The holiday festivities are about to begin — oh, let's be honest, they've already started. The rest of the year will be filled with cookies and eggnog, candy canes and holiday dinners so you may as well just scrap your diet and exercise plans until Jan. 1 when the rest of the world jumps on the fitness bandwagon.
But maybe not.
It's much smarter to start healthy habits now than to shoehorn them into next year's New Year's resolutions. By then, you will have gorged on chocolate Santas and made a permanent imprint in the couch cushions.
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Here are six ways to get in shape through the holiday season. We know you'll probably take a few days off here and there, but that's cool. And this approach will be so much easier than starting from scratch in January.
Purge the pantry
Take a good long look at your pantry and replace the unhealthiest items with more nutritional ones. (Photo: Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock)
If you have chips and cookies leading you into temptation, it's only human for you to slip. Take inventory of the junk food and less healthy alternatives in your pantry and replace them with more nutritional options. Ditch snack foods high in sugar, sodium and/or fat, as well as sugary cereals and sodas. Fill the shelves with whole grain crackers and cereals, beans and nuts. While you're at it, peek into the fridge. Make sure you have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks on hand. When you're hungry, make it easy to grab an apple or some low-fat Greek yogurt instead of something that gives you calories and no nutrition.
Use the scale
It's not a good idea to get utterly obsessed with numbers when it comes to losing weight. It's not a big deal, after all, if your weight fluctuates by a pound or two here or there. But recent research finds that it's smart to keep general track of your weight — and one really good way to do that is by using your scale every day . In a study by researchers at Cornell University , participants who weighed themselves daily were more likely to lose weight and keep that weight off. Researchers believe the act of stepping on the scale reinforces healthy eating and exercise habits and makes people aware of how their less-than-healthy actions affect their weight.
Pack away your sweatpants
You would never wear snug pants to Thanksgiving dinner. You want to make sure there's room for expansion so you don't feel too full for that second helping of stuffing or that extra piece of pumpkin pie. That's the same reason you shouldn't wear sweatpants all that often around the holidays when you're trying to stay in shape. Sweatpants — and the rest of your "athleisure" attire — are so comfortable and snuggly. But they're also way too forgiving. Had a little too much for lunch? No problem. They can stretch and make room for whatever you want for dinner plus dessert. If you wear pants with a limited waistline, you're more likely to stop eating when you're uncomfortably full.
Sneak in exercise
Find ways to sneak in exercise when you're running holiday errands. (Photo: indira's work/Shutterstock)
You have gifts to wrap, caroling to do, cranberries to buy. How the heck will you have time to get the numbers on your Fitbit up to appropriately sky-high levels? You may not have time for the gym as often as usual during the holiday season, but that doesn't mean your exercise habits get a pass. Find ways to sneak in movement wherever you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work or at the mall. Park far away instead of circling the lot looking for the closest space. Go up and down every aisle (maybe even twice!) when you're at the grocery store. All those steps add up.
Freeze some healthy meals
When you're trying to squeeze in holiday errands after a full day at work or school, the last thing you have time for is whipping up a nutritional dinner. So take a day when you do have time and prepare some healthy dinners, and then freeze them. That way, when it's time for dinner on a hectic day, you can defrost some Black Bean Chili , Roasted-Vegetable Lasagna or Hearty Vegetable Soup with Pasta Shells.
Don't be afraid of the cold
It's tempting to hibernate when the weather starts getting colder and freezing rain, snow or just gray skies are in the forecast. But you still need to exercise. You could put on some tunes and dance around your living room or run sprints up and down your stairs. But it's a much better idea to find some cold-weather workout gear and head outdoors. Not only does it keep you active, but outdoor exercise can help fend off seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Plus, you get more bang for your buck. Exercising in the cold requires more effort to raise your body temperature, so you burn more calories than if you were doing the same exercise indoors, reports The Washington Post.