7 Healthy Holiday Habits to Initiate with Fitness Clients

Holiday wreath and berries

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There’s nothing wrong with an indulgence here and there. The holidays are a time for feast and celebration. Clients need tips to stay on track so that they avoid a relapse during the hectic and food-filled time. This year, help your clients create stay-on-track habits. Here are 7 habits to encourage.

1. Self Care. As much as the holidays are about food and fun, they are also about chaos and craziness. It’s not uncommon for individuals to fall ill during this time as a result of traveling, lack of rest, poor nutritional choices, and burnout.

Encourage clients this year to prioritize self-care. Self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary.

2. Sleep. Long drives, flights, layovers, and late nights create the perfect storm for interrupted and low-quality sleep. Lack of sleep leads to a compromised immune system and overall low energy. It’s difficult to enjoy the holidays (or any time in our lives) if we sacrifice sleep.

Encourage clients to continue to monitor their sleep and maintain, as best they can, a consistent sleep-wake cycle throughout the holidays.

3. Simplify. It’s human nature, most of the time, to take on too much and rest too little. No other time in life other than the holidays demands such volume of things to do. Help clients examine their to-do’s and eliminate the least important tasks. This creates space for more important and urgent matters.

4. Create new active traditions. Traditions are strongly honored during the holidays. Whether it’s an after-meal Thanksgiving Day football game or a nap after the Christmas feast, every family has some traditions they like to honor.

You can still support the preservation of traditions while helping clients seek opportunities to engage in physical activity. Perhaps it’s the addition of a family football game outside or an after-dinner walk. Keep in mind what your clients like and what they value.

5. Choose healthier “swaptions”. While you cannot create a meal plan for clients, you can offer healthy suggestions and options to add to the table. Consider making the following tips:

  • Use whole milk Greek yogurt in place of sour cream
  • Use whole wheat/whole grain bread for stuffing
  • Offer mashed sweet potatoes with skins
  • Serve fresh greens with every meal
  • Grill stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, etc.) and serve with a reasonable serving of ice cream for dessert
  • Drink water between meals and before and during any cocktail hour
  • When attending a holiday party or buffet, fill the plate with healthier whole food options and sample a few of the more decadent offerings
  • Examine traditional rich dishes and swap out some of the more calorie-laden ingredients for lighter ones.

6. Eat healthy snacks before a party. Food is always part of a social gathering. To prepare for the wide variety of likely sinful dishes, suggest to clients that they eat a nutrient dense snack before attending. Fruit and string cheese, veggies and hummus, or a small handful of nuts, or yogurt and berries.

7. Breathe. Staying connected to the season and the magic of the time is difficult when the focus is on the doing and the going. Remind clients to take time to breathe throughout the day – a cleansing breath can reset the mind, lower the heart rate, and reduce stress.

So often healthy holiday tips focus on the main event – the meal. Holiday weight gain and relapses aren’t always about the food. Sometimes our clients become derailed because of the stress and chaos related to this time of year.

Take a different approach and use your educational talents to assist clients in finding ways to better manage this time in a holistic and intentional way.


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Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com