According to the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are five times more likely to say their stress level increases during the holiday season. Not only is stress not good for one’s health, but it often leads to poor choices that further jeopardize our health.
Stress can lead to overeating, under-sleeping, not exercising, and more. The good news is that there are things that can be done to make it through the season healthfully.
“Many people tend to let their healthy habits lapse during the busy holiday season,” explains Jennifer Scherer, medical exercise specialist, certified personal trainer, and owner of Fredericksburg Fitness Studio. “In doing so, they will not only set themselves back, but they often regret it and have difficulty getting back into their healthier lifestyle.”
The key is to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite the holidays. The season may be filled with more chaos, cookies, and crankiness, but keeping one’s health a high priority will go a long way toward helping people get through feeling great. There are numerous things that people can do to keep their health in focus during the holiday season, including:
- Swap ingredients. Make healthy swaps for certain ingredients in holiday dishes. Instead of using sour cream in a dish, you can swap it for plain Greek yogurt, for example. Put together a fancy charcuterie board filled with fresh veggies, fruits, and hummus, so that there is something healthy and filling to snack on. Focus on making healthy versions of traditional holiday dishes. Instead of green bean casserole, try sauteed green beans with almonds. Many options exist, so have fun taking on the challenge to make it a healthier holiday meal.
- Portion control. Enjoying the holidays is OK, but having smaller portions of your meals will help keep things under control. Especially when being invited to several holiday parties. Opting for small portions of their favorite foods will keep people from feeling like they are missing out. Develop a system that allows for a couple of tablespoons of whatever food is desired. That way, nothing is off limits, and there won’t be any overeating and feeling guilty later. Portion control is a crucial way to get through the holidays being able to have your favorite foods without packing on the pounds.
- Maintain routines. Stay consistent with exercise routines. During the holidays, it’s natural to get overwhelmed and busy. Focusing on getting workouts in will help everyone remember their goals and keep them at the forefront of their mind during the holiday season.
- Remember mental health. Eating healthier during the holidays and maintaining an exercise routine will keep people feeling good. It’s also important to focus on mental health, which will keep stress at bay. Doing things such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature can help keep mental health in check during the holidays.
- Having self-grace. When going overboard one day, remember that it doesn’t mean all progress is being thrown away. One bad meal or day doesn’t mean the person is a failure. Humans can only do so much and need to be more forgiving of themselves. Remember to focus each day on one’s goals but don’t beat yourself up if you have a weak moment during the holiday season.
- Get help. Working with a personal trainer or health coach can be a tangible way to help people get through the season and feel like winners. By getting support, one’s health can improve during the holidays or maintain their current status. Rather than putting it off for the first of the year, opt to get started with a medical exercise or health coaching program now, so the holidays are a breeze.
“Whether you could use some in-home training, personal training, or nutrition coaching, now is the time to get started with it,” added Scherer. “Focusing on your health will get you through the holidays feeling like you gave yourself the most amazing gift ever.”