7 Best Tips for Staying Fit & Healthy During the Holidays

Like many people, I love the holidays—the fun festivities, the quality time with family, the opportunity to give thanks. But there are plenty of things associated with this time of year that I definitely don’t love. The family members pushing junk food and guilt-tripping if you don’t join in. The stressed-out crowds of shoppers elbowing their way through stores. The long to-do lists and disrupted schedules. If you don’t have ways to cope with it all—while sticking with routines that keep you healthy and well-balanced—it’s easy to spiral into a cranky, exhausted mess.

The good news is, that staying in the jolly spirit of the season is easy when you have the right plan of action. Here are some of my surefire ways to keep yourself on track throughout the holidays, into the New Year, and beyond.

How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

How to Have a Healthy Holiday Season | Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays | BrainMD


 1. Practice Mindfulness.

Mindlessly eating, blowing past your budget, or saying yes to one more invite that you’d rather decline? Running on autopilot is never a good idea, but during the holidays it can be downright disastrous. When you overextend yourself, you can end up stressed and depleted. Or, when you camp out next to the buffet table while chatting away, you’ll consume hundreds more calories than you even realize. The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but if you’re not slowing down to enjoy them and being mindful of your choices, you’ll find yourself falling prey to all kinds of harmful habits—and then wondering why you feel so bad.

 2. Have a Plan.

You know what they say: Failing to plan is planning to fail. This is especially true during the holidays when schedules are thrown out of whack and special events become constant to-dos. But with the appropriate strategy, you’ll be better prepared for anything that comes your way.

Here are just some ways that planning helps me stay on track all season long:

  • Know what foods to avoid. Only you know what foods are going to set you off into a cycle of overeating and subsequent cravings. I used to be a sugar junkie, so I’m realistic about my limitations. Anything with frosting is a no-go!
  • Prepare and pack healthy snacks to eat on the run. You don’t want to find yourself famished with nothing in sight but the shopping mall food court.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. It’s best to skip the booze altogether—sparkling water is just as festive. But, if you do choose to have one glass, set your limit with an accountability partner beforehand, and drink water before and after to prevent dehydration.
  • Sampling a food you know is unhealthy? Stick to three small bites, max. After that, you’re heading into mindless-eating mode and triggering addictive behaviors that can keep you hooked.

 3. Maintain Your Healthy Routines.

It’s easy to stray from your usual habits during the holiday season. But, at minimum, prioritize eating healthy meals, engaging in physical activity every day, and getting enough hours of sleep every night. Without these key components, you’ll find yourself sluggish, moody, and unable to function properly. Taking care of these basics will also set a solid foundation so that even if you do veer off track for one meal or one day, you’ll be able to get back to a healthy baseline fairly quickly.

 4. Mind Your Mental Health.

Between wintertime seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chaotic family gatherings, grief, loneliness, and holiday-related stressors, many people feel down at this time of year. But even if you’re generally upbeat during the holidays, protecting your mental health is key. Remember, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t be much good to others, so set aside some time for self-care. Keep up (or begin) daily meditation and deep-breathing practices. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t have the time or energy for. Leave the party early if you need rest. If you feel overwhelmed during a family event, go outside for a walk in the fresh air, rather than reaching for alcohol or another slice of pie. Taking small steps like these to care for your mental and emotional well-being will help you stay sane all season long.

 5. Spread Cheer.

If you’re one of the many Americans who feel down during the holidays, you don’t have to suffer alone. I’ve found that this is a great time of year to volunteer or donate. It not only gets you out of your own head and helps others, but it’s a great way to connect with new people. And, if you’ll be spending time with your family this season, volunteering is a wonderful bonding activity for everyone to do together. It teaches children (and reminds us adults) to have gratitude for what we have, and allows us to spread some of that goodwill to our community. I can’t think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit.

 6. Choose the Right Supplements.

With the right diet, exercise, and planning, you’re going to be feeling better than most throughout the holiday season. But all of us could use a little extra help, particularly at this busy time of year.

Here are some of the supplements I reach for:

  • GABA Calming Support. My mind can be really active all day long—including just before bedtime, which makes this supplement a lifesaver. It relaxes my mind without making me drowsy in the daytime, and at night it helps me decompress so I can fall asleep peacefully.
  • Everyday Stress Relief. With long to-do lists and numerous social obligations, our bodies and brains can feel really run-down at this time of year. This supplement enables the body to better respond to stress, thanks to natural ingredients like magnesium and holy basil extract.
  • Craving Control. We all face food temptations at this time of year, and despite my healthy lifestyle, I’m not immune. I use Craving Control to help promote emotional and blood sugar balance so that I don’t overdo any sugary foods.
  • Serotonin Mood Support. Designed to boost the brain’s production of serotonin, this supplement helps calm me and reduces feelings of anxiousness. It even supports maintaining a moderate appetite, since a serotonin imbalance can lead to emotional eating.

 7. Indulge in Good-for-You Foods.

Why do people always use the word “indulge” for junk food, which makes us feel awful as soon as we eat it? I prefer to indulge in food that tastes great, gives me energy, and doesn’t make me regret my choices the next day. If you’re armed with delicious healthy recipes, you will never feel deprived over the holidays. Going to a party? Bring your own hors d’oeuvres, like fresh veggies with hummus or guac, or eat them before you leave the house. When you’re at an event, select the healthiest choices (like steamed vegetables) and load up on them before you try anything else. Prepare a festive yet healthy dessert to share—my Healthy Apple Cinnamon Crisp always gets rave reviews. By bringing one or two of your own options to a holiday event, you’ll ensure you have something to enjoy without the guilt. And you’ll give your fellow party-goers the gift of healthier choices, too.

Holidays Don’t Have to Be Unhealthy

It’s unfortunate that so many Americans equate the holiday season with bouts of full-blown overeating, excess drinking, and falling asleep in front of the television by mid-afternoon. Or, for that matter, how many of us needlessly stress ourselves out by aiming for impossible perfection, overspending, or overstacking our schedules?

This year, focus instead on sticking to a solid, sustainable plan, maintaining your healthy habits, and caring for yourself along the way. Using the above tips, you’ll be surprised at how pleasant, relaxing, and fun the holidays are—just the way they were always intended to be.

Tana Amen, BSN, RN