Ah yes, the holidays. A favorite time for some, and a dreaded time for others. Regardless of where you stand, it can be tricky to stay on track with your fitness goals during the holidays.
Full disclaimer, I do not encourage anyone to adopt unhealthy habits during the holidays whether they be super strict or totally indulgent. The real answer is to eventually come to a healthy relationship with food and your body so that taking some time off, having a few treats, and finding a healthy balance is possible.
The below are a few pillars to help you stay on track with your fitness goals during the holidays. You can do all or one, or none. You can read it and implement the tips, or not. You can decide how committed you want to be to your fitness goals during this time (or decide to be more lax than usual).
No matter what you decide to do, you will likely come out the other side of the holidays just fine.
How to Stay on Track with Your Fitness Goals During the Holidays
Cook your own meals
It’s always a good idea to cook your own meals and this is no different for the holidays. Many Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings are in the form of potlucks and you may not know the ingredients someone else used in their dish or if they purchased a ready-made dish.
If you’ll be attending a potluck, it’s always best to bring one or a few dishes that you have made yourself that meet your dietary requirements.
At a non-potluck gathering you can still bring a dish to share, get involved in the preparation tasks, or if the host has asked for special requests kindly make your needs known.
Be mindful of alcohol consumption
Alcoholic beverages are something that many of us enjoy during the holidays. Between hot cider and toddy’s, punch and nog there is plenty of booze to go around.
It can be easy to over consume these tasty alcoholic treats, especially over the course of a few days. Remember, you don’t need to get buzzed to overconsume.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktail and nog variations which will still allow you to enjoy the beverage without all of the empty and non-nutritional calories.
If you do decide to drink, make sure to do so responsibly and try to stick with fresh ingredients (no pre-made mixes, pre-packaged, or canned ingredients).
Keep sugar intake in check
Just like empty calories from alcohol, sugar is another empty calorie offender. Sugars come at a high cost, nutritionally speaking. This is why the milky way candy bar has more calories than a bar of dark chocolate.
However, even if you know that sugars aren’t good for you (duh), it can still be hard to not indulge. So, stick with desserts made from natural sources of sugar like maple syrup, dates, or coconut sugar and try to avoid processed sugars. Better yet, make your desserts with sweeteners like stevia if you don’t mind the flavor profile.
Sugar is one of those ingredients that is totally addictive. There have been numerous studies that show that the consumption of sugar lights of the same areas of the brain as cocaine use. So this is some powerful stuff.
If you have a good handle on sugar and can self regulate, then have at it! I’ve been known to enjoy a few cookies and slices of pie and keep it at one serving.
Move your body
The holidays can be a much needed respite for many of us who get by with only a few vacation days each year.
However, this should be a time to focus on taking care of you! It can be tricky to make yourself workout when your regular routine has changed, but it will do you loads of good to make sure you move your body each day.
If you’re not in your usual environment to workout, take this time to have some fun and try different workouts. Maybe you can go for a walk or run, try a new type of fitness video, or do another fun activity.
It’s okay to release the expectation that you’ll be doing your regular workouts. Just do what you can because something is always better than nothing. And have fun with it!
Get enough rest
The temptation to totally fall into a backwards sleeping schedule is so real. You might not have to go in to work, you may be catching up with friends and family, and this may throw off your sleep schedule.
While there is nothing wrong with the occasional late night (because you should totally enjoy the holidays), try to maintain awareness about your sleeping habits.
Are you becoming more of a night owl? Are you scrolling in bed more? Do you have a harder time falling asleep? Are you getting disrupted sleep?
Notice anything that is off and do your best to get as much quality sleep as possible.
Plan your days
Many of us are home from school and off of work. YES! Now that the structure has been taken out of our days, we may fall into some unhealthy habits.
Take a lazy day (or a few) if you need to recover, but don’t let it take over and become the norm for your holiday.
Instead, plan your days. Yes, even your lazy days. At the beginning of your holiday break decide how many lazy days you’ll take and when you’ll bring some structure back into your day.
You don’t need to get crazy by scheduling every minute of every day (it is, afterall, a break), but at least have a loose and general idea of what you’ll be doing each day.
Related: Clean Keto Pumpkin Pie
Allow yourself to indulge
Food is a central part of holiday celebrations. We gather around food, we make food, we share food, we eat food, and we enjoy food.
There is no reason to be obsessively counting macros or weighing food on Thanksgiving day or on Christmas. A few days of indulgence throughout the year will not ruin your fitness progress.
Give yourself a mental break and just enjoy the day, the food, and the people.
Show yourself grace
The holidays can be tough. Between family demands, a plethora of food, and personal expectations this can be a very stressful time for people.
Show yourself some grace. If things don’t go according to plan, it’s okay.
If you ate one too many cookies, it won’t throw off your fitness goals during the holidays.
If you get a buzz, it won’t throw off your fitness goals during the holidays.
If you eat something and you’re not sure if it’s clean or healthy, it won’t throw off your fitness goals during the holidays.
Sure, your body might look a little different after the holidays and that’s okay. Staying on track with your fitness goals during the holidays should not be stressful. Enjoy the time you have with family and friends, and get back on track as soon as you can.