From now until New Year’s Day, your schedule will likely be filled with family obligations, traveling and festive outings with all sorts of tempting treats. It’s no surprise that many of us see our waistlines expand during the holiday season. Even the most disciplined people can find it difficult to stick to their health and fitness routines. But this year can be different. To help keep us on track, here are secrets of leading experts in health, sports, medicine, behavioral psychology, fitness and nutrition to stay fit during the season of overindulgence.

  1. KEEP MOVING. – In addition to staying active, try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time, such as when watching football games or eating. Remember, too much sitting is hazardous to your health. Research shows that getting up for just five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes and performing light activity (say, pacing around the house or performing simple squat exercises) reduces the risk of diabetes and other heart disease risk factors.
  2. BE THE MAN OR WOMAN WITH A PLAN. AND HYDRATE. – The holidays can be a real land mine in terms of disrupting your best exercise and weight-control intentions. Start each day with a game plan, just like a great coach going into a big game. First, track your food intake and activity level. Doing so makes you aware of the amount of calories in certain foods. Even if you decide to eat higher-calorie options, you will probably eat smaller portions and make other adjustments to stay within your daily caloric goals. Also, stay hydrated. Your brain can sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. A large glass of water before a meal (and especially before considering seconds) can help lessen the amount of food you consume. Drink six to eight glasses of water per day, and be sure to have two big glasses of water before the big, calorie-rich meals.
  3. MAKE LISTS, EXERCISE EARLY, AND SLEEP. – The holiday season is one of our favorite times of year, but it is important to recognize that it has the potential to be hard on your health. To alleviate the potential negative impacts of the season, it is recommended that workouts are done in the morning so you don’t get distracted later in the day by parties, events or other holiday hoopla. Also, get plenty of rest and maintain lists to stay organized and stress-free.
  4. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. – Try to be a glass half-full person and hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Always have an emergency bag of healthy food that requires no refrigeration and can be readily eaten as is – a health umbrella of sorts. While the rain may indeed fall on the just and the unjust, it does not fall on the prepared.
  5. BE CREATIVE AND GET RID OF THE ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ MINDSETS. – The holidays are hectic, but do your best to avoid the ‘all or nothing’ mentality when it comes to healthful eating and physical activity. In reality, there is more than just one way to live healthfully and be active. During the holidays, get a bit creative with exercise and opt for fun ways that make physical activity a family affair. From exploring new group fitness classes to building physical activity into holiday traditions – like taking a family walk around the neighborhood before opening Christmas presents – think outside the box when it comes to ways to have quality time with family and friends while also prioritizing your health.
  6. PLAN AND REMEMBER THERE IS ALWAYS TIME AND OPPORTUNITY FOR A WORKOUT. – Plan your workouts for the week and note them in your schedule to assure they are a part of your day. Also, remember that some exercise is better than none. Rather than skipping the gym altogether, make time for a quick workout. If your schedule keeps you from the gym, find at least 15 minutes to do body-weight exercises or kettlebell swings in the evening. It may not be your normal workout, but you will sweat and feel a lot better when you are done.
  7. INDULGE FOR A NIGHT, NOT A SEASON. – It’s easy to overindulge when the season of parties and leftovers – so many leftovers – is upon us. Avoid allowing ‘treats’ to become staples by not letting them linger in the house after the celebration has ended. When the party is over, it is time to dump the junk!