Your Foolproof Plan for a Healthier Holiday

Medically reviewed in February 2022

The upcoming winter holidays offer so many opportunities to connect with people, enjoy festive events and restore our spirits. But this time of year also presents many occasions to stray from healthy habits. It’s hard to find time to get to the gym, make healthy meals and fit in your stress-relief activities.

When we feel stressed and start running on empty, we become more susceptible to decadent food and drinks. This year, I encourage you to make a commitment to celebrate taking care of you. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself and loved ones. Nourishing and taking care of yourself will transform your experience during the holidays and will help the people around you enjoy themselves, too.

Put your plan in writing
One successful strategy is to create a written plan for keeping to your commitments and intentions during the holidays. Identify what is meaningful for you about these occasions. When we strip back all of the decorations, it’s usually the case that we find pleasure in the people and experiences, and the indulgent food is just a perk. Ask yourself if it’s the pumpkin pie that makes you happy, or is it the fact that you are sharing it with loved ones?

When we look deep, we see that our continued health is more important than pie, and there are still many healthy ways to enjoy the sweet, rich flavors of the holiday season. Indulge in a good choice like decadent chocolate pudding with raspberries or delicious cocoa truffles.

For your plan, think about what food choices, exercise, stress management techniques, self-care habits and support you need to stay on track through the season. It may include starting every day with a green smoothie that provides you with maximum nutrition. Or it might mean getting up a little earlier so you can meditate, do yoga or fit in a short workout.

How to enjoy parties without overindulging
Parties often present the biggest challenge. Remind yourself what you will do to be able to enjoy the occasion and stay true to yourself. It can be helpful to eat before you go out, so that your appetite doesn’t get the best of you. Or you can bring a healthy yummy dish such as these delicious plant-based holiday recipes in our Ornish Kitchen Holiday Menu. If you include drinking alcohol, try limiting it to just one drink and then switch to sparkling water. Above all, remind yourself that you’re there to connect with others and have fun!

Visualize your commitment
Visualization is helpful for staying committed to healthy living. Imagine yourself feeling vital and healthy, playing with your kids or grandkids, sharing smiles and laughter or whatever personally inspires you to be healthy. By keeping these images top of mind, you’ll be ready to seize the moments and appreciate them more deeply. You can also take time—even just one mindful minute—to reconnect with yourself at any point throughout the day. While taking some deep breaths, remember how good it feels to take care of yourself and feel proud that you have honored your commitments. This is the ultimate gift you can give yourself.

This content originally appeared on Ornish Lifestyle Medicine.

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