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Americans struggle to maintain a healthy routine during the holidays

Americans struggle to maintain healthy habits during the holiday season, according to a recent survey from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The results of the survey reveal significant lifestyle shifts during the holidays. 

The experts say the holiday season often leads to disruptions in regular routines, impacting diet, exercise, sleep, and alcohol consumption. 

Key findings

Overindulgence in food

Two-thirds of respondents acknowledged overeating during this time.

Exercise breaks

Approximately 45% reported taking a hiatus from their regular exercise regimen.

Fatigue and lack of personal time

Over half of the participants felt more tired and found less time for themselves.

Increased alcohol consumption

One-third admitted to drinking more alcohol compared to other times of the year.

Dr. Barbara Bawer, a family medicine physician at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, emphasized the impact of holiday activities on health routines. 

“Holiday travel, activities with friends and family, and trying to get a bunch of things done can cause people to lose track of their healthy habits,” said Dr. Bawer. “If one healthy habit drops off, it can affect other areas very quickly.”

To navigate the holiday season without compromising health, Dr. Bawer suggests trying to stick to a normal routine as much as possible while giving yourself some grace.

“Once you’re out of a routine, which typically happens around the holidays, it’s really hard to get back on track partly because the motivation is no longer there,” said Dr. Bawer. 

Reasons for overindulgence during the holidays 

Social pressure

Social gatherings often revolve around food and drink, with a cultural emphasis on feasting. There’s a social expectation to partake in eating and drinking, sometimes to excess.

Emotional factors

Holidays can evoke strong emotions, leading some people to indulge as a way of coping with stress, anxiety, or even nostalgia and happiness.

Special treats

Holidays are associated with special foods and drinks not typically available year-round, enticing people to indulge.

Disrupted routines

Regular eating, sleeping, and exercise routines are often disrupted during the holidays, leading to less disciplined lifestyle choices.

Celebratory mindset

The celebratory nature of the season can lead to a “treat yourself” mindset, where indulgence is seen as part of the holiday spirit.

Consequences of overindulgence

The most immediate effect of holiday overindulgence is often weight gain, due to the high caloric intake. Overeating, especially rich and fatty foods, can lead to discomfort, heartburn, and other digestive problems.

While indulgence can be pleasurable in the moment, it may lead to feelings of guilt or decreased self-esteem afterwards, especially if it conflicts with one’s health goals.

Tips from Dr. Bawer 


Planning is crucial. Avoid skipping meals before events to prevent overeating. Choose wisely from holiday offerings, focusing on favorite dishes while avoiding unnecessary calories.


Stick to regular exercise schedules as much as possible. Be adaptable and incorporate physical activities with family and friends, like walking or sports, when regular routines are disrupted.


Maintain regular sleeping patterns, even when traveling. Limit reliance on sleep aids like melatonin and be selective about social commitments to avoid overexertion.


Practice moderation. Binge drinking, defined as consuming five drinks for men and four for women in one sitting, should be avoided. Adhere to recommended limits and drink responsibly.

“Small, consistent changes and slowly adding to them can help you reach your health goals,” said Dr. Bawer.

This balanced approach, acknowledging the festive spirit while maintaining health consciousness, is key to a healthier holiday season.

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