Tips for Maintaining Healthy Habits During the Holidays

Family building a snowman together

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

The holidays are a busy time of year, packed with festive meals, family commitments, and additional fun outings. This extra hustle and bustle can make it difficult to maintain your fitness and nutrition goals—but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

After all, repetitive behaviors done consistently are easier to maintain than ones you do sporadically. That said, taking some time to relax and wind down is perfectly acceptable during the holidays—or any other time you need a break. But if your goal is to stick to the plan you have in place, here are some tips to help you maintain that commitment for yourself.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is your first line of defense in the effort to maintain your fitness and nutrition goals—whatever those goals may be. Here are some examples of things you can pre-plan to stay on track.

  • Make an activity agenda: Work in a recovery week from your exercise routine—either plan to take the week off or incorporate lighter activities such as bodyweight or resistance band exercises.
  • Prioritize nutrients: Eating something that is nutrient-rich and filling prior to a big meal is an excellent way to stick to your nutrition goals.
  • Avoid skipping meals: Forgetting to eat is common around the holidays, but can lead to drops in blood sugar that cause intense hunger, stress, and sleep issues. Make sure you are eating consistently throughout the day.
  • Plan your plate: Dish up nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables first, then add whole grains and lean protein. This will help make sure you don't forget these feel-good foods.

Communicate Your Commitments

Talking to your friends and family members about your commitments will help you avoid awkward questions and conversations about your choices. Remember that your health is personal and how you choose to eat and move your body is no one’s business but your own. 

Preparing your friends and family ahead of time helps them be more supportive. They may even offer to join you! Do not be afraid to ask for their encouragement and assistance. 

Remember, It’s Not All or Nothing

A common pitfall is the belief that health and fitness goals are all-or-nothing. Do not fall into the trap of believing you have failed if you didn't stick to your game plan perfectly. When this happens, you may end up forgoing your goals altogether and then later regret your decision.

A healthier mindset focuses on long-term, sustainable health. This doesn't mean perfection, this means making adjustments as seasons (and holidays!) require.

Eat Mindfully

Eating mindfully may help you enjoy your food more. When you are eating, slow down and try to focus on the taste, smell, and textures of the food. If your holiday meal is spent with people you love, this also allows you to savor their company and live in the moment.

Even if you slow down and prioritize enjoying your food in a mindful manner, it takes time for your brain to tell you you’re full. It's OK to wait a little bit in between helpings—just to get a more accurate read on what your body is asking for. Even 10 minutes can help provide insight as to how hungry (or how full!) you are. Listen to these natural signals your body will send!

Get Active Together

Encourage others and boost your movement during the holidays by participating in activities that get your heart pumping as a group. Plan to go for an after-dinner walk, sign up for a holiday race together, or play with the kids outdoors.

Some families enjoy a football match or soccer game in the backyard during the holidays. You could even initiate an active game of Simon Says or plan a trip to the local swimming pool or ice rink. Centering some of your social time around getting active will build lasting memories and give everyone a healthy endorphin boost.

Prepare Nutrient-Dense Dishes

A simple way to manage your food choices is to bring or prepare nutritious dishes to share. High volume, nutrient-dense foods will provide vitamins and minerals while keeping you feeling full.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep is paramount when it comes to maintaining the rest of your healthy habits. When sleep is lacking, other decisions become more challenging, such as making wise choices, not to mention the reduced energy you will have for being active.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, even during the holidays. Doing so will help reduce stress and keep you healthy in more ways than one.

Take Time to De-Stress

Let’s face it, the holidays can be stressful. Taking time for yourself is not a selfish act. Self-care will help you treat others and yourself better, and you will likely be able to make more rational decisions when you are not feeling stressed out. Try exercising, meditating, taking a warm bath, or going for a walk. You also could reduce the pressure of gift-giving and do a white elephant gift exchange or plan a family outing in lieu of gifts.

Letting others know that you need some time for yourself is perfectly reasonable. Explain that you will feel much better after some time to de-stress and offer to participate in a social activity once you return.

A Word From Verywell

The holidays are a time to break free of the regular day-to-day grind and enjoy yourself. However, it is still possible to maintain some of your nutrition and fitness goals so that you can feel your best. 

Managing stress, staying active, sleeping, and eating nutrient-dense dishes will help you make the most out of your holiday season. Incorporating strategies to prioritize these habits is a form of self-care. And what’s more—you will be a good role model for your friends and family.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.