Cheers to the Healthiest of Holidays

If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed that the fat pumpkins that have been in residence are looking a little…tired…the end of their lifespan as decorative ornamentation migrating toward a more tasty destination as they make themselves visitors to our plates—albeit quite temporary ones, as once those outsized specimens of harvest time happiness are fated to become casseroles, soups, breads, muffins, and—who could forget—pies of all shapes, sizes, and flavor variations that make them absolutely irresistible. And the minute they’ve hit the plate, it’s game over. Lights out, you’re done.

So what does that mean for your diet?

If you plan well, it doesn’t have to mean anything. And despite the fact that this time of holiday gatherings that starts with Thanksgiving and runs until New Year’s with the crazy-eyed enthusiasm and reckless abandon of a kid who’s just raided his Trick or Treat stash, those ever-proliferating (how do they DO that, anyway?) social commitments that seem to require stuffing your face with the goodies tempting you at every turn don’t have to be the thing that brings all of your fitness and healthy eating goals to a screeching halt.

Naturally, you will be tempted. Even if you have willpower that would impress a saint, the holidays as a whole are rife with temptation—the dinners, the hors d’ouevres, the desserts, the drinks. All of them make your mouth happy, but giving in can leave you riddled with guilt. And once you start down the path of beating yourself up for one thing, one teensy-tiny little slip-up, it can be easy to throw your hands up in the air and just give up until New Year’s, when you will (once again) start the litany of resolutions involving diet, exercise, and all other things that leave you feeling inadequate when you find that you’ve failed to keep them.

One major thing that will keep you on track is sticking to your routine. If you’re working out regularly and waking up at a certain time, keep on keepin’ on. It’s important to maintain those good habits because it’ll keep you sane enough for all the craziness, plus it’ll keep your weight in check—you know, for the goodies that you DO indulge in.

As adults, drinks are a huge trap that we fall into, and that can be a fact at any time of year. But more’s the temptation when you’re surrounded by fun seasonal drinks like eggnog, spiced hard cider, martinis, and wine, but remember that just because you’re not chewing it doesn’t mean there’s not a calorie count that can wreak havoc on your waistline. Indulging in them is not a complete no-no, but you should limit your intake and balance it all out with enough water to stay properly hydrated and prevent the killer hangover you can’t afford to have tomorrow.

Caving in to some of your holiday cravings is fine if you do it in moderation. Choose one thing each day to keep you from going insane at the cookie table or losing your you-know-what when you’re standing nose to nose with a parade of pies that all look too good NOT to sample. (You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, now would you?) Limit yourself and savor the one thing you’ve chosen rather than inhaling it and foraging for more.

f you’re heading out to a party, curb your enthusiasm for the plethora of edibles you’re about to be faced with by eating a small, healthy meal beforehand. If you’re not hungry when you get there, you’ll be less inclined to park yourself near the snacks or hunt down the cater waiters for something to “nibble” on. Over and over again. Think protein and fiber, since both are filling and will fight off your need to nosh.

Staying focused on your goals during the crazies that come with holiday travel, weird schedules, and stress can be hardest when it comes to your fitness routine. But exercise is good for the mind, body, and soul, so maintain your exercise schedule and go out for that run or hit the gym the same way you would any other day of the year.

Make an eating plan each day and stick to it. Start off on the right foot by setting some specific limits that still allow you some enjoyment, like giving yourself the freedom to have a single cookie at each party or one lighter cocktail instead of the calorie-laden kind.

And remember that a bad day (or more) isn’t the end of things. Stay positive about the healthy habits you do have so that you don’t put yourself through the wringer if you slip up. The more positive you stay mentally, the better equipped you’ll be not to cave into temptation.

Whatever your holiday season holds in store, remember that staying on track doesn’t mean you have to feel like the Grinch stole your joy. Just be wise and celebrate with your health in mind, and you’ll definitely have a reason to be full of cheer.