Fitness Health & Fitness

How to stay healthy during the holidays

With Christmas coming, there are seasonal temptations galore. Chances are, you’ll justify putting your health on the back burner this month with the promise that you’ll “be good” in the New Year. And, sure, “Dry January” may allow you to shed a few pounds, but, the truth is, resolving to get your health back on track before the holidays will set you up for a better start to 2019. Trust us! Here are some tried and tested tips from fitness experts on how to stay in shape during the festive season.

Healthy girl

Holiday parties

Learn to say no

“Don’t dive into every Christmas party or happening; rather, be selective,” says Chris Richards of Ultimate Performance (UP) . “If you get invited to multiple events, just remember that you don’t need to go all-out at every single one – chances are that no one will notice you’re discreetly sipping soda water with lime.” He adds, “Choose wisely. Go to events where there will be people whose company you fully enjoy, rather than the ones where you need to drink to survive the company!”

booze alcohol

Choose your drink

“Alcohol is loaded with sugar and empty calories, so choose carefully,” says Natalie Dau, certified trainer, athlete, and founder and CEO of fitness website The Daily Escape and recently launched fitness app Rockstar Fit. “Alternate with a glass of water, and stay away from soft drink mixers or creamy cocktails and fruit punches. Stick with white wine spritzers or clear spirits with a twist of lime.”

Chris recommends choosing one type of tipple only. “Sticking to one beverage is generally your best bet. You’ll have a better idea of how much you’ve drunk and, if you do drink too much, the hangover will be less debilitating,” he says.

Don’t overeat

“Chances are, you don’t eat a three-course meal every night at home, so why do it during the holidays? It’s extra calories that aren’t necessary, so why not save it up for just once a week, rather than for all meals?” says Natalie.

Healthy food

Pay attention to weekly rather than daily calorie totals

“If you’re facing a couple of festive blowouts, then plan ahead to remove some of the more energy-dense foods from your diet, aiming for a weekly calorie deficit rather than a daily one,” says Chris. “A sensible approach might be to adopt a ‘protein-sparing modified fast’ while allowing the seasonal events to provide sporadic ‘re-feeds’. In other words, try to consume fewer calories to establish a baseline against which you can then occasionally indulge without repercussions. But note, a low-calorie count doesn’t mean low food volume: we instruct you to consume as much food as you need; but we restrict your food choices – lean proteins, vegetables and certain fruit are all fair game.”

Be realistic and listen to your body

This doesn’t just go for overeating. “If you know you’ll get heel pain from too much walking, then be sure to bring appropriate shoes for walking, and ice your feet when needed,” suggests Karen Lee, creator of the 27-Day Eat Smart Move Smart fitness app and founder of Karenlee Fitness.

Holiday travel

Plan ahead

“Before booking a hotel, I like to look for one that either has a gym or a pool for working out,” says Karen. Even if I choose Airbnb accommodation, I look for a place that has a gym or pool facility in the building.”

Get moving

“Make exercise part of your daily routine on holiday and walk as much as possible; after all, it’s a great way to explore a new city and keep fit at the same time! Or, choose to rent a bike if possible,” recommends Natalie. Karen also suggests making a point to use the stairs at every opportunity to sneak in some extra cardio.

GIrl running up stairs

Battle jetlag with exercise

“Exercise is one of the best ways to mitigate jet lag, as it can help with time-change adjustments and speeding up the return to a normal circadian rhythm – our internal body clock,” says Chris, who recommends training as soon as possible after landing in order to eliminate the nauseating fatigue that long flights can create. Chris also suggests training first thing in the morning.

Be efficient

“Efficiency is the priority here; 5 to 20 minutes is all you’ll need,” Chris says. “All hotel gyms will have some cardio equipment that you can use for this, and, at the very least, a treadmill. Instead of using it the traditional way, try ‘deadmills’! For example, go hard for 10 to 20 seconds, then go slow for 40 to 50 seconds.”

Pack a resistance band

“I like to bring a resistance band with me when I travel,” says Karen. “I place it by my bedside table so that when I wake up first thing in the morning, I see the band and know I need to start my day right with a resistance band workout.” Easy to pack and super-light, resistance bands allow you to get a full-body workout without weights or any other type of equipment.

girl working out

Eat a big breakfast

“By all means, start your day with a great breakfast, but fill your plate with protein and some vegetables,” says Natalie. “Choose an omelette or even Greek yoghurt and berries rather than that sugary cereal or jam on toast. This will help to maintain blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, and fill you up for longer.”

Be prepared

“Don’t get caught hungry while you’re out and reach for that chocolate, ice cream or comfort food as a snack. Keep an apple, nuts or protein bar in your bag so you always have a healthy choice – this is a must-do for getting on a plane too,” says Natalie. “And don’t forget to drink water! Most people forget about this when travelling.”

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