Dec. 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM ET
It’s no surprise you feel sluggish after all that holiday eating, drinking and partying. But now’s the time to forget the excuses and get back on track ASAP. “Don’t think about the past. What’s done is done,” says Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, past president of the American College of Physicians. “The best thing you can do for yourself to feel better is to resume healthy behaviors today.” Here’s how:
Be kind to yourself
“Forget the scale for now and concentrate on actions,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Pick one or two healthy habits you know you need to resume (such as eating more veggies or cutting back on sweets) and work on those for a couple of weeks, then weigh yourself. Otherwise, you get bogged down by a number instead of focusing on what you need to change.
Get rid of the goodies
That’s right. The cookies, candy and other sweets need to go far, far away. “It’s just too easy to fall back into overeating them,” says Brown-Riggs. Freeze them (if you can trust yourself to have self-control over the next few months), give them away, or toss them.
Go to bed
Staying up way past your bedtime may have become a habit over the holidays, but you’re no good on no sleep. “You make better decisions about everything from eating to fitting in exercise when you’re not exhausted,” says Dr. Fryhofer. Aim for 7 to 9 hours per night. Make that happen by avoiding caffeine after noon. For better sleep, create a soothing bedtime ritual, such as a bath or reading quietly; keep your room cool and dark (no blinking lights from your smartphone); and wear ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper.
Stock your pantry
Keep easy-to-toss-together ingredients on hand for quick meals so you won’t get lazy and order fat- and sodium-laden takeout. Include a variety of beans and legumes such as black beans, chick peas, lima beans and lentils; whole grains such as barley, quinoa, and brown rice; wheat and whole grain pasta, and low sodium broths. A slow cooker is a great tool, too, because meals are ready when you walk in the door so you won’t start snacking on everything in sight. “When you’re starving, you don’t have the same mental resolve at resisting temptation,” says Brown-Riggs.
Slow down when you eat
A recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that people who doubled their number of chews decreased how much they ate by 15 percent. “If you’re chewing longer, it takes you longer to eat,” says Brown-Riggs. “By not gobbling down your food, your brain and stomach connect so you register when you’re full.” Take your time when eating by putting your utensil or sandwich down between bites, chewing thoroughly, then picking your fork or food back up for the next bite.
Try a new exercise routine
If you’ve been avoiding exercise over the holidays, it can be tough to dive back into the same-old, same-old workout. “Try a new class or routine to spice it up,” says Fryhofer. If you’re always on the elliptical, head for the stepping machine. If you always do yoga, sign up for a hip hop class. Many gyms offer walk-in classes for a small fee this time of year, so you can sample a new activity before you commit.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.