12 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Health Goals During the Holidays

12 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Health Goals During the Holidays

Some of the good things about the holidays—like good food and family gatherings—can go bad when you go overboard. Try these tricks for keeping your health on track.

Nutrition & Movement

Ah, the holidays.


Gotta love them—gotta hate (fear?) them.

There are so many positives about the holidays, but it's those same positives that can quickly heat up and turn stressful. You know what I mean—family obligations, tempting treats, traveling, buying, spending, rushing … and trying to be cheerful when instead you're anything but.

The next thing you know, you've ditched your diet, neglected your workouts and have convinced yourself that there's no harm in cutting way back on sleep and imbibing way more than you should. After all, it is the holidays.

(I'm becoming more and more convinced that New Year's Resolutions are mainly the result of all the bad behaviors that are compounded right around the time leading up to the end of the year.)

But wait—hold up. There's still time to catch yourself. The holidays don't mean you have to let yourself go completely or let go of your health goals. Rather than take an "all or nothing" approach, it might be better to take an "all or something" approach right now. Let go of perfect for now, and remember that you can still be good.

Holidays don't need to be an endless loop of letting yourself go, nor should they be about deprivation. You can still have fun without ditching your healthy habits.

  1. Stand more and sit less. Just move. Getting up for just five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes of sitting can benefit your health. Pace, do some jumping jacks or squat exercises, run up and down the stairs if you have them.
  2. Lay out your exercise clothes the night before (and put them on the minute you step out of bed). For some people, that's enough of a reminder to get some exercise. Work out first thing in the day so obligations don't sidetrack or distract you later.
  3. Explore bodyweight exercises you can do at home, if you can't get to the gym to do your normal workout.
  4. Stay accountable to yourself. Your schedule might be disrupted during the holidays, but if you make a date with yourself to exercise at a certain time (or with a certain person), you're more likely to do it.
  5. Stock up on healthy snacks. Whether you're traveling, a guest at someone else's house or staying home, keeping things like fruit, nuts, whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese comes in handy when you're tempted to eat those not-too-healthy options that are inevitably surrounding you.
  6. Stay hydrated. Many people confuse thirst with hunger. Consider that the next time you think you're hungry and, instead, drink a large glass of water. (This is also helpful to do before sitting down to a big meal.)
  7. Plan an activity with everyone. Instead of sitting around (or sitting around and falling asleep) after a big, heavy meal, suggest a walk around the neighborhood (extra bonus: you get to see all the decorations). Learn more about how to Make Losing Weight a Family Affair.
  8. Look for healthier versions of the classics. With a little effort, you can make and enjoy holiday favorites without regrets. For example, you can highlight the natural taste of sweet potatoes with cinnamon and vanilla. In baking, you can substitute puréed fruits such as pumpkin, applesauce or bananas for fats and use low-fat or nonfat dairy in many recipes. Read more Tips for Baking Light.
  9. Commit to the scale. You don't have to weigh yourself every day, but try for twice a week. Again, it keeps things accountable and realistic. The scale is like that little voice in your head saying, "Be conscious of what you're doing. You'll have to answer to me in the morning." Learn The Truth About Losing Weight.
  10. Be choosy. There are so many foods around. Yet, when you stop to think about it, are they all really that good? Before you load up your plate, slow down and take a good look at the choices. This way you'll eat what you really, truly want—and be more satisfied and less guilty about it, too. Find some Holiday Foods That Are Actually Good for You.
  11. Don't starve yourself. Some people "bank" their calories, saving up for the big meal. But that sets you up for overeating and overindulging. Never arrive hungry for a big dinner or party—always eat something healthy and small, like peanut butter and a handful of whole grain crackers or a yogurt, before you head to the gathering.
  12. Have your cake—and eat it too. Dessert can be the best part of the meal, and why shouldn't you have it? But it can also be easy to get carried away on the sweet stuff. Try a little discipline without a lot of deprivation with the three-bite rule: delight in the first bite, be satisfied with the second one, and let the third one linger on your tongue. In all likelihood, the first three bites are the best it's ever going to taste.
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