How to Undo All the Damage You Did to Your Body Over the Holidays

holiday damage
Nina Gonzales/Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Nina Gonzales/Cole Saladino/Thrillist

No matter how many holiday-themed cocktails or pounds of mashed potatoes you knocked back this holiday season, the good news is that you won't be swimming in gravy and alcohol forever. Provided, of course, that you don't continue treating your entire life as one big celebration.

To help you reset after a gluttonous couple of weeks, we talked to nutritionists about the best strategies to undo the damage you did over the holidays. As for the political argument you had with your cousin and the friend's rug you spilled red wine on, well, that's another article for another time.

Get on a schedule, and stick to it

While the holidays can be a time for sleeping in, staying up late, skipping exercise, and devouring an entire turducken, the first thing you need is to get back on schedule. "Our bodies work best with consistency," says nutrition expert Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, CSSD. "As you return to work, school, and/or your daily routine, things will begin to fall into place."

Kaiden recommends waking up and going to bed at the same time, scheduling workouts into your calendar at the beginning of the week, and eating your meals at the same or similar times every day.

Set small, measurable goals before tackling bigger changes

"It's easy to say, 'I'm going to eat healthy food and work out,' but that's not a measurable goal, which can make it easy to fail," says Eliza Whetzel, a registered dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition. Rather than making a big, vague promise, Whetzel suggests setting specific goals -- like eating a salad with lunch during the week, cutting out artificial sugars, or running for 30 minutes once or twice a week.

"These specific, measurable goals allow you to track your progress and are more actionable than broad, overarching goals," says Whetzel.

Drink up

Sadly, this is not an excuse to fight fire with fire and drink a thousand beers in January -- pour yourself a refreshing glass of water instead. Lisa Bruno, co-owner and nutritionist at Work it Out Fitness Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey, recommends ditching alcohol completely for a few days and rehydrating with water.

While it may seem obvious, weight gained over the holidays is probably due to the fact that you've been downing tons of excess, empty calories, many in alcohol form. Bruno advises drinking anywhere between nine and 13 cups of water per day to stay hydrated and make up for several nights of boozing it up.

Become a temporary vegetarian

You don't need to give up meat forever, but Bruno recommends banishing holiday bloat by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption for a week or two. By eating fruits and vegetables for two or three meals a day, you'll be getting a higher dose of fiber, which will help your digestive system work more efficiently. You'll poop more, if you're not getting it.

"Your body can break down plant-based foods, which are naturally lower in fat, if not fat-free, quicker than high-fat foods like red meats," Bruno says.

Worried about getting enough protein? Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to get enough protein without eating meat -- it's not like you're going to suffer from malnutrition.

Plan your meals ahead of time

It's easy to say you'll start eating healthier at the beginning of the new year, but it's more realistic that you'll actually turn your words into actions if you have a clear plan. Dr. Chandra Duggirala, nutrition scientist and co-founder and CEO of Fuel, recommends planning your meals ahead of time. Meal prep not only gives you the ability to control what you're eating, but it also makes it less likely that you'll break down midday and buy something greasy.

Meal prep may sound like a laborious task, but it's really not much more than making an extra few servings of dinner to take to work for lunch, or spending some time during the weekend cooking food you can eat throughout the week.

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Erin Kelly is a writer, runner, and triathlete living in New York City who's living on leftover Christmas cookies. You can follow her on Twitter @erinkellysays.