I think we’d all agree that staying in shape January through October is one thing, but come Thanksgiving, keeping it up through the rest of the calendar year is a whole new ballgame. With holiday celebrations penciled in every weekend, treats everywhere you turn, and year-end deadlines to meet, this season can make anyone feel like throwing in the towel to maintain any semblance of a healthy routine. While it may take more intention and motivation to stay healthy during the holidays, women who are always fit have the best-kept secret: keeping up simple habits to lean into joy and keep the stress at bay.
PSA: Being “in shape” doesn’t mean looking a certain way or weighing in at a defined number on the scale. Rather, it means being your highest, best, healthiest self—however that looks or feels for you. With that in mind, let’s dive into the 10 habits that women who are always in shape adopt during the holidays.
1. They shift their focus
Truth: It’s easy to get wrapped up in the holiday sales frenzy (I’m looking at you, Black Friday), a schedule overbooked with social obligations, and checking off everyone on your list. But women who are always in shape don’t get sidetracked by alluring emails, parties overflowing with food and drinks, and the commercialization of the season—they focus on fostering connections and making memories to nourish and care for their bodies. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, prioritize activities that bring you joy, and hygge-fy your home (give me all the cozy blankets!). Your body will reap the benefits.
2. They don’t have “good foods” and “bad foods” in their vocabulary
If women who are always in shape stand by one thing, it’s that a healthy approach to wellness is not all or nothing, especially when it comes to food. It’s not polishing off an entire pumpkin pie or passing on every dessert that’s calling your name. Instead of swearing off sweets because they’ve been scorned with the scarlet letter “B” (for bad), healthy women know that they can have their cake and feel good about themselves, too. They enjoy every bite on their plate and don’t sweat the sugar high while still tuning into their hunger cues, which can prevent binging everything in sight later on. Oh, and their other holiday hack? Noshing on some protein and healthy fats before that Christmas soirée where you know your cookie habit will likely present itself.
3. They sip smarter
What’s this festive season without some holiday cheer in the form of libations? In-shape women know that healthy drinking during the holidays doesn’t imply having to go cold turkey and cutting out alcohol all together (but that’s OK, too!). Instead, it means knowing what your personal limits are and practicing mindful drinking. If you’re a one-and-done kinda gal and call it a night after knocking back one glass of mulled wine (same), cheers to that! And when the healthiest women enjoy a cocktail or two (or three) at the office holiday party, they have a few tricks up their sleeves: They eat a protein-rich meal or snack beforehand, opt for a healthier option (no sugary cocktail mixer), double-fist it with water, curb their alcohol intake 3-4 hours before bed, and keep supplements like vitamin B complex and activated charcoal on hand.
4. They don’t go on detoxes
PSA: Despite what diet culture has ingrained in us, you don’t have to go on a juice cleanse to make up for your holiday indulgences. Health-conscious women skip the associated shame and regret that often comes with overeating and don’t feel the need to “get back on track” the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas with calorie counting, restrictive diets, and intense workouts. The body detoxifies itself on its own, with the liver doing a lot of the heavy lifting to rid the body of substances it sees as waste or harmful. So let your body do its job, and focus on intuitive eating, stretching or engaging in light exercise, staying hydrated with water, loading up on veggies, and taking self-care up a notch.
5. They cook more meals at home
Consider whipping up healthy, home-cooked meals a healthy woman’s love language and healthifying traditional holiday recipes without sacrificing flavor her repertoire. Preparing meals yourself not only equals control over what goes into them (read: more fresh, whole foods), but also more savings in your bank account (talk about a win-win). Bonus tip: Add in in-season produce like root vegetables (think: sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash) packed with micronutrients and dietary fiber to your dishes to help regulate your digestion and stay fuller longer. Need some inspo? Look no further than these plant-based holiday recipes. Even your most discerning relative will be going back for seconds, and they’ll still be none the wiser.
6. They adapt their workouts
The weather outside is frightful, but that doesn’t mean your exercise routine can’t be delightful. The healthiest women change up their sweat sessions according to the seasonal changes and how their bodies feel. During the summer months, pounding the pavement or HIIT classes may have been what your body craved, but it should come as no surprise if your body is now telling you to slow it down with Pilates or yoga. What’s more, rather than seeing exercising as a chore or punishment for the one-too-many cookies they ate while baking the night before, the healthiest women keep the mindset that they have the privilege to work out and do it out of enjoyment.
7. They get 7-9 hours of quality sleep–every night
With Hallmark Christmas movies running on repeat and The Great British Baking Show: Holidays premiering on Netflix, it takes a certain kind of self-control to refrain from staying up until the wee hours of the night, especially when you don’t have to wake up early for work. But not getting enough optimal shut-eye often leads to a host of consequences, including lack of energy, anxiety, and poor decision-making, not to mention consuming more foods that are high in sugar and trans fat. Bottom line: Save the Fa-La-La-La-La streaming for the daytime and limit screen time at night. Rest, restore, and repeat. The result? Improved mood, strengthened immune system, stress relief, and maintaining a healthy weight.
8. They get in movement throughout the day
Whether it’s their active work break or dog-walking route, women who are always in shape make it a point to get some extra steps in because they know that walking can do wonders for their physical and mental health (but they don’t obsess over the number of steps they hit in a day!). Aside from improving cardiovascular fitness and helping sustain a healthy weight, regular walking can improve your mood, cognition, and sleep. Take the stairs whenever possible, park your car farther away when hitting the grocery store or mall for that essential recipe ingredient or last-minute gift, take the longer hiking path, put your desk treadmill to good use, and give your abode the Home Edit touch (guest-ready never looked better).
9. They get in tune with their feelings
The so-called “most wonderful time of the year” can also be met with holiday blues, leaving you with anything but holiday spirit. When the healthiest women are facing loss, family stress, a recent breakup, or not going home for the holidays, they make space for their feelings around it, tune out the noise around them, and go inward. Whether that looks like breathwork, putting pen to paper, meditation, or saying affirmations, they hit pause, take a moment for themselves, and pay attention to what thoughts may be ruminating and any sensations they are feeling sans judgement. The takeaway? Seek mindfulness, and feel all your feelings, be kind to yourself, let go of expectations of what the holidays should look like, and just breathe. Holiday stress, be gone!
10. They don’t limit themselves to traditions
Over the years, you and your loved ones probably developed traditions around holiday occasions—from grandma’s to-die-for sweet potato casserole to competing for the family trophy in a game of touch football. But women who are always in shape like to shake things up and keep life interesting. After all, people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions than those who stick to the same. Who says you can’t substitute the turkey for an Italian sausage lasagna or a vegetarian shepherd’s pie and deck the halls over a few days instead of all at once as soon as the post-Thanksgiving food coma subsides? Consider exploring new ways to observe the holidays, like rounding up your friends for a turkey trot, volunteering at your local food bank, fostering a dog in need of a home, or creating a vision board. One tradition always worth keeping around? Counting your blessings.