Staying healthy over the holidays

by Khushboo on December 15, 2014

With the holiday season in full swing, there are 2 kinds of posts popping all over the Internet: 

1) Tips on how to stay on track over the holidays

or

2) It’s okay to ‘Eat, drink & be merry’ during the holidays…it only comes around once a year

While both ends of the spectrum shares valid points, my stance remains in the middle ground.  On one hand, the holidays are so much more than stressing over eating “clean” & working out.  As they only come around once a year, letting loose is absolutely fine…especially when certain foods like your grandmother’s special batch of freshly baked shortbread makes an appearance or when that extra glass of mulled wine adds to the experience.  When I look back, chances are I am going to remember the laughs I shared with friends when I had a few too many to drink or ate an extravagant meal, rather than the time I turned down an invite to hit the gym instead.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies & Nutella for dipping

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies & Nutella for dipping

With all this in mind, I also know how overindulging makes me feel afterwards…all that sugar and alcohol really does catch up.  Although it’s popular to set healthy resolutions once the year new year starts, I rather kick start the year feeling great about myself.  As holidays, vacations, weddings and so forth constantly come up, they’re hardly a reason to let go of our healthy habits completely…at least in my books.  Rather than set myself up for a vicious cycle during the holidays this year (or any other year), I plan to practice a more moderate approach that feeds me physically, mentally, and emotionally: i.e. making choices so that I stay healthy physically but also enjoy the season to the max without stressing over food & exercise.  So if you share a similar mindset, these “tips” on staying healthy over the holidays might be for you: 

  • It’s okay to indulge…but make it worth it your while: Rather than go head-first into everything, I prefer to scan my options and choose the few foods which really appeal to me and then savor those.  Case in point: chocolate yule log > mince pies any day!
  • It’s okay to overeat sometimes….just don’t starve yourself the next day to compensate: From past experience, I know that’s only setting myself to fall into a vicious ‘Binge/restrict’ cycle.
Fiesta Lime Chicken & Peppers with Sweet Potato Medallions & Brocolli

Fiesta Lime Chicken & Peppers with Sweet Potato Medallions & Broccoli

  • It’s okay to cut back on exercise intensity…but continue to keep your body moving: Whether you’re walking, running, dancing or lifting weights, staying active is a surefire way to boost those endorphins, relieve stress and also spend quality time with yourself.  I’m sure we can all agree that as lovely as it is to be around friends & relatives, there comes a point where we need one-on-one time with ourselves…at least I do!
  • It’s okay to have late nights…but still make sleep a priority, even if it means waking up a bit later or sneaking in an afternoon nap.
  • It’s okay to skip meal prep or minimize your time in the kitchen…but that’s not an excuse to rely on take-out or ready meals: Nothing says quick like eggs, toast & some steamed spinach. 
  • It’s okay to drink that extra glass or 3 of wine….but then make sure you’re upping your water intake too: The effects of excess alcohol aren’t always pretty, even more so when dehydration kicks in. 

IMG_7636

  • It’s okay to eat out 3 (or 4, 5, 6) nights in a row, but then maximise on your meals at home: Even if I’m eating out 6-7 meals a week and not always choosing the healthiest option on the menu, I can definitely do my best to balance them out with the remaining 17-18 meals at home by filling myself up on plenty of fresh produce, lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. 

What is your approach to the holidays, in terms of food & exercise?

How are you staying healthy over the holidays?

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat December 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I love these tips! I couldn’t agree more – I don’t believe in being a spoilsport over the holidays and freaking out if I’ve eaten too much sugar or gluten – life is way too short! At the same time, I don’t plan on going nuts just because I ‘can’ – there’s more to the holidays than stuffing my face! It definitely is all about balance, which unfortunately, is the hardest thing to achieve.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:48 am

Sounds like you’ve got a great approach going, Cat! No one likes a spoil sport ;)!

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Shashi @ RunninSrilankan December 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm

First – I am a huge proponent of the fact that “chocolate yule log > mince pies any day”, I, too, do believe balance is key! This year, I lost my dad to heart issues, last year my uncle passed also due to heart issues, a good friend of mine’s mom just last week went to the hospital with chest pains and ended up have a quadruple bypass, my ex-boss is in hospital with complications from diabetes, my mom is struggling with managing her diabetes, all these people have one thing in common and that is poor dietary choices for the most part – stuff like this makes me re-examine over indulgence even on a small scale – maybe a piece or two of yule log is cool {specially if it’s made with ground up Quaker oats 😉 } but eating the whole log in one sitting -even with oats- doesn’t sit well with me – even if its once a year. This year – our table will have a Yule Log, but it will also have more roasted veggies on it to balance it off.
Awesome post Khusboo!

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

So sorry to hear that so many close ones are suffering, Shashi! It’s scary, yet amazing, just how powerful sound nutrition can be! Yule log + veggies sounds like the perfect balance to me ;)!

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Miss Polkadot December 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Yesss! I fully agree with the middle grounds – that’s where it’s at for me, too. Going to either of the extremes – no sweets or going completely overboard, exercising for hours versus not moving any further than getting up to refill the cookie plate – is the wrong approach in my opinion. The best guideline for me is to remind myself it really is first and foremost about enjoying family time. If that means I need a little me time in the form of hitting the gym – it does 😉 – or eating another serving of my mum’s cinnamon parfait (fingers crossed she’ll make it this year!) then that’s great.
I actually have a post with my stance on any kind of holiday or healthy living advice planned for later this week and it agrees with yours.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

I would love to read more on your stance :)! And the thought of a cinnamon parfait sounds divine- be sure to have seconds on my behalf!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig December 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Ugh I hate mince pies so totally with you on the yule log! Saturday night was my first proper indulgence of the season. I had a lot of food, a couple of cocktails and a loooot of sugar. I felt it the next day! There’s no way I could do that for a whole month.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

Me either…the novelty wears off real fast! Are you doing the full-on Christmas lunch on the day?

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig December 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Nope! I’m just celebrating with a friend and we’re just eating a load of cake haha

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Khushboo December 17, 2014 at 10:35 am

Sounds like a merry idea to me ;)!

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Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen December 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Totally agree with you here! I just wrote a similar(ish) post to this one. While I don’t make the holidays a time to totally pig out, I don’t ever pass up what I really want either. It’s part of what enjoying the holidays is all about!

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

I couldn’t agree more- there are certain foods/drinks which only add to the experience!

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Brittany December 15, 2014 at 7:42 pm

ONE WORD: Balance. You’ve nailed it.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

I hope so 🙂

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Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli December 15, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Great tips, Khushboo! I love your balanced perspective and agree 100%!

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

Thanks Jen 🙂

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. December 15, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Great tips, girl! I love the balanced approach, especially when it’s coupled with the “it’s okay…” mentality. I find that people have a tendency to bounce back and forth between the extremes because they’re caught up in a constant restrict-indulge-feel guilty cycle. That and I feel like people put food up on a pedestal and spend way too much time thinking about it , thereby increasing the likelihood of going overboard. Food is delicious, but it’s not the be- all, end-all. The holidays are about so much more, and we miss out on that if we’re constantly focusing on just a small aspect of them.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:53 am

Thanks girl! You’re so right about putting food & exercise on a pedestal- just imagine if we could all put that energy towards savouring the ones around us instead…I’m pretty sure the latter would bring way more, and long-lasting, joy!!

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Lucie@FitSwissChick December 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Absolutely there with you Khushboo. I can’t stand the feeling of the puffiness after too much mulled wine and sugar – but we know, SOME mulled wine is a must during this season 🙂
I also wouldn’t want to jump from overindulging to sugar depriving in one day (speak 31st of Dec – 1st of Jan) – it’s too hard to maintain.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

You’re so right about setting resolutions and jumping to the other extreme when Jan 1st hits- with all these jumps, I dread to imagine how the hormones react!

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Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious December 15, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Love these tips! It’s so easy to sway to one extreme or the other.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

Thanks Megan 🙂

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles December 16, 2014 at 1:38 am

I definitely agree with you – I prefer to take the moderate approach! I definitely ate a TON of sugar over the weekend, but I don’t care all the much – it’s not what I do daily, and it is the holidays! As long as I make sure my indulgences are worth it and I’m getting in a decent amount of activity and healthy food, I’m happy.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thanks, Sam :)! It sounds like we share the same approach- there’s a time and place for salads but there is also a time and place for letting loose and having more sugar/alcohol then usual!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table December 16, 2014 at 2:31 am

Love your perspective! I’m definitely enjoying more meals out and the wine is flowin’… but I’m enjoying every last moment. 🙂

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thanks Laura & cheers to that :)!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets December 16, 2014 at 5:39 am

To be honest, this is how I live my life all year round, holidays, vacations, and regular days are all the same to me. I just get a little more family time with the former.

Great post, and great tips.

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

YES to that- it’s a shame that holidays are suddenly viewed upon as a time to dread because of the unhealthy foods around! If anything, it’s just normal life + family…it really boils down to what you make of it!

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Kaylin @ Enticing Healthy Eating December 16, 2014 at 6:44 am

This is definitely the approach I take for holiday and celebratory eating as well! I want to enjoy myself and not stress out about having some treats (because stressing about a cookie is just no fun…) but I never want to eat TOO much or have TOO much sugar because I know I’ll just feel miserable afterwards. It’s all about good judgement. 🙂

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

You got that right, Kaylin! Food & drink will be overflowing but ultimately, YOU need to decide how much of that will be flowing into you!

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Parita @ myinnershakti December 16, 2014 at 7:36 am

Love all of these, K! As you know, we have a very similar approach. My motto is to move when you can and eat well when you can (when you can being key). The rest will work itself out later – this is really the time to enjoy the things you love most!

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Khushboo December 16, 2014 at 10:58 am

Thanks, P! I knew you’d share my mindset! Hope the holiday season has started off on a great note for you 🙂

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GiGi Eats December 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

I honestly do not treat the holidays like ANY OTHER DAY in the year – I always work out and I always eat healthy!!!! 😀

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Khushboo December 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

Any other day of the year + more time with friends & family :)!

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Ameena December 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Totally agree that it’s not worth it, unless it’s worth it! And I’m on board with Gigi, I don’t eat differently during the holidays and I never stop exercising.

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Khushboo December 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

Any other day of the year + more time with friends & family :)! Hope you’re well, Ameena!

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Gary Brennan December 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Great post very informative I’ve learned a lot from it. Thanks for sharing.

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