10 Tips For Surviving The Festive Season
You’re busy, stressed and surrounded by tasty treats everywhere you go. How is anyone supposed to make it to January intact? Fortunately, it is possible to make healthy choices during the holidays. If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll be well on your way to navigating the festive season like a pro.
1 Allow yourself to indulge
Even I find it difficult to resist the dessert table at times. Believe it or not, sometimes giving in is the best thing you can do. Adam Drewnowski, PhD, from the University of Washington, advises that “dietary restrictions definitely make cravings worse,” and may lead to a binge later on. Go ahead and enjoy your favorites in moderation. Just be sure to make healthy, nutrient-rich choices throughout the rest of the day.
2 Eat before you go
Research indicates that eating before you leave home in the morning decreases hunger, reducing the temptation to load up on carbs and sweets later. It also supplies your body with energy and puts you on track to make healthy choices throughout the day. The same idea applies to pre-party meals. I know it sounds strange for a training studio to suggest to ‘eat’ before you eat, but that is exactly what we are saying here. If you show up with a full stomach, you’ll be less tempted to load your plate with unhealthy options. Snack on the veggie tray and enjoy good company instead. You’ll feel guilt-free and ready to tackle the next holiday party in the morning.
We get it - you’ve got bills to pay, gifts to buy, dinners to attend and relatives to entertain. Who wouldn’t be stressed with all of that going on? Unfortunately, too much stress can lead to worse problems down the road. It tempts you to overeat, exercise less and causes anxiety. This is why it’s absolutely critical to take time to unwind each day (even 5 minutes can make a huge difference!) For me, meditation and deep breathing exercises have been extremely effective.
4 Avoid toxic relationships and people
During the festive season, you may be forced to connect with people you avoid every other day of the year. I know that family is family, but toxic relationships can contribute to anxiety, stress and even symptoms of depression if you let them. Learn to identify these people and avoid contact. If you must see them, keep it short and give yourself the opportunity to leave as soon as you become uncomfortable. For example, Dean and I make “plans” directly following an outing that we don’t want to attend to give ourselves an excuse to leave quickly. Just like that, we’ve only got an hour of commitment and we’re free until the next get-together.
5 Use a calendar
Without my calendar, I don’t know how I would keep track of my schedule! Staying organized this time of year may seem impossible, but keeping an updated calendar can really help. As plans come up, jot them down and don’t be afraid to say “no” if your week becomes too full.
6 Don’t skip your training
It’s easy to say “just this one time” or “I’ll go tomorrow.” Avoid allowing your busy schedule to prevent you from staying active. If necessary, wake up a little earlier to exercise before starting your day. Hiring a trainer can also give you the accountability that you need to stay consistent!
7 Redefine tradition
Does your family normally prepare a huge feast for the holidays? Propose a new tradition. Sign up for a festive 5k or volunteer together. If the goal is to spend time with your loved ones, why not help them reach their health goals as well?
As a trainer, I cannot emphasize the importance of sleep enough. When my clients haven’t been getting rest, they aren’t able to keep up with their routines as well and often have more complications as they exercise. Sleep is by far one of the most important aspects of any training program. So how much sleep do we need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for adults (ages 18-64) and 7-8 hours for adults over the age of 65.
9 Control your alcohol intake
We don’t expect anyone to swear off alcohol completely. Like dessert, moderation is the key. Decide how many glasses you are willing to drink ahead of time and stick with that number. If you plan to drink regularly this season, work on spacing out your alcohol-based plans to give your body the chance to recover. You can have a good time and let loose occasionally while still maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle.
Laugh - because science says so. Robert Provine, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation notes that laughter minimizes stress, reduces tension and improves your mood. Laughing with others can also strengthen your bond with them. Buy some tickets to a comedy show or share funny stories with your loved ones around the dinner table – whatever gets the giggles flowing.
Morale of the story is that you CAN take charge this year and enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your health. After all it is way too hard to get back into when you return!
Written by Kirsty Robbie - Founder of StudioForty6 and CHEK exercise coach.