by Aldona MacNeil

Break out the Stretchy pants!  The Holidays are upon us and so begins the Season of indulgences and Holiday Cheer.  It seems like every other weekend there’s another Holiday Party where we’re surrounded by treats and sweets and eggnog, etc; all the things we enjoy but also add a couple notches to our belts if we overindulge. We don’t have to let the Holidays undo all our hard work and progress we’ve made this year.

We can enjoy ourselves and make it through the Holiday Season unscathed if we go in with a plan and enjoy our Holiday Cheer in moderation.  Here are my top 5 Healthy Tips to help you do that.

1. Make a Plan

Take a look at your calendar and mark off your “Holiday Cheer” days; the days you have a party or an event or when you’ll be surrounded by Holiday indulgences.  Now that you see your month at a glance, you can make a plan for those Holiday Cheer days and the days surrounding them. Indulge only on those days; every other day in the month is just a normal day so you should be eating healthy nutritious meals/snacks in the right portions.  On your Holiday Cheer days, eat healthy nutrient dense meals/snacks leading up to the party so that you are not starving when you get there.   People will often “save their calories” and not eat all day because they are saving themselves for the party.  This is not a good idea.  You will arrive feeling famished and overeat on the things you should be eating in moderation.

2. Moderation Not Deprivation

The Holidays are not the time to deprive yourself of the things you enjoy.  Tis the Season to be Jolly after all.  Depriving yourself of the things you enjoy will just turn you into Scrooge; but the trick is to have your treats in Moderation.  On your “Holiday Cheer” days enjoy the treats you love but don’t go overboard.  So instead of filling your plate with everything available, you might have 1 or 2.  Put your food on a plate so you can keep track of what you’re eating.  Slow down and savor every bite.  You’ve been waiting all year for these special treats so take your time and enjoy them.

3. Survey the Buffet

When you walk into a party and see all the yummy foods, it’s easy to just grab a plate and dive in.  Instead take a step back.  Take a look at what’s available and decide what you’ll have before you start making your way around the table.  Decide on Healthier options first.  Once you know what you’re going to have, grab a plate (a smaller size if you can) and make your way around.  You don’t have to have everything at the buffet… a little bit of everything adds up to be too much.  So be selective and choose which items you’ll have and enjoy them in moderation.  Make one trip; don’t keep going back for more.  If you are bringing a dish to the party, bring a healthier option so everyone can enjoy something nutritious.  Pass on the foods you can have any day of the week; instead choose foods that are Holiday specials.  For example, during Christmas dinner pass on the potatoes and dinner rolls (you can have those any day) and choose dressing instead.   Or pass on the chocolate chip cookie and go for a peanut butter ball.  Choose foods that are special and that you only get during the Holidays, and pass on the basics that you can have any other day.

4. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can lead to overeating because it brings about the same sensations as being hungry, and often times when we feel hungry we’re actually dehydrated.  Over the Holidays we enjoy socializing with Friends and Family, and we tend to do this with a beverage in hand.   And because we are drinking “liquid”, it’s easy to forget to drink water.   Try and drink at least 8 cups of water each day, more if you are physically active.  It’s important to stay Hydrated if you want to feel energized and healthy over the Holidays.

5. Love Yourself 1st and Stay Active

The Holidays bring Joy and cheer but can also be a time of stress and anxiety.  It’s easy to feel tired and worn out at the end of the day with all the hustle and bustle we do to get things done.  We are so focused on creating a perfect Christmas for everyone else, we sometimes forget about our own needs.  If you want to be the best YOU over the Holidays, be sure you are taking care of YOU.  That includes staying active and doing activities that you enjoy.  Getting your workouts in early in the day will not only give you energy but will also help relieve some stress and anxiety.  Some people think that exercise makes you tired, it doesn’t, it energizes you and gets the endorphins pumping, and it will help burn off some of that “Holiday Cheer”.   You’ll feel so much better and have the energy to make it through the crazy chaos of: shopping, baking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping gifts, etc.  Engage in activities and exercises that you enjoy and have fun with it.  Taking care of your Health and Fitness during the Holidays will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself and the ones you love.

The Holidays are meant to be enjoyed and are not a time to expect perfection; just do your best and forget the rest!  If you go in with a plan and the right attitude, you will find greater success than if you just wing it.  Accept that there will be days when you will overindulge, miss a workout, and not check everything off the “to do list”.  Don’t let guilt or negative feelings take away the joy of the Holidays.  Instead, just let it go, and focus on what you need to do to make these Holidays the Happiest and Healthiest you can.   One bad day is not going to derail you, but a month of bad days will.  So if you have a bad day, just let it go and nail the next day and the day after that.  Look forward to your “Holiday Cheer” days, and do your best to stay on track the rest of the time.   That’s really all you can do.  Every positive healthy choice adds up so make the best choice you can in that moment.

Wishing Everyone Health & Happiness this Holiday Season and all the best in the New Year!


Aldona MacNeil
(BSc.Phys.Ed., M.Ed.)

Aldona is a senior lab instructor in the Human Kinetic Department at St.FX University. She is a certified Fitness Instructor and Healthy Eating and Weight Loss coach with CanFitPro.   She teaches fitness classes in the Antigonish area and also coaches clients online to help reach their health and fitness goals.  If you are looking for advice or support with your health & fitness, you can reach her at

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