How To Stay Healthy For The Holidays… WITHOUT Depriving Yourself

’Tis the season… of excess. Between eating and drinking more, and time off work meaning a lot of lazing around, healthy habits can take a bit of a hit around the holidays.

I mean, who cares about calories when there are turkeys and mince pies to consume?

But if you find that the over-indulgence leaves you feeling rotten for several days (or even weeks) afterwards, here are some simple tips to keep the pep in your step this festive season.

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Healthy Habits For The Holidays... WITHOUT Sacrifice | How To Stay Healthy Over The Festive Season

1. Drink water

Not only does water keep you hydrated and help flush out toxins, it keeps your digestive system moving too, which will go a long way to avoiding that stuffed, sluggish feeling.

As well as that, your body can often mistake thirst for hunger, so have a glass of water and see if that doesn’t stave off the desire to consume something. And doing it before each meal will give you a slightly “full” feeling, leaving you less likely to over-indulge.

Plus, if you drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage, you’ll feel a lot better. You’ll consume fewer liquid calories, and are less likely to wake up feeling like someone’s taken a jackhammer to your head. 


2. Eat breakfast

The temptation to skip breakfast when you know there’s a big dinner coming later in the day can be tough. You try to rationalise that the less food you eat now, the more you can indulge in later.

The truth is, though, that you’ll either end up so hungry that you actually feel ill, or you’ll eat so quickly and in such a large quantity… that you actually feel ill.

Keep your blood sugars steady and you won’t succumb to the massive spike of a big meal followed by the crap feeling of the crash.

Food glorious food. Pancakes. Smile. Plate.


3. Veggies first

With many festive meals being buffet or serve-yourself style and so many options on display, it’s tempting to fill up on everything in sight.

If you know you’ll regret it, or you’re trying to pace yourself, choose and eat your veggies first. An abundance of the good stuff will be easier on your body and lessen your chances for feeling sick later.

But leave a little space for dessert all the same. 😉


4. Mission: Movement

The holidays are a great time to go for regular walks. Everywhere looks lovely, festive cheer is in the air, windows are lit, and you’re probably sick of the cold weather keeping you cooped up anyway.

Even a short stroll around the block a few days a week will be enough to get your heart rate up, keep the blood pumping, limber up your limbs, and keep your organs in tip-top condition.

And remember that digestive system we mentioned? The one that will be working overtime? Yup, walking will help that do its job too.


5. Brain training

Hallmark movies are all well and good but remember to give your brain a bit of a workout too. Watch a documentary, play a board game, do a crossword puzzle, engage in conversation…

Also consider stepping away from your devices, even if it’s just for an hour a day.

If you’re anything like me you’ve almost been conditioned to fill any gap in activity with mindless scrolling. Picking up your phone can be an automatic impulse, and with the slightly lazier days of the season, screen time can increase dramatically.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media or gaming apps, they shouldn’t suck time away from more important things like spending time with loved ones and reflecting on the meaning of the season (whatever that may be for you).

Yes, you should take plenty of time to rest and recharge and enjoy yourself, but we often enjoy our days all the more if we feel a sense of satisfaction. So give yourself a small challenge and see if you don’t feel much better than any app or cheesy film can achieve.

"Deep Work" by Cal Newport


6. Time out

Let’s face it, the festive season isn’t always fun. It can be a very trying, upsetting time for a lot of people for various reasons. It can evoke painful memories, or otherwise be fraught with stress and tension. In those moments, it’s important to give yourself a bit of breathing space.

Try not to pack your schedule so tightly that you don’t have time to regroup. Politely decline any invitations that you feel will leave you feeling frazzled or otherwise unhappy. (Even if you’ve already said you’ll be there, if you suddenly find you can’t face it it’s OK to pass on your apologies but something’s come up.)

Even in the midst of the festivities, allow yourself a few moments to step away and take some deep breaths. Bathroom breaks, just having to “check something”, phone calls, etc. all make for perfectly acceptable reasons to excuse yourself, even if it means leaving the dinner table for a few minutes.


7. Lighten up

Unless you’re incredibly disciplined, the more you try to restrict yourself, the more likely it is you’ll overindulge. The more pressure you put on yourself, the higher your stress levels.

It’s a holiday, after all, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the time as much as you can. Just try stop at the point where your enjoyment today means horror tomorrow.

By building in some extra breathing space for yourself and your schedule you’ll see off a lot of the stress that comes at this time of year. After all, it’s OK to let loose a little every now and again so don’t fret about “setbacks”. Allow some flexibility and you can still come out the other side with your healthy habits intact.

Looking for more ways to simplify the holiday season? Check out these related posts:

Healthy Habits For The Holidays... WITHOUT Sacrifice | How To Stay Healthy Over The Festive Season
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