How to Stay in Shape During the Holidays

With the holidays comes anxiety about maintaining the body you worked so hard for over the last year. Without a plan you can easily put on a few pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years'. Your clothes become tight, you feel tired and stressed, and unable to stick to a healthy diet or exercise routine with all the social events and holiday parties.

Your goal during the holidays should be to enjoy the festivities in moderation while maintaining your weight, overall body composition, and exercise habits. Here is exactly what I do to stay fit during the holiday season:

Exercise 20 Minutes a Day
Make time for at least 20 minutes of exercise every day to boost metabolism and improve your mood and energy. When you exercise your body releases feel good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Daily exercise makes you happier and improves the quality of your sleep. Nix the “no time” excuse and focus on quick and effective workouts you can stick to like this one you can do at home:

Holiday Sweat Workout
20 x Alternating reverse lunge to dumbbell bicep curl
20 x Hip bridges
10 x Pushups
20 x Alternating jump lunges (intermediate: squat jumps, beginner: squats)
40 x Bicycle crunches
Repeat as a circuit 3 times

Sleep 8 Hours
Studies show people who sleep maintain their weight more easily. Sleep deprivation impacts the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that control our ability to regulate appetite and fullness. When you don’t get enough sleep it elevates the stress hormone cortisol and reduces your insulin sensitivity causing your body to store the food you eat as fat. So turn off your phone and social media and hit the pillow earlier with a book, cup of tea, meditation, or anything that relaxes you to get a good night’s sleep.

Hydrate
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to combat potential hangovers and bloat from the extra sodium and alcohol. Aim for 3-4 liters of plain water a day. Keep a water bottle with you at your desk, in your car, at the gym, etc. so you can hydrate between meals and during workouts. More tips on how to stay hydrated can be found here.

Drink Smart
Stick to wine or clear alcohols like gin and vodka. Add fresh lemon or lime and sparkling water. Avoid sugary cocktails and mixers. Remember you want to feel good the next day, so limit yourself to no more than 3 drinks and alternate each alcoholic drink with water.

Don't Skip Meals
This is not the time to buckle down and try the latest fad diet. The last thing you want is to feel deprived and devoid of all willpower when faced with your favorite creamy macaroni and cheese because you ate “good” all week. Skipping meals will only lead you to overeat fattening foods later. If you have an event at night, make sure to eat light meals during the day to get in good nutrition and allow some flexibility for dinner. Focus on lean proteins like chicken, fish, turkey and egg whites, and raw or lightly steamed vegetables.

Sample day:
Breakfast: a homemade smoothie bowl or 1 scoop protein powder blended with ½ cup frozen mixed berries and 1 T ground flax seeds
Lunch: big green salad with grilled chicken dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
Keep healthy snacks on hand like veggie sticks, apples and berries, especially at the office or while out shopping so you aren’t tempted by holiday candy and cookies.

When eating at holiday parties, choose mostly vegetables with some protein and only indulge in things you really enjoy, so you have a high satisfaction factor and are less likely to overeat. Watch your portions of foods that are higher in calories. Eat mindfully, put your fork down in between bites, enjoy the company and conversation, and stop eating when you are about 80% full.

Limit sugar, processed foods, and any other foods you know trigger your cravings. Even a few holiday cookies can set you off in a downward spiral where you are craving some form of sugar every day for weeks. 

Visualize Your Goals
Taking the time to actually write down your health and fitness goals on paper will inspire and motivate you. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable, on a deadline, and realistic. List out exactly why you want to improve your health, body composition, etc. Setting your intentions will help you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle through the holiday season.

Have Fun
Enjoy time with loved ones, and have the treats you love but in moderation. Exercise regularly and sleep well to keep your stress levels low. Trust you can get back on track after this holiday season in the New Year.


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