17 Holiday Health Tips
Follow this advice to enjoy a little holiday indulgence without sacrificing your health goals.
Relax. You won’t gain 10 pounds. It’s a misconception that you’ll need to go up a pant size in January. The average person gains only about a pound during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s no excuse to eat with abandon, though. (After all, gaining one pound every year can add up in the long run.) But a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology notes that people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after one high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep bingeing. So if you lose control with a dish of chocolate truffles, don’t think, I’ve blown it. Might as well move on to the eggnog. Just forgive yourself for the truffles.
Don’t skip meals. It seems logical: Forgo lunch; leave more room for pigs in blankets at the office party later. But arriving starved may result in overeating, and drinking on an empty stomach will give you a quicker buzz, which is more likely to lead to mindless munching. Eat normally during the day, and be strategic at the buffet. Don’t bother with things you don’t absolutely love. Splurge on something special (hint: It’s not those cubes of Cheddar), then stop.
Count your bites. “A lot of appetizers are about 60 calories a bite,” says Karen Diaz, a registered dietitian in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Just five bites is around 300 calories. “That’s about half of what you might eat for dinner,” says Diaz. Keep a mental tab—or fill a small plate, once—so you don’t go overboard.
Turn down Aunt Jan’s pie. “It’s better to sit with a little guilt than to overeat just to please loved ones,” says Diaz. If you can’t say no to Jan’s face, try “Maybe later,” then hope she forgets.
Give yourself a break from the gym. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of people who exercise regularly is lower in December than at any other time of the year. So don’t beat yourself up—you’re not the only one who’s too busy for Spinning class. But try to stay active in other ways. Speed-walking with shopping bags counts. So does cleaning, says Mark Macdonald, the author of Body Confidence ($27, amazon.com). Add some toning by tightening your core muscles as you vacuum or reach for scattered toys (imagine trying to get your belly button to touch your spine). And most important: Get back into your regular exercise routine once the holidays end.
Weigh yourself every day. Or try on a pair of snug-fitting jeans to gauge those subtle ups and…OK, just ups. The point isn’t to get obsessive and berate yourself over every ounce gained; it’s to prevent yourself from completely letting go of good habits. “Breaking the rhythm of healthy behaviors that you’ve built up is the real danger. You don’t want to have to start from scratch on January 1,” says Macdonald.