It’s no secret that healthy habits often take a backseat to other priorities during the holidays. After all, there are traditions to maintain, social schedules to keep and the dark, chilly days of winter that make hibernating at home seem a lot more appealing than venturing out to get active.
Still, there are steps we can all take to keep ourselves fit and healthy, even during this most hectic and indulgent time of year. And you don’t have to be perfect — or even forego your favorite holiday treats — to make it happen. Consider these tips:
Eat smart. Watching what — and how much — you eat this time of year is a critical piece of the holiday wellness puzzle. Eating right doesn’t mean totally depriving yourself, but it does mean exercising a little self-control. Time-honored tips include not showing up to social functions hungry (you’re more likely to overeat) and filling most of your plate with healthful choices like fruits and vegetables before indulging in any less-healthy fare. Watch your alcohol intake, as booze contains empty calories and can compromise your self-control, causing you to overeat. And finally, be choosy in choosing your less-healthy treats — select items that are truly special to the holidays and not something you’d typically eat year-round. This approach allows you to enjoy your favorites without overindulging just because the food is in front of you.
Make sure to move. When it’s cold outside and your to-do list seems endless, it can be tough to make time for getting active. So treat regular exercise as you would any other task — put it on your schedule and make sure to keep the appointment. Work in physical activity however and wherever you can, be it through those dedicated workouts or shorter stints here and there. Activity adds up, so park far away from the building on mild days, take the stairs instead of the elevator and encourage your loved ones to join you for a walk before or after holiday meals. If motivation is lacking, sign up for a holiday-themed run or walk, like a turkey trot or jingle bell run. Having an event on your calendar can motivate you to stay moving both before and after the big day.
Get a handle on holiday stress. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect! The holidays can be a busy and stressful time, but you’re ultimately in control of your schedule and which social obligations you chose to host or attend. Eating right, sleeping well and exercising can help your stress levels and offer you an immune system boost, to boot. You might try a yoga class or short guided meditation (there are plenty available for free online) to further reduce stress during this hectic time. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to appointments or obligations that are stressing you out.
Take steps to prevent illness. To start with, get your flu shot. Nothing hampers the holidays like being sick, and the influenza vaccine is a great way to protect against what can be a severe illness. Remember to practice good hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay home when you’re sick to prevent the transmission of illness.
Keeping these tips in mind can help you enjoy a healthier and happier holiday season — and a fantastic start to the New Year.
Lynda Bahde, FNP, practices at Bellin Health Marinette.