News & Politics

Have a Healthy Holiday

Tips from trainers, nutritionists, and yogis on how to stay healthy and fit during the season of indulgence

This holiday, don't be afraid to eat what you want—just do it in smaller portions.

>> The Complete Holiday Guide 

Treat yourself—just know when to stop.
Studies show that when you eat what you want, you’ll be more satisfied and actually eat less. “Don’t ask Grandma to change her recipe to fit your diet, says diet-and-fitness expert Rebecca Scritchfield. “You need to enjoy those foods in all their glory.” Scritchfield’s rule of thumb: Limit yourself to one eight-to-ten-inch plate of your holiday favorites. And don’t feel bad about saying no to seconds.

It’s holiday—not holiweek.
Margo Carper, trainer to Washington elite such as Ben Bradlee and Madeleine Albright, says you should skip the leftovers: “The holiday is one day, so have your treats that day—­not before or after.” If you host a holiday get-together, send guests home with doggie bags.

Set rules for holiday parties before you leave the house.
Katherine Tallmadge, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, knows that holiday parties can be major diet-cheating sessions. She recommends laying a few ground rules ahead of time:

• Prioritize your parties and calories. Choose one or two of your favorite parties and allow yourself to indulge when you’re at them; eat before you go to other parties. You should also prioritize high-calorie items. Choose three of your favorite treats and allow yourself to enjoy them. Don’t waste calories by sampling everything.
• Eat normally and on time the day of the party. Don’t starve yourself during the day—you’ll irrationally overeat everything in sight once you get there.
• Location is key. Position yourself away from the food table. If your favorite treat is within reach, it’s easy to overindulge without even realizing it.
• Be mindful when eating. If you want to talk with someone, put your food down and enjoy the conversation. When you want to eat, focus your full attention on eating: Eat slowly and savor every bite. Notice when you start to feel comfortable and satisfied, then stop eating.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Water can do a world of good, from contributing to a glowing complexion to helping you lose weight. Dietician Melissa Majumdar recommends carrying a water bottle during holiday-shopping trips. “The dry heat of the mall increases your chance of dehydration, and not drinking enough water is a stress on the body,” she says. Plus, a belly full of water means you can skip a trip to the food court.

Wear a belt.
No, seriously. Laurent Amzallag, a trainer for Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life tour, offers this simple trick: Before you eat, tighten your belt one notch. You’ll feel fuller faster. Says Amzallag: “It works. Trust me.”

Remember: BTN
A client of Georgetown-based personal trainer and yoga teacher Pary Anbaz-Williamson coined this acronym. It stands for “better than nothing”—as in doing some sort of physical activity, such as walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes, is better than doing nothing at all. “The key is to be consistent and do something every day,” she says.

Trainer Jonathan Ross agrees. He advises busy clients to aim for a third to half of their normal workout time during the holidays. That means if you usually hit the gym for an hour, shoot for just 20 to 30 minutes. Use the opportunity to work at a higher intensity, incorporating sprint intervals or hill climbs. No time for the gym? No problem. You can do no-equipment-needed exercises—think pushups, squats, and burpees—at home between shopping trips. Push yourself for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, and repeat.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter