Having a healthy life is about maintaining a level of balance.

You work hard all year, and you deserve to take time to unwind and enjoy the company of loved ones. The holidays are the perfect time to indulge in those treats that you usually try your best to avoid at all costs.

Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays

But just because you allow yourself to bend the rules, doesn’t mean you should totally discard long term goals like staying fit. There’s a way for you to enjoy the festivities without feeling guilty.

Check out these five simple tips on staying fit during the holidays!

1. No Pain, No Cake (Stay consistent)

Scientific research shows that having regular physical activity has long term positive effects on your health. In the short term, it can help you sustain weight loss. If you’re spending your holidays out of town at a family member’s home, look online to see if there will be any nearby gyms so you don’t fall behind on your workout routine.

Plenty of gyms offer week passes or guest passes. If you can’t find a gym, you can download a workout app and do your routine at home. Maybe you can use that as a bonding experience with a family member or friend — wake up every morning and go for a scenic run!

2. Eat before you go

Part of what makes the holidays stressful for health-conscious people is that there is usually an abundance of highly caloric, fatty food. Though there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to bend the rules a little, you can strike up a balance by having healthy snacks throughout the day, so you don’t enter these meals desperately hungry.

For breakfast, you can start off with a quick and easy protein powder or collagen shake blended with your favorite fruits or yogurt. This way, you can indulge in that slice of pie or side of mashed potatoes without going overboard. In addition to helping you stay full, collagen can also improve your skin and help you build muscle.

You will be able to partake in the fun without feeling like you will lose your sense of self-control. So, go ahead and try your mother-in-law’s world-famous pecan pie — you will be okay.

3. Beware of the booze

When you’re an adult, the holidays come with ample opportunities to binge drink. It’s perfectly understandable: you’re on vacation, so why not let loose? However, there can be a potentially negative side to the festivities. Whether it’s a generous glass of red wine at Christmas dinner or a few extra cups of spiked eggnog, alcohol contains empty calories with no nutritional value.

And when you drink too much, you might end up eating more to offset the hangover.

Since alcohol reduces your blood sugar levels, your body gets triggered and you start to feel hungry. Unfortunately, hangover foods tend to be high in fat, salt, and sugar. Waking up to eat a bacon-egg-cheese after devouring turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie the night before is far from an ideal situation for your diet.

On top of that, binge drinking can negatively interfere with your ability to grow and maintain muscle. But you don’t have to stop drinking completely. Like other aspects of your holidays, you can still have some fun but should just practice restraint.

Instead of pouring that third or fourth glass of Merlot, just drink some club soda. And if you still want to enjoy cocktails, ask your friends or family to provide an alcohol-free option.

4. Eat, drink, and be wary (Balance is key)

In general, sustaining a level of balance is crucial to wellness. The holiday season is no exception. In order to keep that level of balance, you can strategize in advance by keeping a food journal or downloading a food diary app.

This way, you will be able to keep track of everything you’re eating and drinking and know exactly when you’re pushing the limit. A 2008 study conducted by Kaiser Permanente Center For Health Research observed the weight loss habits of 1,700 participants. The researchers concluded that “those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.”

While many people view the start of a new year as a chance to aimlessly party, it can also be an opportunity for growth and change. If you haven’t been keeping up a healthy, balanced lifestyle, January 1st is your chance to make some positive change: get that gym membership, download that food diary app, start going on morning jogs, and cut back on that second glass of wine!

5. Chill out!

It’s no secret that the holidays can get stressful. Whether it’s hosting your in-laws, traveling through packed airports, or going on last-minute bargain shopping sprees for gifts, ‘tis the season to feel anxious and overwhelmed!

So, be a little forgiving with yourself if you just so happen to slip up on your diet or forget to do that morning workout. You should also find a way to mitigate this anxiety so you don’t develop unhealthy habits during the holidays.

Stress can lead to excessive eating which can subsequently lead to weight gain. To stop this vicious cycle, you should make sure you have some time for yourself so you can go on that walk, hit the gym, or meditate alone.

In addition, you should communicate your boundaries and needs beforehand to your hosts. For example, if you’re on a strict diet like going gluten-free, you should tell your hosts so they can plan accordingly and get different dessert options.

Have a (fit) happy holiday!

shirtless fit guy on a beach doing yoga and wearing a santa hat

It’s totally possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the holidays. Chances are that you aren’t the only member of the family or friend group who is self-conscious —  you can totally find a partner in (healthy) crime.

Just make sure you stay consistent with your workouts, watch what you eat, and set more feasible goals. And never forget: relax and enjoy this special time with your loved ones!