For us college students, winter vacation is an informal invitation to sleep, eat, and relax with friends and family, which often just involves more eating. Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, your mom’s famous roast, drinks on New Year’s Eve – your eating, drinking, and being merry begins right when you leave for break and doesn’t end until you go back to school for the spring. It’s bliss, until the thought of wearing a bathing suit over spring break dawns on you and you wonder why you didn’t remember your diet sooner.
At school, you have a schedule to stick to, a gym to go to, lots of walking between classes, and your meals tend to be more regular. Since winter break is every collegiette’s free pass to a warm and cozy veg-fest, Her Campus has some tips to help you stay fit and healthy, but also relaxed during your vacation. Whether you’re enjoying time at home or jetting off to a foreign country, keep reading to find out how to keep off those extra pounds this winter vacation.
That’s my routine and I’m sticking to it
One of the most important things to remember is to stick to a regular schedule while you’re at home. Boston-based nutritionist and registered dietician Nancy Clark says that planning out your meals is key. Aim for three meals and two small snacks a day! “Portion control is really important,” Clark stresses. “[For example], mashed potatoes aren’t fattening – it’s too much of it that’s fattening. You need to ask your body ‘what do I truly want to eat?’ If you want a late night snack, plan it in!” As we all know, collegiettes, it’s easy to plan meal times, but much harder to adhere to a strict schedule when it comes to snacking. “If you plan [your snacks], then you won’t try to not eat [them] and end up eating [them] in addition to your other meals,” Clark explains. Craving some late-night popcorn to go with the movie you’re planning to watch with your family? Make sure you count the popcorn as one of your two snacks for the day, and try dishing out a small bowl for yourself to limit the number of times you reach for another handful.
To eat or not to eat
Whether it’s with family and friends or out of boredom, the urge to nosh is a constant temptation over break. Surrounded by the many delicious home-cooked meals and all of your favorite snacks, it’s important to be in touch with what your body truly needs and to remember to eat in moderation! “Lots of times your mind might want the food, but your body doesn’t need it,” Clark comments. “You don’t want to be denied or deprived, but you can still get the same pleasure from eating foods you like and enjoying them slowly.” Are you craving that steaming mug of hot chocolate after you finish ice-skating with your friends? Treat yourself to a small cup! Just remember to consume only what your body really needs; don’t drink multiple cups or grab handfuls of snacks just because they’re there. “Focus on the actual activity,” Clark advises. “Ask yourself, are you there to watch a movie with your family and friends? Or are you there to snack?” If you focus on how much fun you have catching up with your friends from home, you’ll consume your treats at a slower pace which will help you cut down on large amounts of food that your body doesn’t really need.
Stay relaxed AND active: Eat your cake, but bake it too!
Even though food is a large part of the collegiette winter break culture and is, therefore, a large contributor to vacation weight gain, it can also provide a fun way to stay active while you’re at home. Take advantage of your family’s kitchen and cook or bake something from scratch! Find some fun recipes, go to the grocery store, and prepare a meal for your family or friends. Check out Her Campus’ holiday cookie recipes or our ideas for healthy comfort foods for some creative ideas.
Does your room need cleaning? An old closet? The garage? Ask your parents if you can help them out around the house. A good cleaning is a great way to start off the New Year. If you prefer outdoor activities, try taking the dog for a walk or (if you’re lucky enough to have snow) start a snowball fight with your siblings and neighbors. Shoveling the driveway (again, assuming you have snow) is another great way to exercise and still enjoy your winter break.
Seeing your friends from home is always a big part of a collegiette’s winter vacation. Just remember that you don’t always have to meet up for meals; plan lots of different activities with them! Ice-skating or taking walks are both great choices that allow you to catch up with your buddies and stay active. Focus on the time that you have to spend with your friends, because that’s what’s most important! “Instead of mindless snacking, try putting food at the bottom of the priority list,” Clark tells her clients. If your time with friends and family isn’t always in the context of food, it will help prevent excessive weight gain over the break.
Trying to trim down?
Some collegiettes decide to use the winter vacation months as a time to lose some of the weight they’ve picked up during the fall semester. The healthiest and most effective way to do this is by not only watching how much you eat, but also exercising consistently. Find a clear space in your house and try breaking out a new workout DVD! Jane Fonda’s The Complete Workout & Stress Reduction Program is one of my personal favorites. Using the time you have at home to get in shape is a great idea, just make sure you don’t overdo it! If you lose too much weight and don’t practice healthy exercise and eating habits, not only is it unhealthy but it sets you up to gain back all of the weight when you go back to school. “Don’t lose weight too quickly,” Clark warns. “[Losing] half a pound to a pound a week is a healthy pace.” Eating in moderation and being active daily ensures that you stay healthy and keep the weight off for good. You can still enjoy all of your holiday favorites – pork roast, mashed potatoes, and hot chocolate to name a few – just remember that multiple helpings of each isn’t healthy! If you want to practice eating more lean foods, try hearty soups, proteins, or try substituting mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower!
Indulge yourselves this winter vacation, collegiettes! Just make sure to indulge in moderation and focus on enjoying the time you have to relax and be with friends and family.