You may have just survived Thanksgiving, but the holiday season is only beginning. This season seems to get longer every year and is full of food, fun, family, and friends. But it can also be detrimental to your waistline and metabolism.

Despite the wonderful foods and treats your loved ones put in front of you, it is important now more than ever to remember to stay in shape and keep up your exercise routine. While in reality the average weight gain over the holidays is about a pound, we don’t want you to reach that “festive fifteen”!

Maintain an Exercise Routine

Studies have shown that women can lose up to 20 percent of their cardio fitness if they stop exercising between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It is important to keep up a stable endurance level, especially if you are planning a race or competing on a team when the weather gets better. Even if you’re not keeping up with your regular gym or workout routine, it’s helpful to add as much exercise as you can into your daily life.

  • Try working out in the morning before your guests arrive. According to a study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, exercising in the morning can help ensure a better mood all day long.
  • Exercises can be short in duration but powerful: Just 10 to 20 minutes of intense exercise can lead to mood improvement and a reduction of anxiety. Within those 10 to 20 minutes, try interval exercises, in which you do short bursts (15-60 seconds) of intense activity like burpees, jumping jacks, or squat jumps, alternated with rest periods. These interval exercises can also help you burn calories and fat faster than exercising at a steady rate.
  • Carve out at least 20 minutes a day for cardio or core exercises. Building core muscles is critical for posture, flexibility, balance and stability.
  • Turn chores into exercise opportunities. When you’re cleaning up around the house, set a timer on the oven or your cell phone and then see how much you can clean up before the buzzer goes off.
  • This is the season to spend time with family, so take them outside and exercise together with group activities like touch football.

When It Comes to Food…

The biggest issue with weight gain around the holidays is food; specifically, portion control. There are so many options for appetizers, main courses, and desserts. This is the time of year to indulge and enjoy yourself, but you must be wary of what (and how much) you are putting into your body.

  • Be picky. Peruse the buffet before you decide to pile it all on. You don’t need to eat everything.
  • Don’t cut back all day so you can stuff yourself later. Try eating smaller snacks throughout the day and aim for lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • You don’t have to swear off all desserts, but don’t go overboard either.
  • Avoid binge eating on leftovers by sending them home with guests.
  • Chew slowly. Although you may be in a rush, eating quickly doesn’t allow your food enough time to digest and leaves your stomach still feeling hungry. It’s a quick recipe for an expanded waistline.

Finally, remember you can always say no. Turning down dessert or seconds will not offend your host. Willpower is key to maintaining a healthy diet. It’s up to you to stay healthy this holiday season — don’t let yourself down!