6 Secrets to Finding Balance and Staying Healthy During the Holidays

Updated 11/08/19
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Ah, the holidays. It’s a magical time of year, when everything sparkles, the champagne flows--and many of us forget all about moderation and balance until the after-effects of an over-indulgent night out (or three) catches up with us. With so many office parties, happy hours, and gift exchanges, not to mention all the family obligations, it’s nearly impossible to maintain good-for-you habits during this month or so of merrymaking. Ahem—nearly. But how do you walk the line between having a good time and keeping healthy? Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., a trainer in New York City and founder of Le Sweat, makes a living promoting wellness, but doesn’t restrict herself from enjoying the excesses of NYC in December. Here’s what she has to say about staying healthy during the holidays. Listen up.

1. Follow the “3-Bite-Breathe-Rule”

Women running
 Stocksy

By the time December rolls around, you’ve earned that “treat yourself” holiday attitude. But approaching every cocktail party as license to go overboard on apps or dessert can make you feel gross. “When it comes to treats, I practice the ‘3-bite-breathe-rule,’” says Atkins. “First, bite to taste it—if it’s not as delicious as you had hoped, abandon it and opt for something else. The second bite is to enjoy the flavors, and the third bite is to savor it before you move on.” This rule encourages you to slow down and be present, says Atkins.

2. Prioritize Working Out

Garmin Venu watch
 Garmin

Yeah, it’s hard to squeeze in the gym when you were out late making merry the night before and missed your favorite class, or you’re at your parents’ house for the holidays and have family obligations on deck. But you can fit in fitness if you let yourself be flexible. “My evenings fill up during the holidays, so I turn to morning workouts, like yoga flows or bodyweight workouts that I can do at home,” says Atkins. And you don’t need a lot of time. “A majority of my workouts can be done with very little equipment in less than 20 minutes,” says Atkins. The Garmin Venu delivers easy-to-follow, animated cardio, strength, yoga and Pilates workouts right to your wrist, as well as 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, so there’s no lack of workout inspiration, wherever you are. Just as important: the battery lasts up to 5 days.

Try multitasking, too. “I love visiting my boyfriend’s family because we always make it a point to do a family workout,” Atkins adds. “His parents take us to their gym, and we take a step class together.” You can check off family time and breaking a sweat—win-win.

3. Just Keep Moving

Whether you’re road-tripping to see your fam or catching a flight somewhere warm, all that sitting can leave you stiff and sore. “I try not to sit before a flight—I force myself to walk in circles around the airport to expend that excess energy before my plane takes off,” says Atkins. But it’s especially important to keep moving while you’re traveling. “I stretch everywhere I go—it only takes about 10 minutes, and it always makes me feel good,” adds Atkins. Head to the back of the plane or take a quick pit stop on the road to try some of Atkin’s favorite stretches. Don’t trust yourself to remember to get up out of your seat on a long-haul trip? A fitness smartwatch like the Garmin Venu sends move alerts throughout the day to encourage you to stand, and helps you track your stress, water consumption, and even your energy levels--vital info to know, whether on the road or at home.

4. Blow Off Some Steam

The holidays should be a season of joy, but between uninterrupted family time, end-of-year work obligations, and a jam-packed social calendar, it can feel like you’re walking a tightrope between happiness and total burnout. Make sure you prioritize self-care alongside everything else. “Fitness will always be an outlet for me. In NYC, I like to blow off steam by walking to meetings--even if it’s cold--versus taking the subway or taxi. I work from home, so when I finish a project or need a break, I’ll practice handstands or pull-ups because I’m terrible at both. And I also do stretches for my shoulders and my hips, which get tight from stress, once or twice a day,” says Atkins. “To me, these all seem like better options than turning on the TV, snacking, or sitting for long periods of time.”

5. Finding Moments of Calm in the Frenzy

With the holiday season comes cold and flu season, and when you’re running around picking up last-minute gifts, and then answering emails at 11 p.m., you’re doing a number on your immune system. “In the winter, I drink less coffee and switch to tea,” says Atkins. “I have black tea in the morning, I drink Throat Coat with Echinacea pretty much all day, and at night I have Chamomile—it warms me up, and I think all of these contribute to better overall health.” Swap one of your daily cups of coffee for tea and bask in the calming effects.

6. Don't Beat Yourself Up if You Go Off the Rails

Look, things happen—you ate too many Christmas cookies, or overdid it with the eggnog. You’re supposed to enjoy yourself during the holidays, so don’t hate on yourself if you make a misstep. The great thing about choosing to be healthy is that every day is a fresh start. “After a rough day, I try to ‘move’ myself back to existence: more walking, more water, more movement, but nothing intense,” says Atkins. “I think our day-after choices start in the morning, and if you start things off with a little movement, meditation, stretching, yoga, or hot tea, it will set the tone for the day.”