The holidays are a time for feasting and celebration. Throughout time, special occasions have been celebrated with gathering and feasting. Today is no exception. However, throughout the winter holiday season, we seem to get into the habit of treating every day like a holiday! This can lead to weight gain, increased stress, and fatigue leading into the new year. Here’s a few healthy habits you can try implementing this holiday season to keep you feeling your best!
Fast! We eat more at the holidays. Period. We eat more often, bigger portions, and generally more refined carbohydrates (cookies, bread, pasta, etc.). It’s great to enjoy times of feasting, but remember to balance them with periods of fasting! If you know you are having a big meal that day, try making that your only meal. Or after a day (or two or three) of heavy eating, try a day or two of fasting.
You may even notice your body naturally craves these periods of fasting, and you may feel energized during these periods, not hungry and run down as people often think. Intermittent fasting is a great strategy to implement at the holidays. This shortens your eating window to 8 hours (so, for example, eat all your meals between 12pm and 8pm and then fast until 12pm the next day). This might not be possible every day, but incorporating this when you can helps give your body periods to digest and detox from periods of heavy eating.
Eat Earlier! We don’t always have control over the timing of family gatherings, but if you have the option, plan your large meals for earlier in the day. This will make it easier to fast prior to the big meal and will give you more time to fully digest after the meal before going to bed. It takes about 3-4 hours to fully digest a meal, so keep that in mind when planning out your meal times!
Stay Active! It can be difficult to find time to get to the gym with all the craziness of the holidays, but it’s so important to stay active to help keep your energy levels up, keep your immune system strong, and boost your metabolism to help ward of the holiday weight gain. Try planning active things to do with the family, like skating, sledding, visiting museums, etc. Anything that gets you up and moving is better than sitting all day while eating excessively. Quick home workouts using resistance bands, physio balls, or body weight exercises are another great way to stay active throughout the holidays without having to waste hours and hours at the gym.
Be Mindful! This one is tough. Especially this time of year, we feel obligated to indulge in every treat that crosses our path. It’s okay to decline something, especially something you don’t want. Stop and think about what you are eating. Do you really want it? Will you truly enjoy it? If you’re eating just to eat, stop and wait until something else presents itself that you will enjoy more. Eat intuitively. Listen to your body and take breaks from eating when you are feeling overly full and run-down. Don’t go back for seconds immediately. Give your body time to process what you have eaten and notice that it’s full.
Bring Healthy Foods to Gatherings. If you’re asked to bring something to a dinner or event, offer to bring a vegetable side, salad, or appetizer (like a veggie tray with hummus).

This way you know there will be something fresh and healthy on your plate along with some of the less-than-healthy (but delicious!) comfort foods.

Which brings us to the next point…

Take Small Portions! When you’re eating at large gatherings with multiple food choices, there’s nothing wrong with taking some of everything. But remember that what we put on our plates, we tend to eat. So take small bits of everything. Fill your plate with more of the vegetables and protein options and take small portions of the heavy carb side dishes. This will allow you to taste and enjoy everything without feeling “stuffed” when it’s all over.

Breathe! The holiday season seems to get more hectic every year. We try to pack in time with friends and family while often still juggling work and other life obligations. Stop and take a breath. Look at your calendar and try not to overschedule yourself. We’re all busy this time of year, and people will understand if you are unable to make an event or gathering. It’s not only okay, but strongly encouraged, to find time for yourself! Get to the gym, go for a walk, sit at a coffee shop and read a book, whatever will bring you some calm, peace, and relaxation time.  The holidays can be very socially overwhelming, particularly for people who are more introverted. Have a plan for getting some “me-time” in the midst of all the social engagements.
Count Your Blessings. We all have struggles in life, and the holiday season can sometimes be a reminder of what is missing. Take time to truly appreciate everything you have and think about those who may be less fortunate. Be kind to people, and remember we never know what someone else may be struggling with. A smile or small kind gesture can go a long way.
Have fun! Between shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, and hosting, the holidays can sometimes feel more like a burden than a time of celebration. Remember to laugh and enjoy the little moments! It’s not about the perfect present, the perfect dinner, or the perfectly clean and decorated home, it’s about the time together celebrating and worshiping in whichever way you choose and spending time with the people you care about in life. Enjoy that time!
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