Tuesday, December 15, 2015

8 Healthy Holiday Habits to Practice Year Round

It's the time of year when we raise our glasses along with our holiday spirit. We spread cheese on our crackers and cheer among friends.  Shortly after, when the parties have ended and the presents have been opened, we realize our waistlines have also spread.  The numbers on the scale have risen.  Rather than panic later, it's best to prepare and prevent this from happening.  By making healthy choices and staying accountable to your goals, you can enjoy the holidays without hindering your progress.  Here are 8 healthy habits to embrace, not just during the holidays, but year round.

1.  Bring a healthy recipe.  If you're unsure of the food that will be served, it's always a good idea to bring a dish of your own.  Others will appreciate the healthy option and you'll be able to fill your plate with moderate portions of everything else along with your contribution.  Perhaps you can experiment and find a new recipe that you haven't made before!

2.  Snack beforehand.  Avoid going to dinner with an empty stomach.  Hunger can result in cravings for cookies, candies and other "less healthy" choices.  You may also have a more difficult time controlling portions.  Try having a snack high in protein about 60-90 minutes before you know you will be eating.  I suggest greek yogurt with fruit or an apple with peanut butter.

3.  Prioritize protein.  Fill your plate with protein!  Veggies are also a great choice and should come before breads and pastas.  Protein actually has a thermogenic effect, meaning it takes more calories just to digest it (compared to fats and carbs). While this may not amount to a significant calorie burn, it does have an impact over time.  Plus, protein provides satiety, meaning you will feel full.

4.  Be the last to have the first drink.  If you choose to indulge in alcohol, make it a goal to be the last one to have the first drink.  It will save you calories, and perhaps save you from that nasty hangover the next day as well.

5.  Embrace the variety of a new workout.  Just because you're unable to go to the gym, that doesn't mean you can't complete an indoor circuit.  If weather permits, set up an outdoor bootcamp including laps around the block, alternating with pushups, body weight squats, wall sits and lunges!  Struggling with accountability? Recruit a buddy.  Even if your buddy is miles away, set aside a time when you will both agree to workout "together." My article Staying Fit While Traveling features additional tips along with an equipment-free travel workout.  I'm also a huge fan of using the XBAR while I travel.  Keep in mind, if you deviate from your usual routine (or don't workout at all), you will not lose all of your fitness progress overnight.

6.  Resign from the clean plate club. Let go of the idea that you need to finish everything on your plate. While it's a good practice to avoid wasting food, sometimes it's better to wrap it up and save it for later.  Incorporate leftovers into a new recipe.  And if you occasionally have to throw something away, think of the money we're willing to spend on fitness gadgets, gym memberships, protein bars, books and vitamins to prevent weight gain.  In comparison, having to waste a couple dollars of food that you really didn't want to eat seems insignificant.  Daily tip: If you have greens or fruit that is about to go bad, and you know you won't finish it in time, freeze them! You can later add the berries or spinach to a smoothie for added "frothiness" and nutrients.

7.  Get enough sleep.  When are free from our usual commitments and work-related responsibilities, we have the chance to sleep in and take naps.  By making sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, you will stabilize the hormones that control your appetite.  Without enough sleep, the hormones that promote cravings for sugary, fatty foods increase! The hormones that tell you you are full decrease.  This is a dangerous combination, especially when surrounded by holiday treats!  Rest up!

8.  Respect differences and practice patience. If you feel pressured to eat food that someone cooked, or if you feel offended that someone has passed up your triple chocolate, three layer silk pie, just remember that we all celebrate the holidays in different ways.  For some, our inner 3 year old comes out and we get to play, wrestle, go wild and be crazy.  For others, we set records for sleep marathons on the couch, recovering from long work weeks and a shortage of sleep.  If you're like myself, I enjoy the variety of a new workout--running outdoors and completing backyard or living room routines.  For a lot of people, food is synonymous with the holidays.  Understand that everyone has their own definition of what the holidays consist of.  Do your best to be patient with those who wrestle, those who snore and those who return to the kitchen for more!

How do YOU stay healthy during the holidays?

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