5 Sneaky Habits That May Be Sabotaging Your Health over the Holidays
Pictured Recipe: EatingWell Crudité Vegetable Wreath with Ranch Dip
Sure, it's the most wonderful time of the year, but somewhere between cutting up cubes of stale bread for the homemade stuffing, making four dozen cookies for your kid's cookie swap and taking the cat to the vet because she ingested too much tinsel, you might have noticed: It can also be the most stressful time of the year.
That makes it entirely too easy to hit January, only to wonder what the heck happened to your exercise routine, sleep schedule and your waistline. Here's a little help diagnosing those sneaky habits that might be wreaking havoc on your health during the holiday season—and a few solutions to help you sidestep those pitfalls all together.
Holiday health-wrecker: Drinking too much alcohol
Pictured Recipe: Cranberry-Orange Punch
This season is all about spending meaningful time with friends, family and co-workers—and no one wants to be empty-handed when someone proposes a toast. But all of that festive boozing adds up—155 calories for a beer, 125 calories in a glass of red wine and 190 calories for a vodka tonic—and they're all "empty" calories with little to no nutritional value. And you already know that getting tipsy will lower your resolve to stay away from the dessert platter. Not to mention, we don't always wake up feeling our best the next day—hello, hangover—which can affect our mood and our food choices negatively. All in all, booze can really throw off your health game during the holidays.
Solution: Have a fun and festive mocktail as your go-to, and you won't miss the booze or the potential for a headache or migraine the next day. If you do plan to drink, go for one glass of red wine, which research suggests is good for your heart and may also be good for your gut biome.
Holiday health-wrecker: Skimping on sleep
Yes, we know everyone loves your homemade cinnamon buns. But is it really necessary to make them when it involves getting up at 1 a.m. to punch down the dough for another rising? (OK, sometimes it is.) And it's not just baking. We stay up shopping, wrapping and trying to spread holiday cheer—when we should be resting.
How about finding some new traditions that don't involve cutting into your much-needed shut-eye? Here's one reason: When you're short on sleep, you're more likely to get sick. Now ask yourself: What would people do if you were too sick to make those sticky buns? (Answer: They'd eat something else.) Permission granted for shut-eye!
Solution: Cut back where you can. Find some fun new recipes that are delicious and light on prep time. Here are some ideas:
Holiday health-wrecker: Letting your exercise routine slide
It's snowing outside. You're extra busy. But that doesn't mean you can't make it to the gym—particularly if the weather outside wouldn't stop you from meeting a friend for coffee or going to a holiday party.
Solution: Find a fun new routine for the winter months. Try a new yoga series, check out the local Spin studio or say yes to that friend who is constantly inviting you to join her for BodyPump or CrossFit. Group classes continue to be a big fitness trend, which means you're sure to find at least something you like well enough to become a regular. And if you're a fitness cynic who shudders at the idea of sweating with others, that's OK too. Online streaming workouts you can do at home mean that you have no excuse to skip that workout. Going for a walk with a friend is also a great way to catch up and stay active while you're both time crunched.
Pictured recipe: Fall Chopped Salad with Spinach, Butternut Squash, Apples & Cheddar
Holiday health-wrecker: Starving yourself in the lead-up to a party where you know you'll overindulge
Newsflash: There will be cookies, cakes, pies, mixed nuts, chocolates and candy canes everywhere you look over the next two months. It doesn't take much effort to imagine the havoc this will wreak on your healthy eating habits. And no, starving yourself all day just so you can eat and drink everything in sight at the party is not a solution.
Solution: Everything in moderation. That means you can enjoy a few bites of all of your favorite things. No starving, no hoarding and no overeating. Just small mindful bites of your can't-miss holiday treats. How to make that work? Be sensible. Eat healthily in the hours leading up to the party, and focus on fruits, veggies, protein and feel-full fiber so that you don't arrive at the party famished. Start off with a full glass of water before your first drink, and hit the crudité platter before the cookie platter. Don't focus on "good" and "bad" foods, but prioritize the foods that you really want. Enjoy those to the fullest, balance them out with some healthy choices, and consider that a win.
Holiday health-wrecker: Being a perfectionist
That Pinterest idea is super-cute—but rolling 282 cotton balls in glue and glitter to make the perfect winter scene for your mantel won't make or break your holidays. Need another reason to chill? Chronic stress has been linked to weight gain, so make that your reason to stop stressing and start meditating, no matter what the season.
Solution: Take stock of what you already have. Chances are, you've got family, friends and maybe some pets who would love to spend time with you, and who couldn't care less about your snowscape. Take the time you would have spent crafting that scene to do something special with the ones you love. Go for a walk, make a meal together, sit and chat—the greatest gift you can give is time (and you'll all reap the benefits of that investment).