How to stay fit and healthy over the festive season

These fitness and healthy eating tips and tricks can help you manage your health habits over Christmas and the New Year.

Whether you love or dread them, we can all agree that the holidays are the most challenging time of year to maintain healthy habits. 

Keeping up with our busy holiday schedules filled with shopping, planning, travelling and attending parties with endless temptations can easily throw a wrench in our everyday eating and workout routines. 

It’s the perfect recipe for packing on the kilos and reversing your hard-earned healthy habits. Take it from someone who ate an obscene amount of leftover Christmas goodies last year and not-so mysteriously found herself with a few more kilos than what she started with. 

If you’re like me and love to eat, the holidays are probably not the best time to start making aggressive weight loss goals. But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself armed with a few healthy strategies to get you through the season.

So, I’ve put together my top holiday survival tips to stay fit during the festive season and not feel guilty if you skip the odd workout or indulge in a mince pie or two.

Festive Food Survival Tips

1. Eat Before Heading Out

First, eating something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners is best. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

2. Eat meals, not snacks

Let’s face it, with so much yummy snack food at Christmas, it’s too easy to spend the day grazing. Avoid this trap simply by having only excellent quality natural foods on hand that you use to make meals.

3. Plan for Treats

Make sure to select the treats that you eat wisely. If you decide to have a treat, make sure it’s worth it! Don’t just have any old junk food just because it’s Christmas and you’re on holiday. Have something you REALLY want to have. This makes the whole process more empowering and self-honouring.

4. Eat the Rainbow and include Protein

Don’t skip your vegetables and berries; they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients. Vegetables and berries help the body unlock cellular processes. Without them, your body cannot effectively utilise fat for fuel or store carbohydrates and protein in muscle and other functional tissue.

Protein means “I am first”. It’s essential for growth and repair. Good protein sources are meat, fish, eggs, sprouted legumes, nuts, and seeds.

5. Choose your drinks wisely

Stay hydrated! We cannot perform at our physical and mental best; without enough water. The human body turns over approximately 100ml an hour, so make sure you drink throughout the day. 

Try drinking a large glass of water upon rising. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of apple cider vinegar if desired.

It is best to regulate how much alcohol, fizzy drinks or juices you consume, as these will add more calories to the ones you have already eaten!

6. Enjoy Yourself

Also, make sure to set realistic food plans! Trying to restrain yourself entirely from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

Holiday Season Fitness Tricks

1. Be Active – Do what you love

You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, walk more, take an evening stroll –enjoy the beach and the longer evenings. A few years ago, when I was training hard for a triathlon, I also took the dog for regular evening ‘sniff’ walks (usually, she’d get to run with me, and the poor thing never gets a chance to sniff around). And I noticed that a strange thing happened…the increase in activity, despite being gentle enough not to tax my body after a tough session, helped my active recovery. 

2. Get Out Of The House

Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Family backyard sports will burn many calories and keep the children entertained.

3. Get Stronger – Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

Strength training is the king of fat loss exercise; it could be the most effective form for weight management over the long term. Always remember to perform your strength training to maintain the muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use light weights and do some cardio, but you can burn many calories by lifting weights. 

Compound movements (using more than one joint) provide the most significant transfer to daily life because those movements are what we use most often. Any form of resistance exercise that you choose ideally should include some variations of squats, deadlifts, presses, pull-ups, rows and a variety of lunges.

Aim for two strength training sessions per week.

4. Include Intensity 

Sprint Interval Training (SIT), sprinting, cycling, kettlebell swings, skipping etc., give the biggest bang for your training buck! 

A simple protocol is to: 

  • Warm up for four minutes
  • Sprint or skip for 20 secs and rest for 10 secs (for a total of 4 minutes)
  • Cool down for four minutes

Aim for three (SIT) sessions per week.

5. Make a date for some ‘Steady-State.’ 

Cardio or Aerobic training at a steady state is the icing on the cake for fat loss and your general health and movement. It shouldn’t take the place of strength training and SIT work if you’re stretched for time, but including  (jogging, power walking, cycling etc.) provides an excellent alternative, active recovery and benefits your mental well-being.

Aim for two Cardio sessions per week. (Unless you’re training for an event such as a marathon, triathlon etc., then follow your prescribed plan and seek advice from a Personal Trainer on periodisation of your strength and HIIT work)

6. Set Realistic Goals

You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day. If you plan one hour or more and do not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

5. Prioritise Your Workouts

Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way, you will avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

Still, feeling unsure about what to do and where to start? Here are some examples of activities that fit within the exercise suggestions above. But most importantly, whatever you choose, have a happy, healthy festive season!

Exercise Examples

2-3 per week
2-3 per week
1-2 per week
Body weight resistance trainingInterval trainingWalking 
Weights session – gymFast hill walks – IntervalsRunning 
Kettlebell trainingRun – IntervalsCycling 
Suspension training (TRX)Gym circuit classRowing 
 Boxing classYoga 
 Spin classPilates 
 Team sports (hockey, badminton, soccer, netball)Swimming 

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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