Busy holiday schedules filled with shopping, planning, traveling, parties, and an endless supply of tempting baked goods can easily throw a wrench in our normal eating and workout routines.
While the holidays may be the hardest time of year to maintain your fitness goals and stick with a workout plan, it’s not the best time to start making aggressive weight loss goals.
But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself armed with a few strategies to get you through the season to keep you healthy and fit.
Holiday Fitness Tips
Here are some tricks and tips that can help you stay fit, active, and healthy through the holidays!
1. Focus on Maintaining Instead of Losing Weight
Reigning in our bad eating habits early can put us in a much better position to get started on those healthy New Year’s resolutions.
Instead of eating like every meal is your last, aim to maintain your weight by choosing more protein and veggies while still enjoying holiday treats in moderation so you don’t feel deprived.
If weight loss is one of your goals, get back to a stricter eating plan after the New Year.
2. Eat Before You Leave The House For Parties
Most holiday parties, as wonderful as they are, don’t always serve healthier food options.
Try eating whole foods like lean protein at home before you leave the house. Even a protein bar can curb cravings and make you feel fuller which can keep you from overindulging.
3. Don’t Skip Meals Or Try To Bank Calories
Skipping meals earlier so you can eat more cheesecake at your next holiday party might look good on paper. But “banking” your calories often makes us more hungry and can cause us to us binge later on. This means you may end up consuming even more calories.
It can also cause blood sugar crashes that can leave us feeling sluggish and anxious. For some of us, it can even trigger headaches and migraines.
Skipping meals, in the long run, can trigger the body to lower its metabolism to conserve the energy it needs to function. This can lead to weight gain even if we’re eating the same amount of food.
To keep your blood sugar balanced, eat higher protein meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. You can also aim to limit your sugar and carb consumption. Then, when you want to indulge in grandma’s sugar cookies, later on, you won’t be tempted to eat the entire tray.
And If you know you’re going to be out holiday shopping for a while, bring along some healthy snacks to keep you fueled.
4. Keep Track Of What You Eat So You Don’t Overindulge
Guesstimating the nutritional value of your holiday favorite indulges is a recipe for failure. And ignorance is bliss until your pants don’t fit.
Getting a general idea of the nutritional info of your favorite meals and snacks can empower you to make better food choices and control your portions.
A simple and effective way to do this is by downloading a nutrition app. They allow you to keep a running total of the nutritional info of what you’re eating each day. They can also help you monitor your choices based on if you want to maintain or lose weight. What’s most useful is that they can show you how quickly unhealthy food choices can add up.
For example, pecan pie is about 500 calories per slice, while a slice of cheesecake will run you a minimum of 400 calories. They’re some of the holiday favorites that I’m definitely not going to pass up, but knowing their nutritional value encourages me to keep my portions under control. Instead of taking a big slice, a sliver can satisfy me. Sometimes just a few bites are all you need.
5. Drink Alcohol In Moderation
The holidays are a time to drink and be merry. But aside from the usual glass of wine or pint of beer, all those extra fancy and dazzling holiday cocktails are usually full of sugar and really pack some serious calories while causing bloat and weight gain. For example, if you love your eggnog, 1 cup of non-alcoholic eggnog will set you back about 343 calories, 19 g of fat per cup, and 23 g of sugar. Take it up a notch and add a shot of brandy or rum and you’re over 400 calories for just one drink. The holidays only come once a year, so you should enjoy yourself. But be mindful of how much you’re drinking.
6. Don’t Forget To Stay Hydrated
Health experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. And a 2010 study in the Journal of Obesity found that drinking water before eating can be an effective tool to help you maintain and even lose weight. And this time of year we can use all the help we can get.
Plus, if you’re drinking alcohol, it’s important to match it with a glass of water for every cocktail to stay hydrated and prevent hangover symptoms.
7. Set Workout Goals, Make A Schedule, And Stick To The Plan
There’s no point in waiting until the new year to start crushing your fitness goals. Even if staying away from all the holiday treats might prove difficult, sticking with your fitness routine can help you burn extra calories while you build strength and endurance. It can also help relieve some stress. But traveling and added obligations can make it easy to blow off exercising if we don’t commit to a schedule. And the reduced hours of daylight don’t make it easy either.
Research has shown that the cognitive process of writing goals down effectively sears them into your brain. What starts out as little ideas then gets perceived as priorities by the brain. This means you’ll be more determined to stick to your workouts and achieve your fitness goals once you write them down.
8. Try Fun Seasonal Activities Like Ice-Skating
Staying active, even in the winter, doesn’t always mean hitting the gym.
From large cities to small towns, there are plenty of opportunities to help you stay active in the celebration of the holidays. To put you in the season’s spirit, try ice-skating, which can burn up to 500 calories per hour. One of the most iconic ice-skating rinks is New York’s own Rockefeller Center, where you can skate while enjoying the splendor of their stunning Christmas tree and surrounding lights. Similarly, you can skate in Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park with their stunning decked-out City Hall as a backdrop. Check your local city’s listings to find a rink near you.
9. Switch Up The Time Of Day You Work Out
Additional obligations and chores around the holidays can cut into our normal routine, making it harder to get that exercise in. If you work out later in the day, try switching your exercise routine to mornings so you get it done and out of the way first.
You may have to wake up a bit earlier, but you might discover that you prefer it instead. Having your exercise clothes and sneakers prepped next to the bed can help put you in an exercise frame of mind for the morning.
10. Take A Walk Outside And Enjoy The Holiday Splendor
A 2017 study revealed that to keep the weight off, getting 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) a day can be just as effective as completing five 30-minute workouts each week.
Plus, colder weather can help us burn more calories than the same walk we take in the spring.
Walking can also:
As you can see, all that holiday shopping and running around can really pay off! To get extra steps in, to be sure to skip those elevators and escalators and always take the stairs. When it’s safe, you can also park a bit further from the entrance of the stores. And if you’re traveling for the holidays, exploring your destination can be a great way to have fun and get your steps in.
You can score a simple pedometer on Amazon for as little as $10 or try installing a step-tracking app on your phone.
11. Wear A Fitness Tracker
Wearing a fitness tracker can help motivate you to get moving and learn how much activity you’re actually getting each day. By tracking things like calories, steps, heart-rate, sleep, and more, fitness trackers are a wonderful tool to help you reach your fitness goals. The “smart” ones can also sync with other health and activity tracking apps on your smartphone with Bluetooth.
12. Take Part In A Holiday-Themed Run Or Walk
Signing up for a running event like a 5k can keep you motivated to keep training while also doing good for charity. If you’re not in shape enough to do a race by the holidays, consider starting with a Couch To 5k Training plan. This can help keep your body active while setting you up for fitness success in the new year. If you’re not into running, there are many holiday walk events as well.
1) Eat a high protein breakfast on Thanksgiving Day.
You may be tempted to skip breakfast to ‘save up’ for the big meal, but research shows that a high protein breakfast helps reduce post-meal blood sugar levels throughout the entire day. Whip up a smoothie made with an unsweetened plant protein powder blended with a handful of leafy greens, a cup of fruit, a dollop of nut butter, water, and a slice of fresh ginger root.
2) Make your own dish.
If you're attending Thanksgiving as a guest, take a dish to share, but choose something that will help balance out heavier holiday cuisine. One of my favorites is a roasted veggie platter (like extra virgin olive oil roasted bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, baby Brussels sprouts, and asparagus) served with a healthy dip or sauce to drizzle, like olive tapenade, vegan (nut-based) pesto, or herbed tahini.
3) Put more plants on your plate.
Research shows that eating more whole plant-based foods can improve health outcomes and extend longevity. Consider making fully plant-based versions of Thanksgiving side dishes this year, like extra virgin olive oil sauteed green beans with sliced almonds in place of creamy green bean casserole, mashed potatoes made with vegetable broth, extra virgin olive oil, and herbs instead of butter and cream, oven roasted Brussels sprouts with sliced mushrooms in place of bacon, and garden salad garnished with diced avocado and chickpeas instead of cheese and egg.
You can even skip the turkey in favor of hearty lentil soup. Fully plant-based dishes can be just as delicious and satisfying as their traditional counterparts and can leave you feeling more energized.
4) Be strategic about the order of the foods you eat.
Research shows that consuming foods in the following order results in lower post-meal blood sugar levels: non-starchy vegetables first (like salad and broccoli), then high-protein foods, then oils/fats, then unprocessed complex carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes), and finally simpler sugars (dessert).
Starting the meal with a generous portion of non-starchy veggies ups your overall nutrient and fiber intakes and has been shown to boost satiety, reduce overall calorie intake, and help regulate post-meal blood sugar levels.
5) Practice mindful eating.
Try to put your fork down between bites, slow your eating pace, and tune into your body's cues. I also recommend spending at least five minutes a day practicing mindfulness meditation, via a guided app or YouTube video. Being mindful can help you better tune in to your body's hunger and fullness signals, eat with more awareness, eat slower, and feel more satiated.
6) Drink water.
Sweetened drinks like soda, sweet tea, lemonade, and punch, which are often served at holiday gatherings, aren’t filling. That means you won’t compensate by eating less, so you’re just adding excess calories to your meal. To keep it festive with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners stick with water or sparkling water garnished with a bit of fresh in-season fruit or sprigs of fresh mint.
Compared to soda, you’ll save about nine teaspoons of added sugar per 12 ounces. In addition, good hydration has been shown to benefit blood sugar regulation and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
7) Eat before you drink alcohol.
Alcohol is absorbed quickly on an empty stomach, so eat first to slow the rise in your blood alcohol level. Drinking tends to lower inhibitions and stimulate appetite, so you may eat more, or eat foods you wouldn't reach for when sober. Also, too much alcohol can disrupt sleep, and poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite, particularly for high-calorie foods.
8) Savor and enjoy what really satisfies you.
Healthy eating isn't about deprivation, but it makes sense to differentiate can't-live-without holiday favorites from foods that are so-so on the satisfaction scale. Over the years numerous clients have told me that thinking this through before building their plates has helped them make more mindful choices and feel fully satisfied without overeating.
At the beginning of each new year, millions of people optimistically set fitness goals for themselves. Unfortunately, usually within a matter of weeks, obligations and busy-ness typically increase while motivation and enthusiasm decrease at an equally fast rate. Feeling that life is too busy while also lacking motivation is a combination that has proven to derail even the best of intentions.
A key barrier to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What is the point of eating carrots for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work today? It’s Friday and I didn’t get one workout in this week—why bother doing one now? I have forgotten to drink water all day—well, I might as well have another soda. This type of thinking subconsciously drives disengagement in positive behaviors.
Although it doesn’t work with everything, the idea of “something is better than nothing” nicely applies to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something good—however small or seemingly insignificant—for your health and well-being than nothing at all.
Not convinced? Consider, for example, that a five-minute exercise interval performed once an hour may improve glucose and insulin levels in obese individuals better than one single longer session. Another study found that people who rode 10 minutes on a stationary bike had a sharper cognitive response to specific tests compared to individuals who read a magazine for the same amount of time. And immune function may be significantly enhanced with a 20-minute bout of exercise. As you can see from this small sample, the research confirming that something (in this case, a small amount of exercise) is better than nothing is encouraging.
Specifically, some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. The same is true for other health behaviors that often feel challenging for some people. For example, drinking some water each day is better than drinking none. Eating some fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. Getting some sleep is better than getting none.
Here are some practical ideas for adding small doses of physical activity and movement into your daily life:
Adopting a few small healthy habits has the potential to progress into more healthy patterns over time and gives you the opportunity to experience what reaching your goal might feel like. Doing something rather than nothing also provides a sense of accomplishment, which initiates positive self-talk and self-empowerment.
Several “somethings” performed throughout the day will start to become “a lot” of things over time—and you may not even feel as though these things are taking much extra time. In fact, if you start integrating healthy behavioral patterns into your daily life, lack of time will likely cease to be an issue altogether.
Why 30 days?
Many of us have heard that it takes a minimum of 21 days of consistency to form a new habit. While this theory has been largely debunked, what is true is that making a habit requires willpower and continual effort. We use the 30-day challenge template as a challenging but achievable goal to help you get motivated to reach your health goals. The 30-day timeframe allows you to focus on small, week-by-week changes, ensuring you have time to build the habit. The best time to start a clean eating diet? Right now.
What can I expect to happen in 30 days?
The short answer is: A lot! Many who give clean eating a try for 30 days will see a change in their weight, however the benefits of clean eating far surpass the number on the scale. For example you might experience:
Challenge: 30 Days of Clean Eating
This 30-day clean eating challenge helps you incorporate more real food into your everyday diet. Clean eating allows you to keep the foods you love through exploring healthier ways to enjoy them. When you follow a clean eating meal plan, you can still enjoy your favorites like ice cream and red wine, as long as they’re enjoyed in moderation and made from natural ingredients. The bottom line about clean eating is this: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is all about enjoying food in its most natural forms.
If all this talk of whole foods and lifestyle changes has you feeling overwhelmed, take a breath and relax. At its core, the clean-eating lifestyle is a basic method of eating. Over time, and with practice, eating clean will be second nature to you. Follow these guidelines for the next 30 days, and remember that the best way to form a habit is to take it day by day.
The principles of clean eating
Making healthy food choices can transform your body from the inside out. Give it a try for 30 days, sticking to the following guidelines: