again. Start the day with a healthy meal, like a black bean breakfast bowl or blueberry and banana steel cut oats, and evenly spaced meals to maximize metabolism, regulate blood sugar, and curb your appetite. Eating too little is just as bad as eating too much, as it switches your body into conservation mode. In other words, you’re burning fewer calories and hanging on to body fat. Your body may break down muscle mass for fuel, causing your metabolism to slow down too.
When you do eat, eat slowly. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. After finishing your first helping, take a break. Talk to a friend or family member. Drink some water. Walk around the house. Then recheck your appetite. You may realize you’re too full or only want small portions of seconds.
3. Keep Moving
The more food on your plate, the more time you should spend being active. Not only does physical activity control weight gain and improve or reduce your risk of developing several diseases like diabetes, but it also reduces stress often caused by the holidays. Consider taking a post-dinner walk around the neighborhood with the family or a morning hike before the big dinner or festivities that night. In Frederick County, it’s easy to make family time active time. There are several low-cost or no-cost physical activities right here in your backyard. (Click here for inspiration!)
4. Plan Ahead
After eating in a variety of places—your home, at work, at parties, at restaurants—you may have made some less-than-stellar choices this holiday season. A solid way to get back on track and stick with healthy eating after the holidays is to have a plan.
When you make your meals at home, for example, you have more control over what you eat. Make a grocery game plan to help you save money and get the recommended fruits and vegetables in your daily calorie intake. Take the time to plan healthy meals for the entire week, then make a grocery list of what you need to make your meals. Take your time at the grocery store and choose lower-calorie ingredients and healthy swaps (here are a few great examples).
If you do slip up and overindulge, though, don’t punish yourself. Research shows that beating yourself up over one unhealthy habit can set the stage for a full downhill tumble. Instead, focus on what you did right and compliment yourself. And think about the healthy ways you’re taking care of yourself tomorrow—that healthy breakfast or lunch you have planned or a run after work with a coworker.
5. Rethink Your Drink—Drink More Water!
Did you know one of the simplest ways to curb your appetite and weight gain over the holidays is to sip more water? It’s true. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks can prevent dehydration, resulting in a better mood and reducing your risk of other complications like constipation. Substituting water for one 20-oz. soda will save you about 240 calories. Studies have shown that drinking more water, especially before each meal, may increase weight loss and reduce appetite, too.
Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Stay away from sugary drinks as much as possible, but if you must indulge, do so wisely. For example, love eggnog? On average, one cup of eggnog has anywhere from 280 to 400 calories! Consider a few alternatives.
Cut the amount of sugar you’d normally use in half and “sweeten” with nutmeg, cinnamon, or vanilla. Add soy or rice nog instead. Or try a vanilla chai tea—it’s a great holiday alternative made with chai spices, black tea, and skim, soy, or almond milk. Consider similar substitutions with your coffee shop stop, too. Downsize your drink, reduce the added sugar or syrup, skip the whipped cream, and choose low-fat or skim milk instead.
How do you plan to LiveWell during and after the holiday season? Share in the comments below!