9 Totally Doable Health Goals for the Holiday Season

9 Totally Doable Health Goals for the Holiday Season

You can have a great time this holiday season and still zip up your pants in January if you follow these 9 tips.

Do you try to avoid sugar, sleep eight hours, and get 30 minutes of exercise a day? Good for you! But if you’re like most people, it’s not a realistic plan during the holidays. There are simply too many late-night parties and desserts to enjoy.

In fact, trying to stick to a diet and exercise routine during the holiday season can even backfire.

"It's important to not make holiday foods off limits—because the allure of forbidden fruit will only get stronger," Evelyn Tribole, nutrition therapist and coauthor of Intuitive Eating, told Today’s Dietitian. "Otherwise, when you finally eat your favorite holiday treat, it won't be one polite serving of a cookie or cake. If you think you will never eat this food again, it becomes an overeating food feast."

Instead of trying to adhere to unrealistic standards, show yourself a little holiday compassion. Consider adopting these very doable health goals.

1. Eat mindfully

Whether you’re having a home-cooked meal at a friend’s house or at a restaurant for a Christmas party, think about what you’re putting on your plate and into your mouth. If you’re having a slice of cheesecake, pay attention to it and savor each bite.

2. Eat slowly

Rather than setting a limit for your food intake, simply slow down. It can take 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you’re full. Try chewing for 15 to 20 seconds before swallowing. Or challenge yourself to have a sip of water after every third bite.

3. First, take half

The first few bites of any treat are the most satisfying. Try half a glass of eggnog or half of a brownie. You can always go back for the rest, but you may well find you don’t want any more.

4. Don’t skip meals

It’s tempting to skip a meal to “make room” before a big holiday dinner. But forgoing meals, especially a healthy breakfast, can cause your blood sugar to drop, making you more susceptible to overeating unhealthy foods. It can also have negative effects on one’s sleep patterns and stress levels.

5. Give yourself a party assignment

Rather than just standing around grazing at the buffet, divert your attention to something else. Perhaps have a goal to take 50 pictures to share with the host later. Or circulate with a tray of hors d’oeuvres you dislike.

6. Drink a glass of water

Not only can drinking water fill you up, it can lower your overall alcohol consumption. Plan to alternate one alcoholic beverage with a glass of water or seltzer. Of course, if you have a problem with alcohol, skip it altogether! You don’t need to drink to enjoy the holidays (and don’t let other people tell you otherwise).

7. Lay out your workout clothes the night before

Keeping up with your exercise routine can help you battle stress during the holidays. But promising to hit the gym every day may just set you up for failure. A far more realistic goal? Selecting and layout out your exercise clothes the night before. In the morning, you’ll be one step closer to exercising, plus your cute outfit may give you the extra motivation to get moving.

8. Park the electronics outside your bedroom

Yes, we should all get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But trying to hit that number can be futile when you have family visiting or presents to wrap. A more doable goal is to make the hours you do sleep really count. Keeping the phone out of your bedroom, as well as limiting caffeine in the afternoon and evening, can help make your sleep as restorative as possible.

9. Forgive yourself

Don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge (or under-exercise and -sleep) this holiday season. Giving yourself a guilt trip only adds to holiday stress and increases the chance of stress eating. Be gentle with yourself.

Look for the middle ground between rigidly sticking with your regular health goals and throwing all caution to the wind. By setting achievable goals, you can enjoy a reasonably healthy and low-guilt holiday.

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