We’re currently smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season: many of us have holiday parties, cookie swaps, Secret Santa events, holiday happy hours and many other festivities to help celebrate the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.  And it really is the most wonderful time!

There’s a buzz of excitement in the air and everyone seems to have more of a pep in their step. Not to mention all the deliciousness that comes along with this time of the year. Peppermint Mocha everything (YASS!!), Christmas cookies, warm baked brie, homemade Chex Mix, rice pudding, antipasto, and lots and lots of wine… That pretty much sums up the Christmas foods that always seem to make their way onto my plate during a holiday party, having NO idea how they got there…

My sister and I have a running joke that we call the holidays our “bulking season”, because we have the tendency to gain some extra fluff from November to January. Unfortunately, it’s just SO easy to forget about our normal health routines during these holiday months.  Mostly because there are so many more fun and festive things to do or eat, that are not a part of your normal routine.  Like a holiday happy hour with friends over going to the gym, or peppermint mocha coffee from Dunkin’ instead of the cold brew, or the Pillsbury break-and-bake Christmas cookies with the cute Christmas tree in the middle (they get me every damn time!) instead of no dessert. 

Personally, I am especially weak this time of the year because  a). I love everything about the Christmas season, and b) I want to fully enjoy and experience ALL of it, down to the very last crumb..

In order to try to “have my “cookie and eat it too”, I have created a list of some non-negotiables for myself during these months. Practices that I mandate myself to do regardless of the weeks ahead, to ensure I don’t veer off path TOO drastically during the holiday season. :

1. Work out EVERY day during the week:

My goal is to always work out every day during the week with one workout session on the weekend (that one doesn’t always happen, but I try!).  Since the weekends are the times that seem to get the most out of control with eating and drinking, I keep my weekdays as controlled as possible. Also, during this time of the year, no matter how hard I try, I am always consuming more calories than I normally would because of all of the parties and events.  Also, the food available at the parties, are typically more laden with carbs and sugar, hence why they are so delicious and calorie-packed.  Because of this burning calories during the week and staying consistent with your weekly workouts is more important than any time of the year. This is NOT easy, I totally get that, but just commit to yourself, and promise yourself that you will get your heart rate going for 30 minutes a day so you can have your favorite peanut butter blossom.

2. Meal prep, and pack healthy lunches and snacks during the work week – and stay far away from the office treats:

Consistently eating healthy meals during the week, during the holiday season, is as important if not, more important than working out every day.  I find that Thursday night through Sunday is when the holiday partying is in full blast, so I try to stay as healthy as I possibly can Monday through Friday.  I am a meal prep queen, and have all my lunches and snacks, and some of my dinners, completely prepared and am ready to go Sunday night.  I keep that habit going during the holiday season so I know that I am staying on track with my healthy eating AT LEAST  ¾, if not my entire day during the week, which gives me more wiggle room to have fun on the weekends. And when you already have your healthy snacks and meals prepped and packed, it’s easier to say no to a lunch out, or holiday treats that suddenly appear in the break room. Those are the small treats that will sneak up on you and then decide to reappear on the scale in January.

3. Take a taste:

I have been on many types of restrictive diets over the years, and I can tell you that for me those DO NOT work. I can never follow through with it in the long term, and I always end up gaining back the weight I lost, plus some. But this concept of “take a taste” actually helps, as long as it really is a taste (aka a bite), and not a taste that turns into the whole cookie. There are so many delicious and tasty appetizers and desserts and I am a complete sucker and want them all. I don’t want to choose one over the other. So I just take one bite. I take a taste to test, then think to myself, “okay, is this really worth the calories? Is this really THAT good?” When it is and it’s totally worth it, I am all in and may even have a second, but if it’s not it’s easy to take a pass and move onto the next delicious looking thing on my plate. This keeps me mindful of what I am eating, but allows me to still enjoy the best parts.

4. Never go to a party hungry:

Lots of times my friends or family members will say that they will “save their appetite” for a party or a big dinner that we go to. I have tried this many times, and it never seems to work. I always end up going beast mode and eating every appetizer that is available, throwing the “take a taste” concept out the window. By time dinner comes around I am totally full but still eat my entire dinner plate and I never pass on dessert…and then walk out feeling like the stuffed sausage I ate at happy hour. To save myself, and avoid the happy hour binge, I try to eat something healthy and green-based BEFORE going to a party, whether that is broccoli, some sauteed kale or a green salad. I try stick with greens, because I am typically not going for the green stuff at a holiday party, and because it’s a low cal way to fill your stomach up just enough so your not ravishingly attacking the appetizers.

5. Drink LOTS of water:

This is pretty much “101” when it comes to any health or diet plan that has ever been in existence, and I just try to stay on top of that during the holidays. I count how many times I fill my water bottle between meals during the week. Then for a holiday party or event, I always try to drink a water bottle or 2 both before AND after. It keeps you fuller, hydrated, and just better in every way.

So please know that I am NO expert, but these non-negotiables have really helped me not gain a ton of pounds over the holidays, and stay on track(ish)! 😉 .

Enjoy the Season!