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How to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Updated on March 5, 2018
Tyler Read profile image

Tyler is an NASM certified personal trainer with over 10 years of experience and a B.S. In Exercise Science.

How to stay through the holidays

The holidays and fitness don’t often go hand in hand. The temptations are endless; gingerbread, Christmas cookies, hot buttery mashed potatoes, pie, candy canes, another big pile of mashed potatoes and lots of booze. You want to enjoy yourself but you don’t want to start the new year feeling like Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

So with just a few easy to implement ideas, you can enjoy those festive treats without feeling like you’ve undone 11 months of being sensible;

  1. Keep moving to keep feeling good. Maintaining exercise is key over the holiday season, and for two main reasons. Firstly you’re burning off what you’re putting in! It’s basic biology that if you consume more calories than you use, over a period of time your body will store those excess calories as fat. That’s a fat fact! It’s a tall order to lose fat over the holidays, but you don’t have to resign yourself to piling on the pounds; it doesn’t have to happen. Secondly, with the right type of exercise you can actually increase your metabolism meaning your body burns through more calories anyway. Best to start this one as soon as possible to get the body’s engines fired up in advance, but stuff like interval training and resistance training can send your fat burning capabilities through the roof. HIIT training involves short bursts of intense exercise, followed by short bursts of rest. Resistance training is anything that forces your muscles to do work! That doesn’t mean you have to start bench pressing the weight of a small hippo; something just as simple as a 1kg dumbbell in each hand whilst you do some burpees can do it. Muscles burn calories even when you’re just sat on the couch so it makes sense to blow the cobwebs off them and get them working for you.

  2. Plan ahead. So we’ve discussed why to exercise over the holidays. But it’s not always as straight forward as that. To be getting the most out of your exercise at any time, it is often a good idea to be planning ahead but it is especially important throughout Christmas and New Year where social and family engagements seem to just take over. Don’t leave your exercise time to chance! Work out when you’re going to be free and use it wisely. Make a point of highlighting a spare 45 minutes here and there and do yourself a huge favour by sticking to it. Just the smallest burst of exercise can keep the momentum going and make you feel a whole lot less guilty about the festive treats.

  3. Recruit friends to join you (I promise you’re not the only one in the world who is hoping to keep the belly under control throughout December). If it’s not just you that has committed to that pre-work run you are more likely to get out of bed and get it done. In fact early morning exercise is not only a great idea because it means you can get it done before the world wakes up and starts distracting you; it’s also a great way to burn through fat. Making the body work pre-breakfast on an empty belly encourages it to use fat stores as an energy supply and again helps boost metabolism.

  4. Indulge but resist. Giving yourself a free pass to go all out because it’s Christmas may feel like guilt free unbridled joy because you’ve made peace with the fact that it’s the holiday season…but just keeping a bit of a lid on it will make all the difference when you are back up to full speed in the New Year. BUT you still want to enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer, which you are more than entitled to do. I used ‘keeping a lid on it’ as a convenient phrase to say ‘don’t go all out’ but the way to do that is literally to keep a lid on it. Take what you need from wherever it is stored in and then put it back. Sitting down with the entire left over cheesecake probably means that the entire left over cheesecake will magically disappear. So take a modest slice, put the rest back in its box in the fridge, then enjoy the creamy sweet dessert without over doing it. Fancy some chips? Put a portion in a bowl, put the bag back then get comfortable in front of the TV. Portion control is key to staying healthy over the holiday season.

  5. H2OMG! When NASA explores a planet or far away moon looking for possible signs of life, they first look for one thing – WATER! Why? Because it is the single most vital thing to support life. So therefore it kind of makes sense to drink enough of it. Every system in the body works better when the body is fully hydrated, from your brain’s cognitive power to your skin’s ability to repair itself and look glowing. So at this time of year when the chances are you are going to be putting more bad stuff in your system than normal, you need to be consuming more water than ever to help flush it out! The kidneys filtering your blood, your digestive system ploughing through the excess calories you’re throwing in to it, your energy levels being tested to the maximum in the build up to the big day; they are all going to need hydrating! You know that feeling when you’re hungry but you’re not quite sure what it is exactly that you want to eat, you just feel like you need something? Well I am willing to bet you my last Nutter Butter that you’re not hungry at all – you are thirsty. Your body is dehydrated so glug a load of water, wait 20 minutes and see how you feel then. How much water should you be drinking? A minimum of 2 litres is a good start. Trust me, you’ll feel amazing for it.

  6. Take 5. Staying healthy doesn’t just mean physically. Thankfully more and more importance is being placed on mental wellbeing and at a time of year when you’ve got more balls in the air than a juggling octopus, it’s vital to find time to do nothing. Just 5 minutes to have a think about how you’re feeling, take some breaths, check in with yourself and re-set. There are so many apps that can take you through 5 or 10 minutes of guided basic meditation, and they are well worth it. It’s a frantic time of year so be kind to yourself and ultimately you’ll enjoy it more than ever.

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