A Balanced Approach to the Holiday Season

November 2, 2023

A Balanced Approach to the Holiday Season

The holiday season can bring so much happiness and joy, but it can also be a time that brings up certain anxieties. It’s important to go into this season with a healthy mindset when it comes to balancing your fitness routine and eating habits around this crazy time of year. We caught up with Group Fitness Director Anne Marie Skylis and Breakaway Cycling Instructor Allison Yamamoto to discuss some strategies to build a balanced approach to the holidays this year.

Embracing a Healthy Mindset

Between family gatherings, holiday work parties, and organizing everything it takes to make the season feel “perfect,” this time of year can prove to be a tricky balance between anxiety and excitement. Body shaming comments and navigating tough family and relationship dynamics are just a few of the challenges that may arise around the holiday season. One thing to keep in mind when navigating these feelings is that you are not alone. “These experiences are fairly common and it’s OK to recognize that you might feel more stressed,” said Allison.

So, how can we keep our mental health in check? “There’s going to be a lot of noise around this time,” said Anne Marie. “It’s OK to take the space to focus on your own needs.” This can look like taking a quick walk, having a quiet moment to yourself at your local coffee shop, or just taking some extra time to rest. Check out this resource from a previous blog about How to Move Your Mood for more ideas to help manage stress levels. Remember, it's essential to acknowledge the value of rest during the holiday season. Your well-being is a priority.

When it comes to your personal fitness routine, “Missing a few of your workouts isn’t going to totally derail your progress,” said Anne Marie. If you jump into class with us, we hope you find motivation in your abilities and strength, not a "burn it to earn it" mentality. “It’s not a healthy give and take,” said Anne Marie. “When people have that mindset, it’s about punishment, and exercise should never be a form of punishment. You should be moving your body with joy, and because it feels good.” Plus, the math isn’t usually correct when it comes to calories in and out. You’re relying on knowing exactly how many calories you’ve burned and exactly how many calories are in your food, which isn’t always accurate – even from a nutrition label. “The reality is it’s not a one-to-one comparison. It’s just not a perfect science, so there’s no need to hold yourself to a ‘perfect’ standard,” said Anne Marie.

Tips to Enjoy Guilt-Free Eating

If you’re too focused on trying to eat healthy and have a more restrictive diet, it can be really challenging to be present and allow yourself to enjoy the holidays,” said Allison. On the other side of the spectrum “saving up” your calories to be able to “splurge” on one big meal is not necessarily the best idea either. “It’s not setting yourself up for success,” said Allison.

While being restrictive when it comes to food and exercise is not the answer, it is a good idea to try to start building some small, achievable habits to set yourself up for success this season to feel your best mentally and physically. “It’s important to give yourself the tools you need to succeed throughout the day,” said Anne Marie. One example of how to do this would be to make sure not to skip breakfast if you normally eat it.

Another thing to consider is that food's excitement comes from more than just taste. The smells, sounds, and people around you influence the way you perceive food - so those delicious treats are more than just calories. They might be tradition, love, or childhood joy! “Food brings us joy outside of the taste. The atmosphere and environment also add to the enjoyment,” said Anne Marie.

Exercise “Snacks” to Try This Season

Sometimes getting a full “normal” workout in is not only impossible during the holidays, but just not something you want to prioritize if you’re busy cooking a special meal or spending time with family! With these exercise “snack” ideas, try expanding your personal definition of exercise by moving your body in creative ways that keep you feeling healthy and happy throughout the season. “Your body tracks physical activity as anything that gets you moving,” said Anne Marie. “Keep in mind that these are just a few ideas and that fitness and wellness really can look like anything!”

  • Family Dance-off to Your Favorite Song: Gather your loved ones and have a dance-off to your favorite holiday tune. Not only will it get your heart rate up, but it's also a wonderful way to create special memories together.
  • Cook up Something Delicious: Staying on your feet preparing a holiday meal can be a serious workout. Chopping, stirring, and cooking can keep you active while creating a delightful feast for everyone.
  • Challenge Your Cousin to a Push-up Contest: A friendly push-up contest can add some fun and friendly competition to your holiday gathering.
  • Take a Walk Around Your Neighborhood: Enjoy a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood with friends or family to soak in the holiday decorations and catch up.
  • Create Your Own Workout Game: Design your workout routine to coincide with a holiday activity. For example, do 5 push-ups every time a balloon appears on the TV during the Thanksgiving parade or 10 burpees for every touchdown during a football game.
  • Tryptophan-Induced Nap: Remember that resting is an essential part of a good fitness routine. If you find yourself feeling a bit sleepy after a big meal, or just feel exhausted in general, embrace a nap to recharge.
  • Make a Fun Obstacle Course: Get creative and design an obstacle course using items around the house, for kids and kids at heart to enjoy.

These exercise "snacks" offer more than just physical benefits. They can boost your energy levels, improve your mood, and create lasting memories with loved ones. It's important to remember that rest is also a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, and there's no need to treat these exercise snacks as a checklist or obligation. They are simply fun and enjoyable ways to stay active during the holidays.

Wrapping Things Up

In the whirlwind of holiday festivities, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and lose sight of your health and wellness goals. However, by adopting a balanced approach to the holiday season, you can savor the joys of the season while maintaining your physical and mental well-being. Remember, it's not about perfection but about enjoying the journey. With the right mindset and small, achievable habits, you can create cherished memories and start the new year feeling your best.