by Terry Kozmor
The holiday season is a joyful time of year filled with family, friends, and parties. Along with these parties, however, come sugary cocktails, heavy hors d'oeuvres, and minimal sleep. It can be tempting to live in the moment and enjoy every last bite, but this year I encourage you to head into the holiday season with a plan to find a healthy balance. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the “most wonderful time of the year” without letting your health take a back seat.
1. Sweat Every Single Day
One of the biggest pieces of advice I give people who want to maintain their exercise routine during the holidays is to work out in the morning. Set out your workout clothes the night before and as soon as you wake up, put them on. Get your coffee, grab a light snack (a banana with peanut butter is an ideal pre-workout snack), and get moving. Whether that means meeting a friend for a jog around the park, scheduling a session with your trainer, or trying a new spin studio, just get moving.
With the many daily commitments that come during this time of year, we can make excuses all day long as to why we “don’t have time” to exercise. By creating a daily morning routine, you can get your workouts out of the way and enjoy your afternoons and evenings. Starting the day off on the right foot will help you to make better food choices throughout the day and keep you in a healthy headspace.
2. Limit Your Splurges
There is no doubt that we will all be invited to various holiday celebrations. While temptation is around every corner (I’m looking at you, cheesy artichoke dip!), it is important to be smart about your splurges. For starters, don’t ever go into a food-filled event hungry. Have a couple of eggs or a Greek yogurt prior to leaving the house. Protein-based snacks will help you curb your cravings and make smarter choices. Once you are at the party, opt for vegetables and proteins first to fill you up. If you want to splurge, make sure it is an item worth splurging on. For example, if you look forward to Aunt Helen’s pecan pie every year, enjoy a small slice; don’t waste your time on store-bought cookies.
Next, let’s discuss beverages. It can be tempting to try the signature drink or have a fruity cocktail; however, these are typically filled with empty calories and sugar. The excess sugar gives us headaches, exacerbates hangovers, and leaves us in a chronic state of fatigue. Your best bet is to enjoy a simple mixed drink such as vodka with soda water or stick to a light beer or a glass of wine. Another best practice is to alternate every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water to avoid dehydration or excessive drinking.
3. Stay Hydrated
It is quite easy to become dehydrated this time of year, especially when you’re attending various events. That’s why it is critical to stay hydrated during the day. Staying hydrated keeps our skin looking clear and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Water transports nutrients and aids normal bowel function. The benefits of water are truly countless.
An easy way to stay hydrated throughout the holiday season is to keep a water bottle with you. Whether you’re traveling by plane or shopping for gifts, a refillable water bottle is a foolproof way to make sure that you are constantly drinking water. Avoid sugary drinks such as juices, mixed drinks, and seasonal specialties. Your best bet is to stick to mainly water, tea, and coffee, and enjoy an adult beverage only occasionally.
4. Walk More
We all know how crazy the parking lots are during the holiday season. Take advantage of this and park far away from the entry so that you can walk more. If you have a step-counting tool such as a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, be sure that you are hitting your 10,000 steps per day. When diet and workouts fall to the wayside, it is important to at least keep walking.
One tip that I often tell my clients this time of year is to schedule “walking dates” with family and friends. Rather than meeting for lunch or dinner, meet at the park and enjoy a 60-minute walk together. You are not only saving money, but you are saving calories—and burning them! Walking not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but it also improves mood, balance, and coordination.
5. Get Adequate Sleep
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is to make sure that you are sleeping enough. It is imperative to catch at least 7 (ideally 8–9) hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Getting enough sleep aids muscle recovery, helps reduce inflammation, and provides enough energy for the next day’s workout. Sleep is one of the most critical components of a healthy lifestyle.
Just like getting a consistent workout, managing to get adequate sleep is all about routine. Be diligent about your health regimen, which should also include winding down before bed, avoiding a large meal right before bedtime, keeping a cool bedroom temperature, and eliminating any electronics while lying in bed.
Mastering these five tips will help you get the most out of this joyful (and sometimes stressful) holiday season without compromising your health. When you’re feeling good and looking good, you will be able to overcome the temptation of too many holiday treats and greet family and friends with plenty of energy and a good attitude. More importantly, you can skip the guilt of overindulging and missing workouts, which means you will enter 2020 with a head start on your new year’s goals!
Terry Kozmor has been in the health and wellness industry for more than 15 years. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in exercise science, he began his career in fitness. In addition to being Ixcela’s fitness expert, Terry is also the Director of Fitness at Lynx Fitness Club in Boston, Mass., where he oversees a group of specialized personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and nutritionists. He is an avid athlete himself and you can often find him outside snowboarding, surfing, or hiking.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Interested in learning more about Ixcela? Check out Ixcela’s microbiome test, personalized nutrition and fitness plans, and other tools to help you optimize your health.