Healthy Tips to Survive the Holidays

by Jeanine Costa | Nov 30, 2016

The verdict is in and we are officially kicking off a 5-week holiday celebration that often spells doom for your health and fitness plan. Along with these celebrations will come headlines and broadcast news stories highlighting the holiday weight gain that thousands of people experience every year.

Ignore them.

Don’t think about weight gain this holiday season – think about celebrating with friends at family while simultaneously enjoying the sensation of living in a body that’s healthy.

Below are a few tips you can use to change how you think this time of year. The result will make it easier for you to make the right choices – even when a lot of people around you aren’t.

*To help you stick to your goals at an attainable price, until December 31st we are offering 6 sessions of personal training for the price of only 5! For more information, visit: www.ymcaofmewsa.org/holidayspecials

 

1. It’s not about the actual holidays.

What you eat on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day isn’t your major concern. It’s all the other days in between that will determine if your holidays are healthful. You may encounter holiday treats at random at work or at home from a kind neighbor bringing you a home-baked gift. These situations are more frequent than a binge on two holidays a year. Overeating on Thanksgiving Day isn’t going to get you out of shape... Just like doing things right one day isn’t going to get you in shape. It’s all the little things on a daily basis that determine if you are moving toward fitness or away from it.

 

2. List your top 2-3 favorite treats during the holidays and commit to having only those.

We’ve all got our favorites. List them, and stick to them so you can enjoy your favorites without consuming any “accidental” junk food you weren’t planning on.

 

3. Let go of perfect.

We don’t expect it in other areas of life – school, work or in with our family members.  So why do we expect “perfect” when we think about our fitness routines? You may miss a workout. In fact, everyone will at some point. It’s not the end of the world. Really. Just make sure you get the next one done.

 

4. Forget your workout routine; just challenge yourself.

You may not have time for your full routine, so don’t do it! Exert yourself for 10 minutes if that’s all you have. Your body responds to the challenge of exercise, not to the amount of time you spend doing it.

 

5. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Every year I hear an endless parade of, “I’ve just been so busy with the holidays and family visits, that I couldn’t workout.”  This year, focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. Look for solutions instead of repeatedly dwelling on the problems and obstacles.

 

6. Pick your top 5 favorite exercises.

Write down your 5 favorite exercises – I’m sure squats will be on everyone’s list this year – and when you need a blast of movement, do all of them for 30 seconds each. It will be easier if they are body-weight exercises, but you can use anything as long as they are your favorites.  You can even do them from home if you’re snowed in!

 

7. Explore fun ways to get the family moving.

Family gatherings usually involve too much food and too much sitting around. Get everyone outside any way you can. Reinvent old traditions in movement-based ways. Instead of sitting around talking about what you’re thankful for, have everyone share that while they’re out on a walk together. Whoever is talking has to walk backward and face the group while they share. Be creative. Too cold?  Bundle up – once you’re out and moving, you’ll warm up.

 

8. Keep sugar off of your vegetables.

I used to hate sweet potatoes. A few years ago, I realized this was due in large part to when I was growing up they were always served with brown sugar and marshmallows. Awful. Let there be no glazing of carrots this year. Sugar has no place on vegetables. There will be enough sugar in your favorite dessert. Glazing is for doughnuts. This year, find ways to make side dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Instead, make them savory with a sprinkle of garlic, thyme, and some avocado oil. Yum!

 

9. Remember that the holidays come at the same time every year.

Your favorite holiday comes on the same day each year (for the most part). Those annual celebrations won’t catch you by surprise, so there’s no reason why you can’t plan for them. Unknown interruptions to your fitness program like car trouble or sick children can’t always be avoided, but when celebrations come every year there’s no excuse. Use your smarts and creativity combined with some of the tips above to come up with a plan for celebrating that will allow you to enjoy the festivities without wrecking your fitness plan in the process. Keep at it and you’ll get a little better each year!

10. Eat what you love, leave what you like.

Instead of piling your plate a mile high with things that don’t really tantalize your taste buds (fruit cake, we're looking at you!), pick only the foods that give you true enjoyment. If something doesn’t make you swoon, leave it on the sideline.

 

11. Keep your treats to one day a week.

The biggest mistake people make at the holidays is making Thanksgiving a four-day feast instead of a one-day indulgence. Then the holiday parties come, and all of a sudden you're giving yourself an excuse to have treats nearly every day. Rather than letting your holiday feast roll into pie for breakfast, limit your splurges to one event per week.

 

12. Nix the guilt.

Feeling guilty after eating foods you don't usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviors. So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track with your normal eating and exercise routine the very next day.

 

13. Don’t eat something just because it’s holiday food.

Listen to your body; most people eat particular foods like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or down cups of Pumpkin Spice Lattés because "that's what we do during the holidays." Noshing without thinking about what you’re putting into your body and why makes you ignore your internal cues of hunger and satiety. Do you really even like pumpkin pie or SPL? Or if you could have any treat, would you choose your favorite ice cream or hot cocoa instead? Just because it’s limited doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

 

14. Eat low to high (when it comes to calories).

Start with a broth-based soup or salad, then move on to lean protein, and by the time you reach those triple-fudge brownies, a few bites will be all you need to feel satisfied!

 

15.  Alternate your bubbly with sparkling water.

On average most adults consume almost 100 calories a day from alcoholic beverages. Since avoiding alcoholic beverages altogether may be hard during this time of merriment, alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a zero-calorie sparkler can help you avoid pouring on the pounds. Plus sparkling water keeps things festive, and, bonus, you’ll avoid entering the hangover zone, a not-so-happy holiday tradition.

 

16. Balance acid with alkaline.

Holiday foods are full of "acid formers" like sugar, alcohol, and meat, so make sure you balance all those rich foods with plenty of "alkaline formers" like lemons and organic greens. While not all nutrition experts agree with the alkalinity theory, which says that eating too much of some types of foods can upset the pH balance in the body, it does make sense to balance out your heavier dishes with plenty of greens.

 

17. Bring the punch.

Offer to bring the party punch, then "upgrade" your traditional recipe with natural sweeteners like Stevia or 100% fruit juice. To go even healthier, ditch the booze and replace it with club soda for a sparkling mocktail. Although they might miss the buzz, no one will miss the extra calories, and you'll be comfortable knowing there's at least one light drink so you can skip the eggnog.

 

18.  Make holiday treats year-round.

Prevent some of that "last-chance eating" by promising to make your mom's pumpkin pie in February or your favorite green bean casserole in July. Knowing it will be available again means you won't feel the urge to “go for broke” and overeat it now.

 

19. Veg-out on veggies.

Try swapping light pureed cauliflower for carb-heavy mashed potatoes and add side dishes with more vegetables, like ratatouille, to bolster the nutritional value of the meal and keep you satiated so you don't overeat. Bonus: All that extra fiber will help keep you regular, even if you do overindulge a bit on the cheese platter.

 

20. Don't be fooled by the "health halo".

File this under sad-but-true: You can gain weight even if you eat healthy. You can overdo it with the veggies and dip or creamy asparagus soup, just like you can with ice cream—except with the ice cream at least you know it’s an indulgence. So make sure you're not eating something based solely on its health-food aura and keep an eye on your portion sizes.

 

21. Go to social gatherings to gather (not to eat).

You go to family gatherings, work parties, and other social events to see your friends and loved ones—so see them! Use these times to socialize and be present rather than rummaging for holiday treats. A good idea is to "pre-eat" something with protein and vegetables to stabilize your blood sugar so you can keep your focus where it belongs: on present company.

 

22. Bring out the skinny jeans.

Elastic waistbands, "relaxed fit" sweaters, and other loose clothing are practically an engraved invitation to overeat. Leave those roomy pants in the back of the closet. Instead, bring out the bandage dresses, skinny jeans, slim-fit suit, or nipped-in blazer—whatever ensemble makes you feel sleek and slim. Not only will you look hot, your outfit will offer subtle reinforcement to keep you from getting seconds (or thirds) on those peppermint bark cookies.

 

23. Just say no... to food pushers.

Whether it's Grandma's caramel cake or your best friend's first attempt at a holiday roast, often you may feel forced to eat certain foods simply because people keep offering them to you. Put on a genuine smile, politely decline, and then offer a compliment. "Oh, Emily, these truffles look amazing, and you're so thoughtful to make them for me! I'm too full to enjoy them right now, but could I take a couple home?" They'll feel loved and you won't feel pressured to show your affection through busting a gut.

 

24. Rock the holiday bed-head.

Between holiday traveling, work schedules, and all that shopping, it can be easy to skimp on sleep in order to get your to-do list done, but getting a consistent six to nine hours of sleep every night helps regulate hormones, promotes recovery from workouts, and prevents daily fatigue. There's really no such thing as “catching up” on sleep, so the key is consistency. Bonus: The bed-head tousled look is totally in right now!

 

25. Be a snack smuggler.

Traveling, shopping, and running errands during the holidays can lead to fast food, skipping meals, or surrendering to the siren-call of Cinnabon. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Choose options made with real ingredients to truly energize and nourish your body. Check out our suggestions for on-the-go high-protein snacks!

 

26. Burn the bird.

No, we're not telling you to intentionally char your holiday dinner (although that's one way to save calories). Rather, try a post-feast interval workout like Reed's "burn the bird" sweat-fest: Have everyone take a stroll around the block. Consider this a new form of bonding; you can do the same things inside as you do outside, like talk about the Giants this season…

 

27. Don't "save up" calories.

Fasting before a big meal can backfire. Low blood sugar from hunger increases cortisol levels, which leads to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Instead of saving up for the big meal, nibble on healthy snacks like raw veggies, nuts, and fruit throughout the day to avoid a full-blown nosedive into carbs, where no crumb is left behind.

 

28. Detox your taste buds.

Over time we adapt to eating "hyperpalatable" foods that are high fat, high salt, or high sugar (or all three). By eating these foods regularly, we erode the ability of our taste buds to appreciate subtler flavors, and we train them that a hit of fat/salt/sugar is normal. The good news is that you can reset taste buds by cutting out processed foods for just one week. Then when you do indulge in a treat, you'll be able to appreciate all the flavors and be sated with just a few bites. You may even find that processed foods you used to love don’t even appeal anymore.

 

29. Three bites and good night.

Stick to the three-bite rule for desserts: The first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same. In three bites, you get the full dessert experience, so really focus on savoring those three and you’re less likely to overindulge.

 

30. Trim the trimmings.

It turns out that most traditional holiday dishes are really not that unhealthy—think lean turkey, roasted vegetables, nuts—but adding in all the additional trimmings to the dishes are what make the calories soar into the stratosphere. Simply eliminate extras such as gravy, cream sauces, butter, and crust on pies, and you'll axe loads of unnecessary calories and fat.

 

31. Eat mindfully.

It sounds silly, but lots of people don't even realize when they're eating. Taking the time to choose food you really want to eat and then actively focusing on enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you're full.

 

32. Eat a good breakfast.

Your mom was right: Eating a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the entire day. If you start your day off with a doughnut or leftover pie, you can trigger a relentless sweet tooth the rest of the day. Don’t skip breakfast either, as that will leave you dragging through your morning and more likely to overeat later because you’re starving. Your best bet? Start with something that has lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and some healthy fat to give you energy and keep you satisfied until your next meal. Del My favorite: An omelet made with one egg and two to three egg whites; easy-to-cook veggies like spinach, mushrooms, or sautéed onions; fresh herbs if you have them; and a touch of grated Parmesan cheese (instead of salt). Add fresh fruit and whole-grain toast with a smear of peanut butter to really round out the meal.

 

33. Eat seasonally.

Summer gets all the credit for tasty fruits and bountiful veggies, but winter has its superstars too. Feast on gorgeous seasonal fruits like pomegranates, mandarin oranges, and red grapefruit. Not only are they at peak season for optimal quality and flavor, they’re packed with nutrients. Unsalted, lightly salted, or simply roasted pistachios, chestnuts, and walnuts also make special appearances around the holidays, so feel free to eat a handful or two before hitting the buffet. These nuts are packed with satiating fiber and healthy fats to help keep your appetite from going rogue. (DIY: Buy these nuts raw and stick them in the oven on a baking sheet at 350°F until fragrant for a “homemade” batch)

 

34. Use the “fork trick."

One of the biggest pitfalls of holiday eating is not being able to tell when you're full and no longer truly enjoying the food you're eating. To help you answer this question, try the “fork trick": Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate, and let go of the fork. Chew your food, swallow, and then pick up your fork again. The key to this trick is actually letting go of the fork. This will remind you to slow down, enjoy your food, and converse with friends and family. By eating more slowly, you'll be more in touch with your body's satiety signals.

 

35. Watch out for sneaky sugar.

Sure, you know that pumpkin pie with whipped cream or chocolate lava cake is a sugar-bomb, but the sweet stuff hides in innocuous places like sauces, seasonings, and processed foods. Suss out sneaky sugars and eliminate the ones you won't miss, like the barbecue dipping sauce or the packaged crackers, to keep your blood sugar and weight stable. Wood says women should aim to stay under 100 calories per day from sugar while men should stick to 150 calories or less.

 

36. Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water.

It's easy to confuse thirst with hunger, leading to mindless snacking that never satiates. To make sure you're staying hydrated, drink half your body weight in water. So if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for 70 ounces of water over the course of the day. For added detoxification, try adding ginger or lemon.

 

37. Practice healthy nutrition.

Know what foods help you feel and do your best, then focus more on giving your body what it needs (such as fruits and vegetables) and less on trying to avoid certain foods. Eat sweets in moderation and make sure you also get protein, fiber and healthful fats. Eat healthy food before going to a party so it is easier to indulge in moderation. Make an appointment with a nutritionist if you are unsure what is healthy for you or if you have digestion problems.

 

38. Relax your body and mind.

When you are more relaxed you sometimes get more done—and feel better doing it. When you feel wound up or overwhelmed, take five minutes to breathe deeply and scan your body from head to toe. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of two, breathe out through your mouth for a count of four, and repeat. Check your forehead, jaw and tongue for tightness, relax; then check your neck and shoulders, stretch and move them to find a comfortable position, then continue with your arms, chest, abdomen and legs. You can even breathe and relax your body while driving—just don’t close your eyes!

39. Cut down your own Christmas tree.

Rather than buying a tree from a roadside lot where the trees have been drying out for weeks, visit a tree farm that allows you to cut your own. It will be fresher and probably less expensive than they are at the lot. You'll burn off calories and combat some of the blood-sugar effects of the sugar cookie you snuck by traipsing around the grounds in search of just the right tree. And your family will have one more fond holiday memory to look back on.

40. Make the change!

The habit: Staying physically active during the holidays.

The result: Gaining less weight over the years.

The proof: A study conducted by the U.S. government found adults gained, on average, more than a pound of body weight during the winter holidays - and that they were not at all likely to shed that weight the following year. (That may not sound like a lot now, but it means having to buy roomier pants after a few Christmases pass.) The good news is that the people who reported the most physical activity through the holiday season showed the least weight gain. Some even managed to lose weight.

41. 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. Take defensive action 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.

Metuchen & Edison Holiday Hours
Christmas Eve 7am - 2pm
Christmas Day Closed
New Years Eve 7am - 6pm
New Years Day 10am-6pm

South Amboy Holiday Hours

Christmas Eve 7:30am - 2pm
Christmas Day Closed
New Years Eve 7:30am - 6pm
New Years Day 10am-6pm