holidays‘Tis the season for holly jolly holiday spirit, decking the halls, and ditching our diet plans. It’s not surprising; the holidays are stressful. With the endless shopping lists, an influx of family members, and steady stream of tempting treats it’s no surprise the most wonderful time of the year also happens to be one of the most anxiety-fueled. Americans gain an average of two pounds per year during the holidays, which may not sound like much until you consider that we generally don’t manage to lose them.

When it comes to living healthy during the holidays, focus on celebrating with friends and family and enjoying yourself without overdoing it, but don’t put unreasonable pressure on yourself, either. Here are 10 tips for changing the way you think about having a healthy, happy holiday season.

  1. Stop worrying about the actual holidays. What you do on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day is not going to make or break you; what matters is all the days and weeks leading up to the holidays and the multiple mini-festivities you’ll be enjoying in the meantime. Instead of worrying about your Christmas Day meal plan, just work on making consistently healthy choices in the weeks prior to the big day. 
  2. Focus on what you can do. With a jam-packed holiday schedule, it may not be possible or practical to keep your regular workout routine. Instead of beating yourself up over missed gym time, just focus on challenging yourself to get moving as much as you can during these difficult weeks. It can also be challenging during the winter months to stay active due to the weather, but don’t let that stop you from getting creative to get active. If you love running the bases in the spring, get out and swing some baseball bats at the indoor batting cages; don’t let the icy weather keep you on the couch. 
  3. Keep the sugar off your vegetables. Glazing is for donuts and sugar belongs on the dessert table. There will be plenty of sugar available during the holidays, so your veggies don’t need it. Focus on having healthy veggie options and loading up a rainbow plate so that at least half your plate is healthy, non-starchy fruits and vegetables. 
  4. Exercise… your right to say no. When it comes to holidays and the endless tradition, pomp, and circumstance of it all, there are probably a lot of things you feel like you have to do, but you don’t really want to do. Exercise your right to say no and take yourself off the hook for anything you’re doing just because you feel obligated. Don’t feel like sending out Christmas cards this year? Don’t bother. Not up for hosting dinner again this year? Someone else better get cooking! You can (and should) protect your health and sanity during this busy season.
  5. Prevent illness and injury. Winter means it’s cold and flu season, and the holidays means plenty of family around to transmit the sniffles. Make sure you’re washing your hands regularly and staying warm since no one wants to be sick for Christmas. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to clear icy and snowy paths so no one breaks a bone while they’re on break, and drive extra carefully on winter roads to prevent injury.
  6. Savor it all. In addition to soaking up the time you get to spend with friends and family (LoveProm has some solid suggestions for taking great photos to remember these moments), make sure to take the time to truly savor your food. Eating slowly and enjoying your food can help you to eat less since it can take your brain up to 20 minutes to signal that you’re full. 
  7. Eat what you love. The holidays aren’t the best time of year to deprive yourself of the foods you really love, and there are more than a few reasons to go ahead and put it on your plate. If you allow yourself to indulge, you will eat more mindfully and feel more satisfied, decreasing your chances of overeating. It’s better to focus on eating in moderation and practicing portion control than denying yourself holiday treats outright.
  8. Don’t go hungry to the mall. We mean this literally, because Cinnabon, Orange Julius, and Auntie Anne’s are legitimate sources of food court temptation, but we also mean don’t go hungry to the grocery store, to the holiday party, or even to Christmas dinner, either. Curb your appetite with healthy snacks and plenty of water before heading out to any event, including marathon shopping. And remember — no skipping meals! 
  9. Treat yourself. It may be true that the spirit of the holidays is giving, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop to treat yourself — whatever that means to you. Maybe you just need to get more sleep, or have been longing for a massage, or are dreaming of a new laptop or gaming console. Whatever your “thing” is, find a way to make it happen for yourself; get a babysitter, find a Groupon code, find wholesale suppliers so you can fit yourself into the budget… whatever it takes to treat yourself a little this holiday.   

What healthy living strategies do you employ during this difficult season? Tell us your tips in the comments.

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