While the classic Christmas song calls this “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the holidays can also be one of the craziest times of the year. The parties, the gatherings, the gift giving, the dinners are all wonderful but can wear on us and throw our health and fitness goals off track really easily.
Rather than just sigh another year and give in, put on weight, overindulge, or just check out, experiment this holiday season with sticking to important things you need to feel healthy and rested. By keeping this commitment to yourself at a crazy time, you’ll be more prepared to keep your goals, habits, and dedication during the rest of the year.
The Big Picture
Before talking about game plans and tips and tricks, take a moment and zoom out to the big picture. What are the most important things to you to keep you healthy, rested, and feeling like you? Write them down in a list, it can be long or short, whatever feels right to you. Some examples of important things could be:
Getting enough sleep
Drinking enough water
Working out X times a week
Eating healthy meals
Cooking healthy meals
Having a certain amount of “off” time each day
Once you’ve got your list, compare that list with the holiday commitments/schedule you have and decide with things on your list you cannot function well without. Make those things your non-negotiables that you will not compromise on and will strive to make happen no matter what comes up during the holidays.
That could mean saying no to other things, but by saying no to some smaller things, you can keep your health, fitness, and overall well-being in a good place.
Time For the Game Plan
Now that you’ve got some non-negotiables to work with and give you some guidelines, look at your calendar each week during this busy time. Write down the events and obligations you have that week, and from there, see how many meals you need to make for the week and when you can fit a workout in (if that was on your list). Also look to see if all of your obligations are really necessary, if taking a breather for a night would help any of your non-negotiables.
Healthy Eating Strategies
To keep your healthy eating on track, you can do a number of things to make sure the season doesn’t throw this off course.
Meal Prep before Busy Weeks: After doing that schedule and seeing how many meals you need to make, choose a free day and meal prep for that week. By making as many meals as you can, you’ll take the thought and potential “I’m too tired for this” out of your busy days. If you’re mostly eating on the go, pre-pack your meals so on the day of, you just grab and go.
Batch Cook: In addition to meal prepping, you can make a huge amount of meals (for more than just the week) in case you know your upcoming weekends are also going to be busy. When looking for recipes, try to find some healthy freezer meals you can cook ahead and not worry about anything going bad.
Use your Slow Cooker: If you’ve got a slow cooker, prep your meal earlier in the day so all you have to do when you get home is serve and eat. Depending on how large your slow cooker is and how many people you’re feeding, you can use the leftovers for other meals and cut down on meals to prep. Look for recipes that have minimal prep, some slow cooker recipes call for some stovetop cooking before adding into the crock with other ingredients.
Pack Healthy Snacks: If you’re on the go, at school, or in an office with few healthy food options, bring snacks to keep you going and keep your healthy eating on track. Eating an occasional holiday cookie here and there is okay, but after a while your body will need something more substantial and real to keep full and satisfied.
Bring your Own Meals: You can also bring your own lunch or dinner to work or school as well. This give you more time to have a real break and to give your body the proper fuel it needs to keep going. This can also save you money, which is always helpful this time of year.
If All Else Fails, Head to Prepared Foods: No matter how much a person can plan and meal prep, sometimes life is just too unpredictable, leaving you hungry, without a snack or meal on hand. Head to a healthy grocery store with a prepared foods aisle and get your meal there. Stick with the healthier options and you’ll be good to go.
The Party Circuit
If you’ve got a lot of parties to attend this season, there are ways you can enjoy the party without throwing off your healthy eating or affecting your overall health goals.
Eat Something Beforehand: If you’re not sure what the food situation will be like and the event is around a mealtime, eat a filling snack beforehand so you’re less likely to overeat while you’re at the event.
BYO Dish: If this a party with friends, see if you can bring your own healthy dish to the party to make sure you’ve got something healthy to snack on or enjoy. If you know the host well, ask if they could have one or two healthier dishes there as well so you’ll have even more things to enjoy.
Stay Hydrated: Lots of booze could be flowing at an event or at someone’s house, which can impair your connection to fullness and lead to overeating. Stick to a 2 drink maximum before switching to water. This will help you hydrated in general and help lessen the next day effects of the alcohol.
Don’t Feel Obligated: It’s easy, especially at a friend’s party or dinner, to eat everything they’ve made or had prepared, even if it’s not the healthiest or isn’t really your cup of tea. Stick with you guns and only eat what you want eat. Your well-being is more important that being “polite.”
Indulge a Little Bit: Parties and the holidays are fun! Staying true to your health and fitness goals shouldn’t feel like a bucket of water on the fun. Indulge a bit on things you really enjoy and balance that out with your healthy eating, hydration, and movement.
Even with a game plan, things will change, more invites could come up or work/school could get really crazy. And that’s okay. Keep to as many of your non-negotiables as you can, giving yourself some kindness and working with you have with what comes up. Your non-negotiables could evolve a bit as well, maybe the amount of meals you make or gym sessions you have fluctuate from week to week. As long as you’re still putting yourself first and feeling good, that’s all that matters.
Healthy Eating 101 returns with some essential tools for your Healthy Eating kitchen.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Main Photo Credit & Second Photo Credit: rawpixel.com/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: WitthayaP/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: LADO/shutterstock.com; Fifth Photo Credit: Africa Studio/shutterstock.com