9 Tips to Stay on Track During the Holidays – And Still Enjoy Them!
Year after year, once the holiday season starts, people seem to have the same question: How do you stay on track with your workouts and nutrition during the last few months of the year?
After all, from Halloween to New Year’s, the days are filled with special, once-a-year treats, higher-calorie “comfort foods” and huge portions of delicious, traditional family recipes. Who wants to miss out on all that?!
The good news is that you don’t have to miss out on your favorite holiday foods and events in the name of your fitness goals. In fact, indulging (and not stressing about indulging) can help you avoid the all-or-nothing mentality that can lead to overeating when you’ve forced yourself to miss out.
“Diet breaks can be very beneficial mentally as well, and if you are in a true calorie maintenance then weight gain won't need to be a concern as you enjoy a bit more treats during the holidays,” says Kylie Morse, RD, our resident nutritionist at Fit Body app.
To help you find balance this holiday season, here are some tips from Morse, as well as Amy Schultz, PT, our in-house physical therapist, and the Fit Body Facebook community.
1. Plan Ahead
You know the holidays are coming; they happen every year! Based on that, you can prepare yourself to stay as on track as you’d like.
“I try my best to plan ahead. If that means altering my meals slightly a few days before to allow for the calories then that's what I do,” writes Nadia Melanson. “I try my best not to skip any workouts. I can change the order of them around but daily movement is the best way to keep my head in the game.”
So for example, if Monday is usually leg day, but you’re flying home that day, schedule it for Wednesday.
Planning ahead also applies to munching at holiday parties.
“Stay well-fueled and prioritize protein intake prior to any holiday parties and events,” Morse says. “This way, you are not ravenous around the buffet table. This will allow you to enjoy food more mindfully and not overindulge from feeling so restricted from the whole day prior.”
2. Make Staying Active Fun
You won’t always have access to your regular gym through the holidays, especially if you’re traveling. ‘Tis the season to find different ways to fit in your physical activity!
“Winter means snow sports for many of us – sledding, snowboarding, even building a snowman with the kids are all ways of staying active,” Schultz says. “If you don't have access to snow, then kayaking, hiking, walking around to look at holiday lights are all great ways of staying active in the theme of the holidays.”
Because, as research has shown, it’s not so much weight gain you need to worry about (it averages out to about 1 pound) but the overwhelming stress – which is where exercise comes into play.
3. Swap In Body-Weight and Resistance-Band Exercises
On the topic of switching up your workouts, you don’t always have to use dumbbells, barbells and weight machines to get a good strength workout.
“There are many modifications on the app and we also have great bodyweight targeted programs like shred that help you achieve the results you are looking for during a busy travel schedule,” Schultz says. Try her resistance band workout:
4. Limit Portion Size – Not Specific Foods
Depriving yourself of your favorite holiday treats is a recipe for disaster. Not only can it lead to overeating later, but it spoils the fun of the season to be constantly thinking about what you “can’t” eat. Instead, consider your portion size.
“When at a celebration meal, I am very mindful of how big my servings are,” Melanson writes. “I don't tell myself I *can't* have anything. If I want it, I eat it! If I do see something I want to indulge in, I let myself do it because it's not an everyday thing, and I'm on track everywhere else.”
5. Enjoy Special Holiday Treats
‘Tis the season for warm hot cocoa, your aunt’s famous sweet potato pie and traditional turkey dinners – and it only happens once a year!
“I approach it as planning my indulgence,” writes Eline DeBruijn Wiggins. “For example, if I have my family’s big Christmas celebration on one day or a friend's planned party the next, I won’t worry on those days about what I eat and will enjoy myself. I’ll try to eat healthy choices the rest of the week.”
It’s a tried-and-true saying: Life is about balance. And that’s especially true when it comes to enjoying holiday favorites, while still making sure you’re fueling your body with the foods you normally eat.
“I stick to my routine as much as I can, but also allow myself time to indulge,” writes NiKi Alannah Blaylock. “I don’t want to feel like I missed out on celebrations for the sake of a workout or some calories.”
6. Avoid Mindless Holiday Munching
Cookies and candies and cakes, oh my! High-sugar treats are everywhere as the year comes to a close. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to indulge in everything that crosses your path. It’s OK to be selective.
“I have to watch out for things like when holiday cookies and cake are randomly in the break room at work,” Wiggins writes. “I try to be mindful around those random dessert pop-ups during the holidays.”
Even if your favorite coworker brings sugar cookies to the office, if you’re not a huge fan, it’s OK to say “no, thanks.”
7. Stick With Your Workouts
You can’t always control the food that’s prepared and served, but more often than not, you’re able to take charge of your activity level.
“I always work out like usual,” writes Linnea Kate. “I don't ‘work’ for my calories, I eat and enjoy myself like usual. And if I don't work out as much, so be it.”
Don’t stress about sticking to your regular workout routine 100 percent, especially if you’re traveling. Pack some resistance bands for modified workouts or simply rely on body-weight exercises. And when nothing else works – go for a walk!
8. Join a Challenge or Recruit a Buddy
Just like any other time of year, committing to a challenge (like a minimum number of workouts per week) or finding an accountability buddy can help you stay on track through the holidays.
“Having a person to stay active with is not only way more fun, but also can keep you accountable for getting that workout/activity in,” Schultz says.
Related reading: You Best Tips to Stay on Track During a Fitness Challenge
9. Get Right Back in the Game
Once you’ve had your fill of food, family and fun, you’re free to return to your regular workout routine and eating pattern.
“After the holidays, get right back on track,” Kate writes. “Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed! There can always be some kind of balance even if it looks different season to season. There is always time for the gym, but there will only be one of each holiday this year and each year.”
One final thought: “Remind yourself that holidays, socializing with friends and family, and enjoying yummy food and drinks is all such an amazing part of life that should not be tainted by your physical goals,” Morse says. “So allow yourself to indulge, be present, and enjoy yummy foods without guilt!”