Gentle readers, let us speak the truth to each other. It’s the holiday season. December will run us down and over if we aren’t prepared. Operative word here: prepared.
Let’s pretend you are halfway through a one-year mission to improve body, mind, and soul. Now it’s December and the holidays are looming over your head. “Alert: danger ahead…Alert: danger ahead… ”
Thanksgiving was a tease—just one day. Easy to stay on track. Right? Now we’re running full speed at the Hanukkah latkes and rugelach, Christmas tamales and cookies, and Kwanzaa collard greens and stews. They tempt you to the dark side. Strangely, you feel duty-bound to indulge. What about the family visits, holiday shows and binge-watching-Love-Actually-for-an-entire-day that will push daily exercise down the list of priorities?
The holiday season can feel like one big trap looking to chomp your health-conscious ways to micro particles. We all want to stay energetic and healthy 365 days per year. We need rest, exercise, and fulfillment to do that and enjoy the holidays. It’s not a one or the other. Doing the first allows you to do the second.
Again, preparation can help you sustain peace throughout the noisy holiday season. Quiet moments are equally precious and necessary ingredients to manage holiday stress.
Keep all of that in mind as we share these four tips for staying in shape through the holidays.
ENJOY [SOME] HOLIDAY GOODIES
You can lighten up almost any holiday food and you can also avoid the biggest offenders—we’re talking to you, alcohol, creamy soups, and dips—with a little information in your pocket. Consider this advice. It’s all common sense stuff. Put together several of them each day to handle the sheer volume of food shoved under our noses from Thanksgiving to Boxing Day:
- Eat a small snack before a party
- Hit the crudité (French for fancy veggie plate) first thing
- Swap tonic water for club soda in your cocktail
- Skip the dip; attack the hummus
- Choose your 2–3 favorites and enjoy them
Did you know that studies show we eat more when we’re at a noisy place? Turn down the volume on that Mariah Carey Christmas jam, eat less and save the calories.
MOVE, MOVE, MOVE
We can all agree that the morning after a holiday party is the toughest time to exercise. “No, mother, I did not drink five hot toddies last night. Hey, who put the jackhammer inside my head?!?” You want to sit in a quiet corner and moan, but sitting too much on a good day is still the worst thing for you. (BTW, moaning is still encouraged.)
That’s why the holiday season is the exact time to exploit the morning hours, says Men’s Journal. You’re less likely to slip exercise if you do it first thing in the morning.
Remember what we said about planning? Yes, plan a workout for the morning. Make a workout date with a friend. And if you really are strapped for time, and your colleagues wouldn’t give you the stink eye, commit to moving five minutes every hour. Do alternating sets of sit-ups and pushups. Walk a few flights of stairs. Chase the office’s emotional support dog around the conference room. Just get out of your seat at the top of every hour and see the world from an upright position.
SLEEP, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!
Good health requires more than dieting and exercising. Believe us when we say good sleep is critical to your overall well-being. Without it, we don’t heal, we don’t recover, we don’t properly prepare ourselves physically, mentally or emotionally for the next day.
Your sleep can easily suffer over the holidays. That increases your stress and leads to mindless overeating and weight gain, maybe even the first signs of depression or anxiety. You must prioritize getting good sleep.
If that means revamping your sleep schedule, do it now. If that means redesigning your bedroom, do it right now. If your mattress is sagging and over seven years old, exploit one of the many, many holiday mattress sales to get a new one.Heck, ask for the gift of sleep from the loved ones nagging you for gift ideas.
If you’re intimidated by the process, use third-party reviews to help you find the right one.Just remember you are searching for a way to get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep at night.
HAVE A PLAN
The holidays are overwhelming. But planning the workouts, meals, presents and trips, then executing them will keep your mind in the right place.
Start with some sage advice from health experts who say you can cope better in the midst of a crazy holiday schedule by getting rid of “all or nothing” expectations and adopting creative ways to exercise.
Here’s a new one for you: Make a run to Target with a list of 30 small holiday necessities, then give yourself 20 minutes to grab everything. Scoot, hustle, speed walk, jog, and leap over small children if you must. Twenty minutes of exercise is 20 minutes of exercise.
Experts also highly recommend doing anything that keeps you accountable, both during the holidays and the other 11 months of the year. Keep exercise and food logs. Keep a gym bag packed in your car. Consider joining, not just any gym, but the expensive one if you can. You’re less likely to bail if you’re shelling out over $100 per month. Along the same lines, get a trainer. They’re paid to kick your ass and shed harsh, unflattering light on your excuses.
READY, SET, GO
We want everyone to keep a firm grip on their sanity and their health during the holidays. And you can achieve that, even from the middle of tinsel cloud.
A little planning, a little reality and a little faith will carry you gracefully through December and into the new year without throwing good health habits onto the trash heap along with a dry Douglas Fir and the uneaten candy canes.
Matilda lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she writes about great homes, health, and wellness. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, hiking, and walking her dogs.