Did you know that over the holidays, Americans pack on an average of 5 pounds during Christmas?
While this time of year should be full of cheer, you can have a happy holiday without digging your health into a hole. Here are the steps that I personally take to handle the holidays in a healthy and balanced way:
Your turn! Review my list of healthy habits below. Select the three you want to focus on throughout the holidays. Grab a handy habit tracker here and start filling it out today!
This simple goal can drastically change how you feel this month. Staying hydrated flushes out your kidneys, clears your skin, and boosts energy levels. It helps with weight control, keeps you full for longer, and reduces sugar cravings. Adequate water prevents unclear thinking, headaches, and even mood changes that can come with dehydration.
The list of benefits goes on and on—water is critical for our immune system, lymphatic system, digestive efficiency, and blood pressure regulation. Hit your water goals this month by starting the day with 3 cups of water and drinking a glass before each meal.
Considering how much it benefits our bodies and how little it causes injury, walking is one of the best exercises for you. Take a walk and help your body maintain a healthy weight, boost muscle endurance, increase energy levels, and improve its cardiovascular system. Walking can even prevent or manage various conditions like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes!
An active person takes between 7,500 and 10,000 steps per day. Set this as your goal, or pick a step count that’s slightly higher than your average. Hit this goal over the holidays by taking a morning walk before the family gets up, offering to play with the kids outside, or suggesting a group walk after dinner.
Christmas creates the perfect environment for cozy cocktails. That’s why I focus on limiting alcohol, not cutting it out altogether. When I chose this goal to focus on over the holidays, I still allow myself 2 drinks a week. A spiked eggnog and a gingerbread white russian might be in the mix this year, and I’m not missing out!
If you decide to limit alcohol this month, stock your fridge with festive sippers you can sub in. Try cranberry sparkling water. Add a splash of apple cider to tonic water. Pour a kombucha in your fanciest cocktail glass. Don’t forget to add a garnish to give your healthier option a festive feel.
For me, a time goal works best when it comes to holiday workouts. It’s easier to fit in during the hectic holiday schedule, and it takes the pressure off my gym workouts for a few weeks. I simply keep track of how many minutes I spend doing an activity that raises my heart rate.
Clock in whenever you take a walk, play a game of flag football, or have a rough house with the kids. You can even count sex! And of course, count any visits to the gym or home workouts you can fit in.
Did you know that 1 in every 2 Americans is sleep deprived? Our life literally depends on longer sleep. The shorter your sleep, the shorter you live! A lack of sleep could also be undermining your weight loss efforts.
Catch some more z’s this Christmas, and reap these benefits:
Put up those blackout curtains and sleep in late this Christmas. You’ll be happier and healthier throughout the holidays.
For your body to function at its best this Christmas, protein should make up 20-30% of your daily food intake. Your protein intake directly affects your body weight. It’s satiating, increases muscle mass, repairs cells, builds healthy bones, improves skin elasticity, and helps your body metabolize fat.
Is protein your pick this month? Start by figuring out your goal in grams. You should shoot for 0.8-1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight. Start your day with a high-protein breakfast. Supplement throughout the day with a quick protein shake. Reach for those healthy protein options at mealtime, like fish and turkey.
You can eat out without wrecking your health goals, but it’s not always easy. Restaurants often serve high-fat, high-calorie processed foods made with cheap ingredients. That said, you might be itching to get out of your kitchen this Christmas.
If you pick this goal to focus on, don’t feel like you have to go cold turkey (and eat only cold turkey at home, alone, while the family hits up Chick-fil-a). Simply pick your personal limit, and stick to it.
Twenty-seven percent of adults say they overeat to manage stress. People tend to seek high-calorie, high-fat foods during periods of stress—an unfortunate pick since our bodies store more fat when we’re stressed than when we’re relaxed.
After stress-eating, most adults report feeling disappointed in themselves, bad about their bodies, and sluggish or lazy. If you want to skip the binges when the holidays get stressful, swap out stress-snacking with something that subdues your stress even better! Give your body a different, healthier stress release, like meditation.
Carve out at least 10 minutes each morning to practice relaxation yoga. Discreetly step away from gatherings if the environment gets tense to slip in 5 minutes of belly breathing. Try this technique instead of reaching for another cinnamon roll.
Junk food can trigger the “happy hormone” (dopamine) to be released in the brain. High-calorie, high-fat, and high-carb foods give us a sense of pleasure. No wonder we reach for that tub of Ben & Jerry’s when we feel down!
Unlike junk food, which leaves us feeling worse off, gratitude releases dopamine and transforms our lives for the better! When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, enhancing our mood immediately and producing long-lasting happiness and contentment. When practiced daily, gratitude is nearly as effective as depression and anxiety medications.
The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel. This simple habit significantly reduces stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety. It will also improve your quality of sleep and build emotional awareness.
Want to focus on gratitude this holiday season? Keep a gratitude journal. Send small tokens and thank you notes to others expressing your gratitude for them. Thank your partner too—couple studies found that thanking each other often helps to sustain relationships and promote mutual trust, loyalty, and happiness in the relationship.
Commit to a few simple goals this Christmas, and give yourself the freedom to feel fit and festive. Here are my picks:
What are your picks?
Stick with just three for now. Practice balance and stay committed! You’ll be thanking yourself when you start writing your resolutions.
Don’t forget to download your free Habit Tracker, grab your red and green pens, and start ticking off your goals today!