Expert Tips on How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

expert tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays

The holidays are coming, and you know what that means. Lots of fun, and lots of temptation in the realm of food and drink. How best to resist the temptation to overdo and avoid gaining unhealthy weight at holiday time? Our correspondent Jillian Tangen went right to the source, and she’s sharing expert tips from her personal trainer on how to stay healthy during the holidays.

the holiday season is a wee bit challenging when it comes to healthy living

It all starts with Halloween. And those seemingly harmless mini-sized Snickers bars by your front door, or in a bowl at the office that keeps getting magically re-filled. 

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Then comes Thanksgiving. With succulent roasted turkey filled with stuffing, endless side dishes and pumpkin pie with whipped cream to top it off. And don’t even get us started on those leftovers. It’s a proven fact that everything Thanksgiving tastes even better the second day.

resist temptation at holiday time

How to resist temptation at holiday time: have a healthy snack or meal before the big holiday party.

Suddenly, it’s December. And your calendar is chock full of work parties, holiday parties, and the actual holidays themselves, featuring multiple-course meals with all the trimmings. The wild months-long bacchanalia is topped off with a New Years celebration filled with dinner and drinks. 

Couple all of that with all the excitement and anxiety that everyone feels during the holidays, and you may find that exercise and eating healthy may have gotten crossed off your to-do list between now and the end of the year. Perhaps without your even noticing.

avoid gaining holiday weight

Is it actually possible to successfully avoid gaining holiday weight? We asked an expert.

what to do to resist holiday temptations?

We’re not here to tell you not to enjoy the coming season and its holidays to the fullest – in fact we think you should.  And you know very well that we will be doing our fair share of indulging over the next few months, so you are not alone. But how can we enjoy the season and still stay on a healthy track?

Let’s ask an expert, shall we?

We spoke with NASM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Nutrition Specialist Jenni Morris for some expert tips to help you (and in all honesty – us) stay the course. 

Personal trainer Jenni Morris shares her expert tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays this year.

With a little bit of planning and a whole lot of flexibility, you can maintain your workout program, eat healthy and feel your absolute best throughout the holidays.  After all, there’s nothing more boss-like than that, right? 

Instead of being completely naughty with your regimen, here are Jenni’s 10 top tips for staying healthy during the holidays.

10 expert tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays


1. Get your goals in check – now.

According to Jenni, there are too many people who are working out without clear quantifiable goals in mind. As a result, during the holiday season they can easily gain 10-15 pounds. Prevent that unhealthy/unwanted weight gain by defining exactly you want to accomplish as an overall fitness goal. If your goal is weight loss, don’t wait until New Year’s Day to make it a priority.

2. Stay hydrated.

This tip may seem simple, but it’s easier said than done. Sometimes when we feel hungry, we’re actually just experiencing thirst. And it’s definitely the case that we often overlook the importance of hydration during the holiday season. The social pressure is to consume cocktails and sugary drinks at holiday events, not water.

When we’re even busier than usual going to and from appointments or are maintaining a busy travel schedule, hydration is everything. The good news? There are LOTS of apps available to prompt us to drink enough water. It not only keeps our skin looking fresh, but also sends a message to our brains that we’re satiated.

How to stay healthy during the holidays this year: be sure to hydrate often.

3. Avoid overeating.

Again, another simple tip that is easy to say, but hard to execute. However, if you consistently remind yourself of your overall goals, it’s not as difficult.  If you find yourself attending a lot of cocktail and dinner parties during the season, Jenni recommends eating a healthy meal before the event. It’s a great technique to resist temptation at holiday time. If you show up hungry to a cocktail party, you might find yourself easily tempted by the unhealthier options.  Also, if you’re really dying to try a new dessert, or something indulgent – have a small size portion. It may help you calm those cravings if you don’t completely restrict yourself.  Just be mindful not to overdo it. 

4. Try a new healthy recipe.

A great practical suggestion for how to resist temptation at holiday time? When invited to a gathering, bring your own healthy dish! Jenni always brings a homemade edamame hummus and veggie platter.  That way if she feels like snacking, she knows there’ll be a healthy choice close at hand.

resist temptation at holiday time and avoid gaining holiday weight

How to stay healthy during the holidays this year and avoid gaining unhealthy holiday weight? Try a new healthy recipe this season.

5. Avoid drinking too much.

Set a drink limit for yourself. Jenni suggests a 3 drink maximum.  That way, you can still have a good time without overindulging.  She recommends any clear alcohol including champagne or white wine. Most clear alcohols, like vodka, gin and tequila, have only 100 calories per ounce and when mixed with club soda make a great low cal choice.  And it should go without saying that you should always pair one alcoholic drink with one glass of water.

6. Prioritize your workouts.

Jenni recommends working out in the morning during the holiday season. She tells her clients to book a few classes out for the week and put them directly on their schedules that way you know you have to go.  Plus, by having your workout done early in the day, you will be able to prevent the chance of skipping later when most office holiday parties or last minute invites are happening.

avoid gaining holiday weight

How to stay healthy during the holidays this year, and avoid gaining holiday weight? Workout first thing in the morning.

7. Try high intensity interval training.

Since the holiday season is a busy time, you may find that you don’t have as much time as you’d like to workout. Jenni recommends adding some HIIT training into your routine for a shorter but just as effective punch.  HIIT workouts are highly effective and burn over 200 calories in just 20-25 minutes!

8. Keep moving.

A tired but true rule of thumb to keep in mind, particularly as the weather gets a little colder, is to walk more. Try parking your car in the furthest parking spot and always take the stairs.  Movements like this, make a small but meaningful impact on your overall health.  If you have a smart watch, set a step goal for yourself everyday.  The minimum should be 10,000+ steps per day.

How to stay healthy during the holidays this year: walk whenever possible, and try to get in 10,000 steps a day.

One of our friends swears by an app called Fitcoin as way to motivate yourself to get 10,000 or more steps in each day. Each time you reach a milestone of a certain number of days in a row at 10,000 steps or more, you earn Bitcoin that’s yours to keep. Or you can donate it to a charity (which is what our friend does). Fitness tech is getting better all the time!

9. Moderation is everything.

We all know how much is too much. That being said if you really are craving a cookie, have a cookie, but moderation is everything.  Jenni is a big proponent of the 80/20 rule – eat healthy 80% of the time and 20% of the time, indulge. So if you know you’re going to eat a large meal with family and friends later in the day, eat as healthy as you can earlier in the day.

10. Practice self care.

Holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year. And stress raises your cortisol levels, which may make you feel sluggish or worse, can cause unexpected weight gain. So make sure you take time for yourself to reduce stress. Whether it’s a massage, a restorative yoga class or a trip to a salt room to decompress. You don’t need to tell us twice to book a massage!

resist temptation at holiday time

How to stay healthy during the holidays this year: schedule some time for self-care.

how to stay healthy during the holidays

That’s it – expert advice straight from someone who knows what she’s talking about. The only tip we’d add is that having a good friend or family member who is also trying to stay healthy will definitely help you stay on track.

A “buddy system” is a great way to motivate yourself on those days when you’re just not feeling it, and avoid gaining that dreaded holiday weight. To help resist temptation at holiday time, your pal can coax you into doing what you know you should be doing, and vice versa. Or talk you out of that second piece of pumpkin pie! Sometimes, like the song says, it takes two to make things go right.

So, are you in? Do you have any hacks to share that we may have missed? We hope these tips help you to have a healthy and happy holiday season ahead!

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.

Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier. Formerly, she was a Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in NYC and is married with three young children. She loves cross country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.

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