Ah, the dreaded holidays. We all have a love-hate relationship with this time of year, when we get to experience all the fun of celebrating with our friends and family (and the presents they give us) but forego all the exercise and healthy diet we've been practising in the past year.
So in order to make the most out of the holiday season and still keep your wellbeing goals, we've gathered 12 simple tips for staying healthy during the holidays. It's super easy - and totally worth it.
1. Focus on fun, not food
The holidays are all about the people, but it sometimes feels like they're all about the food. It's really difficult to get out of the mindset of stuffing our face if everything we're looking forward to about the holidays revolves around food, and a lot of our traditions really are. But just try to savour the social parts of the holiday, the general festive vibes and everything that isn't just the food. Of course, you can (and should!) enjoy the food as much as possible - but just don't think of it as the star of Christmas.
2. Drink enough water
It's really easy to forget to hydrate during the holidays. Everybody's constantly talking, moving and eating, but nobody's taking the time to drink their 8 glasses. By making sure you drink enough water, you'll feel healthier, be less hungry, and even suffer less from the dreaded Boxing Day hangover. Perfect outcome.
3. Steer clear of sugary drinks
One of the reasons we don't drink enough water is because we're all drawn to fizzy drinks during the holidays. But these sugary drinks are not only bad for us, they will also make you feel less full from the same amount of food! So follow our motto: drink water, not coke.
4. Limit your alcohol consumption
Alcohol is really fun, we know. But it can also be fun in moderation! We're not telling you not to have any of it, just to make sure you're not drinking so much you'll end up passing out, binge-eating or just plainly suffering the next day. But it's not just Christmas day - this entire period is full of dos, parties and tipsy visits to the neighbourhood Christmas market. Just make an alcohol limit for yourself and let yourself enjoy this season without regrets.
5. Take time to relax
This season is all about relaxing and spending time with family, but more often than not, it becomes hectic. The social activities, the cooking and the parties mean that you normally end up with barely any time for yourself. Try to take a few moments for yourself every day, even if it's literally only just that. You can meditate for a couple of minutes before bed or even read a chapter in a book, but whatever you do, make sure you have some much-needed me time pencilled in.
6. Sleep regularly and enough
So much family time. So much party time. So little sleep time. But it doesn't have to be like that - the holiday season should also be about recharging and starting the new year as fresh as you can. The only way to do that is by making sure you sleep enough. We know you're not 4 years old anymore, but there's no shame in having a bedtime. It doesn't have to be 7 o'clock, it can also be midnight - but try not to go over your set time and that you get enough sleeping hours. If that doesn't work for you, you can always take a couple of days to oversleep and recuperate.
7. Keep on exercising
The holidays are a great excuse to stop exercising, but they shouldn't be. Think about it, the holidays make us eat more, spend less time outside (it's cold!) and move less, so if anything, we should be increasing our workout frequency! Try to stick to your exercise routine or even top it up, and if you really don't have the time try a quick workout like Dr Chatterjee's 5-minute kitchen workout - it's so simple you can even do it during Christmas day itself.
8. Avoid overeating
Yes, there's GREAT food around during the holidays. The problem is that we tend to eat more than we need. The reality is that it takes up to 20 minutes for food to fill you up, and when there's such a spread it's easy to forget it - but there are a few things you can do to avoid overeating. For example, you can limit yourself to one serving: put all the food on your plate at the start of the meal and don't go back for more. You can also try to put down the fork after every bite and only pick it up again once you've swallowed.
Another important tip is NOT to fast before the holiday meal. A lot of us think that by fasting we'll be 'making up' for the extra calories. However, when you come starving to your holiday meal you're more likely to eat more - and more unhealthy things at that. The main tip is to do everything in moderation - including your holiday dinner.
9. Start with low-calorie foods
Because it takes time to fill up, a good trick is to actually start with the healthy stuff and build up towards the unhealthy parts of the meal. It won't only prevent you from overeating, but will make sure you're getting all the nutrients before you indulge. So soup, greens and turkey go first - stuffing, pigs in blankets and Yorkshire puddings go last.
10. Stock the freezer with healthy food
You get so busy during December that the best way to make sure you're eating healthy is by stocking your fridge and freezer with healthy food. From prepared meals all the way to fruit, veg and nuts, just make sure you have enough healthy food to last you the month so you can save money and time, while still staying well.
11. Balance it out
It's so easy to stick to a 'all-or-nothing' mindset. If you've eaten badly during the day you may as well just eat badly later in the evening, and if you've missed two of your workouts this week you may as well skip the third one too, right? The answer will shock you: don't do it!
Instead, try to balance out the bad with some good! Try to make up for your bad lunch with an exceptionally good dinner, or for your missed run with a longer run the next day. Makes sense, right?
12. Ditch the guilt
Nobody's perfect, and the holidays are the time when we feel a little less strict about our wellbeing. Although we shouldn't let go completely, it's only natural to eat a little bit more, and sleep, relax and exercise a little less. You can try to avoid these tendencies rather than embrace them, but the most important thing is not to feel guilty if you're not 100% there - it will only make you more stressed and hurt your wellbeing even more.