How to Enjoy Healthy Holidays

Don Beaver, Fitness Director

Now there’s the annual dilemma that all of us face each year: “How do I enjoy and survive the holidays with a healthy approach and not gain pounds and inches?”

The holiday season is meant to be a celebratory time with family and friends where the calorie and fat counts of delicious, home-cooked meals can, at times, get out of control. This article will attempt to provide several tips designed to help you maintain a healthy approach to life in general while also enjoying the celebrations:

Change your focus. Seek to use the holiday time to cultivate quality connections with family and friends versus an opportunity to overindulge in food and drink.

Eat healthy before you go out. Reduce the cravings before sitting down to that holiday meal/party by consuming a healthy mini-meal. This simple step can help you feel fuller, thereby reducing holiday portions and the urge to overeat. Next, help yourself to proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats/starches as you peruse the traditional holiday buffets.

Continue to prioritize exercise in your schedule. Do not let the demands and stress of shopping and parties populate your schedule such that you cancel your exercise sessions. Avoid too much TV time with favorite holiday movies and make time to get your regular workouts in at the gym, swim your laps, and/or walk the dog.

Maintain regular mealtimes. Fight the desire to constantly snack on those traditional holiday-fattening culinary creations by maintaining regular times for meals and thereby controlling portions as well as meal content.

Stay hydrated. Water consumption is a necessity in our arid climate, but it can also make you feel fuller while also helping to counteract the effects of alcohol—two benefits that can serve to reduce caloric intake.

Pack some traveling snacks. If a considerable driving distance is required for you to join family and friends, pack healthy snacks (granola and fruit) for the trip to curb your cravings for the typical fattening choices of fast food outlets.

Get enough sleep. A study found that people who slept at least eight hours per night are three times less likely to catch a cold than those who slept less than seven hours. Additionally, a lack of sleep can cause the brain to make bad decisions with respect to food and alcohol consumption. We all know that late-night snacking also leads to digestion issues and a failure to burn those calories prior to bedtime.

One meal will not make or break you. There’s nothing wrong with going back for another piece of pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Just don’t make it a month-long habit.

Skip the shame. If you do manage to go off track during the holiday season, don’t “throw in the towel”! Get out and appreciate our beautiful Southern Arizona weather with golf, pickleball, tennis, water aerobics, walking the dog, and more. The fresh air will deliver more energy and increase vitamin D levels, while the activity will naturally burn those calories.

Note: Your Anza Athletic Center is open seven days a week with the exception of Christmas Day, so there is no excuse for needing to make New Year’s resolutions due to holiday weight gain.

Happy Holidays, and let’s continue to “enjoy the journey”!