It’s the holiday season and that means pumpkins, hot chocolate, bonfires, baking cookies, family gatherings, christmas carols, trimming the tree, turkey with all the fixings, shopping, work gatherings and for many people the addition of a few extra pounds. In fact, It’s common to pack on an additional 5-10 pounds during the holiday season. I love to celebrate the holidays!! To me, it’s about making memories and being intentional about the time spent with family and friends. With some intention and forethought, it can be absolutely magical without packing on the extra pounds. To help you put the fa la la into this special time of year, I’m going to share my top 10 tips to help you stay healthy and fit through the holidays.
1. Indulge in only the most special holiday treats.
Skip the store-bought cookies at Christmas, but do save some calories in your ‘budget’ to enjoy treats that are homemade and special to your family, such as your Grandma’s famous chocolate pecan pie or baklava. Training yourself what to indulge in and what to skip is much like budgeting your mad money: Do you want to blow it on garbage that you can buy anywhere or on a very special, one-of-a-kind souvenir? Enjoying these special treats is fine as long as it’s done in moderation. A few bites may be all you need. Likewise, don’t completely deprive yourself on festive days – your willpower will eventually snap, and you’ll end up overeating.
2. Eat a healthy snack before you head to a party
When I know I’m going to a party where there is likely to be a buffet of unhealthy foods, I usually eat a substantial snack that is full of nutrient dense calories before I leave. Homemade guacamole, hummus dip and veggies, even a small bowl of chili will keep me satiated, so I don’t graze on foods that will make me feel bad tomorrow. Similarly, when headed to a gathering, I always bring a healthy appetizer to share. That way, I know at least one thing will be a good option for me. Shrimp, hummus, jalapenos stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in turkey bacon, a big festive salad are all great options when sharing an appetizer.
3. Move your Body! Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. As a goal, you should strive to be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. When time is a factor, look for ways you can squeeze in a little extra movement. Park further away from the grocery store, wear your sneakers when you go Christmas shopping and take advantage of walking briskly through the mall. Keep some light hand weights under the coffee table and do some lunges while you are watching Rudolph with the kids. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking if it means burning a few extra calories. And, while the temps may be colder, being active in Georgia is generally quite enjoyable. Look for a turkey trot to do with your coworkers, gather the family and head to the Lanier night of lights 5k, grab the kids and cut down your own Christmas tree or find an ice skating rink and burn some calories wilst channeling your inner Kristi Yamaguchi.
4. Prevent illness and avoid injuries. Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. When I train my clients outdoors, I encourage them to wear layers as well as something to cover their heads, a vest to cover their core and some active gloves to keep the hands warm. When temps are colder, muscles are usually a little tighter. That said, It’s especially important to warm up adequately and finish with a good stretch to avoid pulling a muscle. Definitely don’t skimp here. The last thing you should be doing is a good HIIT workout and then sitting down in your car.
5. Calgon! Take Me Away! (Destress) While the holidays are full of special traditions, they can also be a source of added stress. All the extra social events, school programs, baking, prepping for parties can bring extra stress which will detract from the meaning of the holidays, to create beautiful memories with those you love. Perhaps you feel the financial stress of giving gifts or the potential stress of dealing with strained relationships or the absence of a loved one. Try to anticipate sources of stress and develop a plan to manage them. This may involve committing to fewer get-togethers, setting up boundaries for toxic family members, creating new memories/traditions, making a homemade gifts to save money, or delegating household chores to other family members. Prioritize the things that are most important to you and then let go of what you can.
6. Lend a Helping Hand Depression and suicide increase during the holidays. If you know someone who is going through a hard time or you are feeling depressed yourself, look for ways you can help someone else. Diverting your attention to the needs of others takes the focus off of you and your own depression. Who do you know that can use a random act of kindness? Do you have a neighbor who needs help raking their leaves? Is there a single mom in your office who could use a turkey? Can you afford to pay for the groceries for the person behind you? Would your sick friend appreciate a pot of chicken soup? Even a hand -written note letting someone know you are thinking of them can make a huge difference to a person who is depressed. Helping others also brings immense satisfaction and can help alleviate your own personal pain you may be experiencing. I love the idea of expressing appreciation to those who make a difference in your life. Every person longs to feel appreciated. Why not help someone enjoy the holiday even more by sharing how they make an impact. And, If possible, invite those colleagues or friends who are alone over the holidays to spend them with you.
7. Treat yourself. The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself. So treat yourself with something special over the holidays. It may be as simple as sleep. Wake up late and enjoy a day of rest; you need it. How about reading that book while sipping on something warm and frothy? Do you like getting pampered? Go for that mani/pedi, schedule a massage or get your hair done. Take the time to do the things that make you happy and feel good about yourself. Your loved ones will appreciate it too.
8. Find Healthy Swaps for Seasonal Favorites
Are you still thinking about something warm and frothy?? You didn’t think I would leave you hanging did you? I love a good feel good beverage, and some of my favorites happen to be REALLY good for your body. Not only do I de-stress, but I can reduce inflammation, cravings, and belly fat at the same time. The key is to find some really good swaps for your seasonal favorites. Here are a few of my favorites:
Ultimate Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte
1 cup (240mL) almond milk
1 tbsp (15g) pumpkin purée
4 drops vanilla crème stevia, or adjusted to taste
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
tiny pinch ground nutmeg
tiny pinch ground ginger
¾ cup (180mL) extra strong coffee
Add the milk and pumpkin to a small pot. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture begins to simmer. Add in the stevia, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Whisk the mixture until it becomes frothy.
Add the coffee to a large mug, and pour the milk mixture on top.
Golden Milk (serves 1)
¼ cup ground turmeric
½ cup water
Combine turmeric powder and water in a saucepan.
Simmer until mixture forms a thick paste.
Let cool, then store in fridge.
To make Golden Milk
1 cup unsweetened coconut, rice, or almond milk
¼ – 1/2 teaspoon turmeric paste (or just add powder)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Few shakes of ground black pepper
Generous dash of vanilla
Raw local honey or maple syrup to taste
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Place 1 cup milk with turmeric paste, oil, black pepper, vanilla, and honey/maple syrup into a blender.
Blend on high briefly until combined and foamy.
Pour into cup, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve.
9. Stock the freezer with healthy meals.
Everyone’s overly busy during the holidays, and most of us want to spend our time shopping, decorating, or seeing friends and family, which leaves less time to cook healthy meals. Be proactive several weeks ahead of time by cooking meals intended specifically for the freezer. You’ll be thankful later when you can pop one of the meals into the oven or microwave and turn your attention instead to writing out holiday cards with a personal message in each.
10. Keep the focus on fun, not food
Most holidays are associated with certain foods. Christmas at your house might not be the same without Aunt Milly’s green bean casserole, but that doesn’t mean food has to be the main focus. Instead, throw yourself into the other rituals a holiday brings, whether it’s caroling or tree trimming. I love to find fun ways to keep my clients motivated by incorporating things like the 12 days of FITMAS which is all about moving our bodies and celebrating the festive season at the same time. If you need some ideas or want some motivation to keep moving, be sure to follow my Facebook Fan Page, Body By Ruth. I’ll be sharing all sorts of fun ways to keep you moving and motivated as well as delicious meals that are friendly on your waistline. Need help reaching your fitness goals in the new year? I can help with that too. Check out my programs at bodybyruth.com!
Here’s to helping you become the BEST version of you!