The holidays are a time to celebrate, and boy, do we make the most of it. We eat, we drink, we indulge and then we end up feeling like bloated whales by the time it’s all over. It’s almost an unspoken rule that, with the holidays, comes unlimited eating and incompleted workouts, but this year, you have a choice.

You don’t have to let every party become your own personal eating contest, and you don’t have to let shopping take the place of your usual exercise routine. All it takes is flexibility, creativity and a new way of defining exercise.

Keep Moving

It’s tempting to ditch your workouts as your days fill up with holiday preparations, parties and errands, but now more than ever, you need to stay active. Exercise will help you deal with added stress and give you energy for everything you need to accomplish. It will also help you manage your weight through the maze of parties and gatherings you’ll be attending. If you have trouble sticking with your usual routine this time of year, come up with a new one. Forget the rules, lower your standards and do whatever you need to do to keep moving:

  • Shorten Your Cardio. Pare down your cardio routine to whatever time you have, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes. Choose activities that are easy to do at a moment’s notice: walking, running, jump roping or cycling. Get the most out of the time you have by working at a high intensity. This sample 10-minute workout is a great place to start:

    0:00 to 1:00 – Warm up with a brisk walk (outside or around the house)
    1:00 to 2:00 – Jumping jacks
    2:00 to 3:00 – Jump rope (pretend if you don’t have a rope)
    3:00 to 4:00 – Run as fast as you can for 1 minute (in place or outside)
    4:00 to 5:00 – Ski hops: Stand with feet together, bend knees and jump a few feet to the right and then left, landing with bent knees.
    5:00 to 6:00 – Jumping jacks
    6:00 to 7:00 – Walk as fast as you can
    7:00 to 8:00 – Jump rope
    8:00 to 9:00 – Jumping jacks
    9:00 to 10:00 РCool down and catch your breath Remember to work hard. Keep your perceived exertion at 8 or 9 for the entire workout.

  • Exercise wherever you can. You already know to take the stairs, park far away and so on to get more exercise. This holiday season, wear a pedometer as you’re running around, and see how many steps you can accumulate. Use every opportunity to get in more movement, whether it’s parking on the opposite side of where you need to be or chopping down your own Christmas tree.
  • Make it a family affair. As you gather together with your family, plan active things to do. Walk around the neighborhood to look at holiday decorations. Play football before the big meal at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Plan contests with the kids to see who can run the farthest or who can do the most push-ups. Challenge everyone to a snow-shoveling contest, and then build a snow person out of the remains.
  • Don’t forget strength training.¬†Maintain your muscle mass by paring down your routine to the basics. Choose:
    • Squats with an overhead press
    • Lunge with bicep curl or lateral raise
    • Deadlifts with a bent over row
    • Kickbacks with one leg extended at hip-level
    • Pushups with a one-armed row (do your pushups by gripping weights…once you push up, contract the abs to pull one arm up into a row, alternating sides) to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time.

Control Your Eating

Eating yourself into a coma seems inevitable during the holidays, what with all the yummy delights available. Treating every party as if it’s an invitation to indulge, however, is a sure way to add pounds. Below are a few reminders for keeping the calories in check:

  • Eat Before You Go. Rules to live by: never go grocery shopping while hungry, and similarly, never hit a holiday party on an empty stomach. You’ll be less tempted to overindulge if your belly’s full of something healthy.
  • Choose One Treat. Once at the party, choose one thing to indulge in and make it good. No chips — you can have those any old time. Pick something you only get during the holidays.
  • Control Your Drinking. Alcohol is an easy way to consume more calories than you need, so avoid mixed or fruity drinks, and have a glass of water for every drink you consume. Also, definitely avoid the egg nog; it has up to 350 calories a cup.
  • Don’t Skip Meals. It’s tempting to skip meals to make up for whatever nightmare food you’ll eat later, but just like the empty-stomach rule, if you’re starving, your rational mind will be unavailable for healthy food choices. Eat small meals all day to avoid going nuts at the buffet table.

However you deal with the holidays, make this the year that you don’t gain extra weight. Make a decision to do everything you can to stay active and eat healthy while not depriving yourself of all the fun. Like everything else in life, it’s all about moderation. Happy Holidays!