Somehow, we’re nearly at the end of October, which at least in the U.S. means that the holiday season is right around the corner. So how can you stay stress-free around all the good food and treats we’re about to constantly be surrounded by?
With all the Halloween candy and Thanksgiving dinners coming up, this time of the year can be challenging in terms of eating well and exercising regularly. Many people throw in the towel and stop doing the things that have already helped them get closer to their health and fitness goals, following the 80/20 rule and working out consistently.
But just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that you should throw all your good eating and movement habits out of the window. For really healthy people—those who don’t do crash diets or exercise immense number of hours every day to burn more calories—holiday season actually isn’t that much different from the rest of the year. They still eat good food (most of the time!) and stay active.
And it’s not as hard as you might think. Here are some tips for staying stress-free while still enjoying this upcoming holiday season:
Don’t Try to Be Perfect
While it may seem like a logical approach, trying to eat 100% perfectly healthy over the holidays is one of the worst things you can do.
Why? Because avoiding all delicious holiday foods will more likely than not actually backfire, steering you further away from your goals, not closer. Too much restriction may lead to completely losing control at one point, so that you may actually overeat.
Instead, try and approach the holidays with a more balanced mindset, trying to be eat healthy most of the time, but not trying to be perfect. It’s okay to eat a few pieces of candy that you love, have a slice of homemade pie, or get an occasional pumpkin spice latte that you know won’t be available again until next year. Things like that really won’t do much damage to your health if you have them in moderation.
You Don’t Have To Eat It Just Because It’s There
No matter where you are during the holiday season, there’s rarely a lack of treats. They’re in your house, at work, at your kid’s school. There are potlucks and dinners and parties and more parties. There’s so much food everywhere… but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to try all of it.
Sometimes we eat just out of a habit. Each culture has foods that are made only for certain occasions. But have you thought that maybe you don’t even like all of them but eat them only because they’re there?
Ask yourself what your real favorites are, and enjoy these things. There’s no need to eat what doesn’t get you excited.
Always Bring Something Healthy
Potlucks and dinners with friends and family are a lot of fun, especially around the holidays. They’re great opportunities to try foods that other people have brought, but if you know that there will be mostly super rich foods and sugary treats available, you can always contribute with something lighter and healthier.
You can make a big green salad, fresh cut veggies and hummus, or bring a fruit dessert. This way you can always be sure that there will always be at least some fresh and healthy options.
Many of us are used to eating way too fast, so that we don’t even take the time to enjoy the food as much as we actually could. Chances are that most of us leave the Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas lunch fuller than usual anyway, but you can feel so much better and actually enjoy your food more if you eat slower.
Slowing down helps you understand when you’re getting full, and help you realize that maybe it’s time to get out and take a walk instead of continuing to eat.
Don’t Be The Food Police
Have you been at a dinner table with someone who preaches their diet and even worse, judges others’ way of eating? It can be pretty annoying, to say the least.
Don’t be that person. The next best diet is probably not what people want to talk about at a holiday dinner! What people eat is completely their business, and unless they ask your advice, try not to bring it up—especially around the holidays.
Even if you think your friends and loved ones should be eating healthier, be a good example rather than trying to force it on them.
Get Out and Walk Between Meals
Although part of the fun of holidays can be lounging around all day, it just doesn’t feel great to sit on a couch and eat all day and night long, without moving even a tiniest bit. When you do this, at the end of the night you’ll undoubtedly feel tired and fatigued… that’s called a food coma.
We’ve made a tradition every year during our Thanksgiving dinner that we have in my sister in law’s house: after the main meal and before dessert, we always head out and walk for a couple of miles. It helps us to digest our food better, feels great to get up and do something other than eating, and of course, their dog is always super happy as well for an extra walk.
Move Every Day
Movement is great for many reasons, but especially during the holidays when life seems to get busier than ever, it’s important to remind yourself that movement is part of your life that you simply can’t put on hold for couple of weeks or months.
Although it may be challenging at times, try your best to stick with your regular workout schedule, even during the holidays. Exercising three to four days a week should be doable for most healthy people (if you need a workout idea, we’ve got you covered).
But also remember that working out isn’t the only way to stay active. Try to also walk every day! You can also do work around the house, walk to a grocery store, take the stairs whenever you can, get up frequently when you’re at work, and so on. All these small things add up.
Stay Active and Enjoy the Holidays!
Holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful, if you keep in mind to make good (but not necessarily always perfect) food choices and keep moving the way that makes you feel great.
While there will undoubtedly be a lot of treats around, it doesn’t mean that your eating should differ significantly from how it looks like the rest of the year. Keep your portion sizes reasonable, eat veggies, don’t stress over having some treats and make sure to work out or at least walk on a regular basis.
That way, you won’t end the holiday season feeling sluggish and tired and having to start another diet in January.
Kersten Kimura is a NASM PT, bootcamp instructor and personal trainer located on the East Bay, California. Check out her website here to learn about her take on womens’ health and hormones and balanced and obsession-free eating and exercising.