Don’t stress the slip-ups – here’s how to strike the right balance.

If the thought of undoing a year’s worth of work in the gym with a month of Christmas parties and social catch-ups has you freaking out, chill! Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the party season is a time to celebrate (permission to cut loose granted), and secondly, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your fitness gains.

They say prevention is better than cure, right? So with a little moderation now you’ll save a long, hard slog in January. Sail through the tinsel, canapé trays and late nights with these top tips for surviving the festivities.

1 Look forward
Try to remember your longer-term goals and use these to motivate healthier choices. “As the festive season provides lots of opportunities to overindulge, remind yourself of the hard work and habits you’ve created throughout the year,” says life coach Liz Goodchild. “Visualise how you want to feel throughout the festive season; maybe it’s strong, healthy and well-rested, rather than tired, bloated and hungover, and keep this in mind when your calendar starts overfilling with parties, and your wine glass gets overfilled with, well, wine.”

2 Shorten your sessions
Don’t use this time of year as an excuse to forget about your workouts completely, but do try to think about smart ways you can adapt them to better fit a busy schedule. “Your workouts don’t need to be long to be beneficial,” says personal trainer Emma Bord. Just make them super effective. “Plan a high-intensity, interval-training session that will make you work just as hard as doing an hour-long session. Circuit training is a great way to work the whole body, with cardiovascular and resistance training combined to give you a full and mixed workout.”

3 Stay strong
Peer pressure can play a big part in derailing your goals once this season hits. Making healthy choices doesn’t make you boring – just think about that smug next-day feeling you’ll have. “Will turning down the dessert or saying yes to that shot of tequila affect how you feel once the sugar hit/hangover has worn off?” says Goodchild. “Pressure from others is often a protection of their own hang-ups. You turning down dessert may make them feel uncomfortable, as it may be something they wish they could do.” Stay true to yourself!

4 Be flexible
A rigid gym routine could be hard to stick to when the invites start flooding in, so try to adapt things. “Like anything in life, flexibility is key,” says Goodchild. But try to keep most of the elements of your normal routine in place to keep you on track. “Sticking to your regular exercise/eating routine may prevent you from snowballing into January with a chaotic/non-existent exercise routine, feeling like you’ve lost your fitness and need to start again.” Hello, balance!

5 Eat up
Fill up on the good stuff before you head out to a party, so you don’t arrive hungry and fill up on whatever’s on offer. “A mix of protein and complex carbs (such as rice cakes with peanut butter, a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts, or some veg sticks with hummus) is ideal,” advises nutritionist Sarah West.

6 Make workouts work for you
If you’re struggling to find spare time, work out in a different way. “Why not consider cycling or running to work?” suggests Bord. Or you could try moving your workouts to a more convenient time of day to make it work with your (current and temporary) lifestyle, whether it’s fitting it into a lunch break or using a workout app before you head to work in the morning.

7 Plan ahead
It might sound a bit crazy, but writing yourself a schedule can be an awesome way to keep your goals on track. “At the beginning of December, recalibrate your healthy habits,” says Goodchild. “Write down the days you’ll exercise on and factor in rest.”

8 Play the mind game
Eaten all the healthy canapes in sight and still hungry? Be patient. “Your brain is about 10 to 20 minutes behind your stomach when it comes to registering fullness,” says Bord. “So try to avoid unconscious grazing by waiting 15 minutes before deciding whether to go back for seconds.”

Words by Ellie Moss

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