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Eight ways to stay on track while traveling this holiday season

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Tis’ the season of hustle and bustle—in a wonderful, but also a sorta (OK definitely) stressful way. There will be endless work parties, family gatherings, cocktails with friends, and tables overflowing with incredible food. And that might make you worry about maintaining your healthy weight care habits—especially if you’re traveling and out of your comfort zone. You know, when you’re not in the routine groove you’re used to, like going to your weekly yoga class, making the meals you usually prep, you name it. Everything can feel off.

We’ve got you covered with hacks on how to stick to your goals while you’re on the road and soak in quality holiday time enjoying your aunt’s secret recipe (the one you count the days until you can taste it again!). Here are eight science-backed tips:

1. Don’t go hungry 

Lose the mindset where you skip breakfast or skimp on portions to “save up” for the big feast ahead. Research shows that this strategy can backfire and increase your risk of overeating and weight gain. Habits like skipping meals are big risk factors for binge eating. Plus, restricting the amount of food you eat can create an unhealthy mindset. So stick to your regular balanced meals and snacks leading up to the parties—yes, even if you have a big dinner planned. It might be a bit more food than normal, but it’s not enough to derail your progress. Your body deserves to be nourished throughout the day, no matter what you have planned. 

2. Prepare for the trip

Before hitting the road, pack a cooler for the drive with healthy options like fresh fruit, yogurt, veggies and hummus, or some cheese and crackers. (Or if you’re flying, put some non-perishable eats in your carry-on.) In a hurry? There are plenty of grab-and-go options you can pick up while filling the tank on your way out of town. Think whole grain crackers and a cheese stick or a banana with some PB. Oh, use those pit stops to stretch your legs and even get a quick walk in! 

3. Set boundaries 

We all have that one family member who monitors everyone’s plates. Just remember: You don’t have to explain your food choices. Whether or not you decide to have something is your decision—and yours alone. The same goes for alcohol. Your uncle Joe means well when he wants everyone to have a good time, but if you would rather stick to your water, tea, or mocktail, that’s fine too! Take a deep breath and simply say, “no thanks.”

4. Hydrate

You’ve heard it a million times (though one more time can’t hurt). Getting enough fluids is key to feeling your best. In fact, studies have shown that even mild dehydration may have an effect on your mood, energy levels, and ability to concentrate. Staying hydrated may also help with weight control. Looking for easy ways to sneak in the H2O? Pack a reusable water bottle, flavor it with fresh lemon, slices of cuke, or whatever sugar-free add-ins you like—and take a few big swigs before and after each meal. 

5. Listen to your body and practice mindful eating 

Hey, it’s OK if you’re the last to finish your plate. Slow down and savor the meal you have in front of you. Research shows that people who take their time and chew their food longer tend to need less food to feel satisfied. One way to slow down is to engage all of your senses. Pause after a few bites to notice the smells, colors, textures, and sounds each food brings to the table (pun intended). 

6. Make time for movement you enjoy

Exercise may look different during the holidays, and that’s fine! Maybe you’re short on time, or your motivation isn’t quite there. Want some good news? In a small study of sedentary adults, researchers found that even 5-10-minutes (yeah, you read that right) of moderate-intensity cardio, three times a day improved blood pressure and oxygen use. The shorter bouts can be as effective as similar intensity sessions of 30 minutes or more, three-to-five times a week. 

Our advice: Do what you can. It could be time spent outside being active with the kids, a walk around the block with the fam after a meal, ice skating, you name it. Just get out there!

7. Don’t skimp on sleep 

Missing out on adequate rest—whether it’s the amount of shut-eye you get, how well you sleep, or both—can change the expression of certain hormones in your body that can be linked to weight. Too little sleep is associated with a reduction of leptin (the hormone that signals your brain when you are full). It also can lead to an increase in ghrelin (a hormone telling your brain that you’re hungry), which can cause overeating and excess pounds. 

Try to follow your regular sleep routine as much as possible. Have a noise machine you can’t live without? A pillow you love? Pack them! Need some inspiration on how to build a better sleep routine? Check out these tips and pick a few to focus on during the craziness of the holidays.

8. Be kind to yourself

You have all of these plans to “stay on track,” but the best way to enjoy the holiday season is guilt-free. Be mindful that it’s a very short time. So take it one day at a time, one meal at a time, and, most importantly, give yourself grace. Know that you can wind down after each event, take time for self-care, and reassess your goals. 

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