Welcome to the 2021 edition of the “How to survive the holiday season” guide! Hope the tips below help you stick to healthy habits during this hectic time of the year.
Holiday season, 2021 edition
2020 was hard, 2021 has potentially been harder. Some of us thought we wouldn’t go through lockdown again but we were wrong. On top of the frustration of being “trapped” at home, we added the burnout of having been there before. Mental health suffered, healthy habits went off the window.
The holiday season comes packed with family and other social commitments despite life not being “back to normal” yet. Under normal circumstances, being “naughty” for 1 or 2 weeks of the year is not a big deal, however many people have let their healthy habits go for several months during lockdown. Some people may have returned to their former healthy, active selves, some are still struggling.
How to survive the holiday season
Tip #0 is to enjoy the holidays for what they are, either the religious reason behind them (if you are religious) or an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family.
On the practical side, the tips below can help you stay on track.
1. Keep things consistent
Try to keep your dietary, exercise, stress management and sleep habits as consistent as possible. This is not the time to use the holidays as an excuse to let yourself go. Remember bad habits snowball really quickly.
Accountability is key, so make sure you schedule workouts, meal prep, meditation, etc. Use a calendar and treat each entry as a work meeting. This might be a good time to log your food intake for a few weeks.
Holiday trading hours can be an obstacle, particularly when talking about gyms, but make an effort to find suitable substitutions (e.g. do a bodyweight workout instead of hitting the weights if your gym is closed). It will be worth it.
2. Don’t plan cheat meals
The holidays are a minefield of cheat meals so there’s no need to schedule them in your calendar, they will present themselves. Aim to eat healthy meals all the time and be okay with unhealthier ones happening due to social commitments.
Keep in mind that in most cases you will have a range of options to choose from so make sure you eat mostly nutritious foods and enjoy some treats without overindulging.
3. Walk after meals
Most people would choose to walk before a meal to “work up an appetite”, however the biggest metabolic advantage comes from walking after meals. This is because a brisk walk after a meal is a powerful way of regulating your blood sugar, which has a big impact in energy modulation, insulin levels and body composition. You don’t need to go for a hike, any walk is better than no walk, although 10 minutes or longer is probably a good benchmark to shoot for.
Of course, if you can fit in a walk before and after meals, more power to you!
4. Focus on what you can control
You probably don’t know what will be served in your family/work gatherings. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on what you can control: the food you eat at home. If you know you will be indulging in high-energy foods, make sure you shop and prepare lower energy satiating foods (e.g. salads or stir-fries with plenty of vegetables and lean protein).
Similarly, if you know your gym is closing between Christmas and New Year Day, make sure you schedule workouts in your calendar, preferably with one or more training partners to keep you accountable.
5. Try alcohol-free alternatives
Take advantage of the trendy non-alcoholic beverages and save yourself some kilojoules and hangovers. Keep in mind some non-alcoholic alternatives are still high in sugar, which is not ideal for body composition and metabolic health. Therefore, try some of the low-sugar non-alcoholic alternatives out there. If you do choose to drink booze, make sure you have at least one glass of water for each alcoholic drink.
My experience with non-alcoholic wine has been very bad but I hear there are decent options available. If you like gin, I can recommend Seedlip drinks.
Please check my previous years guides for more tips:
- How to stay healthy during the holidays (2018)
- 10 tips to survive the holiday season (2019)
- How to survive the holiday season (2020)