The holidays are here, and you know what that means—food, food, and more food! It’s a given that people who celebrate the holidays gain a couple of pounds, which isn’t so bad if you can shed them off later. The holiday season should not be used as a pass to stop taking care of yourself. (There’s no valid excuse to disregard your health.) That said, follow these healthy habits over (and beyond) the holiday season to avoid weight gain and stay fit and healthy.

Unfortunately, most people don’t. The extra two pounds remain until the next holiday when they gain more weight. The vicious cycle continues until these people actively try to get fit again. The extra pounds may not matter for some, but for others with medical conditions, the weight gained can lead to complications.

Moreover, overeating, especially unhealthy foods, has more severe consequences than just stacking up a couple of extra pounds. The effects can be exacerbated by a lack of exercise, which many people fall victim to during the holidays.

Follow these healthy habits

Follow a Fitness Routine

Again, the holiday season is no excuse to slack off. If you’re going to be eating a lot, then you should also be doing plenty of physical activities to burn the calories you consumed. It’s simple. If you consume too many calories and don’t burn them off through exercise, you’re going to gain weight, some of which will be stored in your belly as fat.

Belly fat, also called visceral fat, can be very dangerous to your health. Visceral fat can build up in your arteries and get stored near vital organs, like your heart and liver, increasing your risk of serious health problems.

To avoid gaining more belly fat, maintain a fitness routine of 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic workout per day. Add in some strength training to boost your muscles and bones too.

It can be tough to stay active during the holidays, especially when you only want to laze around and watch TV. If you find it difficult to exercise, make it easier for yourself by integrating physical activities into your routine:

  1. Set up your treadmill or indoor bike in front of the TV so that you can run or cycle while you watch your show.
  2. Instead of taking your car for brief trips, walk or cycle toward your destination.
  3. Doing chores and heavy lifting around the house can also be considered as exercise if the activity gets your heart raising and you sweating.
  4. Playing a sport is another way to stay active during the holidays. You can invite your family and friends to play a round of Frisbee or basketball to burn the extra calories from the Thanksgiving turkey.
  5. Choose physical activities that are low impact, or won’t put harmful stress to your body.

Staying active is recommended during the holidays, but be careful not to overstrain and injure yourself. Give your body time to rest and recover, and try using a kinesiology tape to ease muscle cramps.

Focus on Healthy and Nutritious Foods

Diet and exercise go hand in hand in keeping you healthy. It’s not enough to exercise regularly; you should also be eating a balanced diet. Doing this can be particularly challenging during the holidays, when there are plenty of unhealthy snacks and dishes.

If you can’t avoid eating fatty and sugary foods, limit your intake, at the very least. Also, make sure to eat healthy and nutritious foods, like lean meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Eat five to nine servings of fruits and veggies every day. 

Focus on high-fiber foods (e.g., legumes, dark-colored veggies, and whole grains) to fill your stomach without stacking too many calories.

Cut Back on Sugary Drinks and Alcohol

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“Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) or sugary drinks are the leading sources of added sugars in the American diet,” say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So food isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for during the holidays. 

Drinking SSBs can cause serious problems to your health. It increases your risks of weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, a type of arthritis, and disease in the heart, kidney, and liver. It also causes tooth decay and cavities. 

Alcohol seems to flow freely during the holidays, as well. If you don’t want digestive and endocrine problems, inflammatory damage, and liver disease, better limit your alcohol intake to one glass a day.

During holiday dinners and parties, stick to low-calorie drinks, like water and unsweetened beverages. Double down on your fitness after the holiday season with an effective detox plan.

Limit Your Portions

Here’s a way to enjoy all the delicious food during the holidays without compromising your health: limit your portions. The food is not the problem; it’s people’s tendency to overeat that’s causing the weight gain and resulting health issues during the holidays.

Keep your eating under control by using a smaller plate. Also, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with proteins, and the remaining quarter with carbs.

Don’t go to a party hungry because that will make you eat too much and too fast and result in poor eating decisions. Eat some high-fiber foods to fill your stomach beforehand so that you don’t overeat.

The Bottom Line

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, but that shouldn’t be taken as an excuse to binge eat, stop exercising, and do a host of unhealthy stuff. Your body and mind don’t make exceptions just because it’s the holiday season. You need to work all year round if you want to be fit and healthy always.