Don’t look now, but they’re baaack!
No, not the terminators, the holidays!
That’s right!! It’s that (most wonderful) time of the year!
The time of year when we should take time to reflect, be grateful and even joyful!
Of course, just about all of us are rushing to get in the attic, the garage and the basement to get those decorations out and get the house decorated. We’re decking the halls, making egg nog and other Christmas (and Hanukkah) goodies and preparing for the festivities to come!
Most of us are either knee deep in holiday shopping or busy putting it off until the last minute. We’re deciding where to spend the holidays and figuring out just how much all this merriment is going to cost us.
We’re prepared for the eight crazy nights and the eight tiny reindeer. But what often takes us by surprise is the eight rounds of holiday cheer and the eight million extra calories that seem to stick around well into the New Year and beyond!
It’s been estimated that the average American puts on 4 – 7 pounds in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day!
To put some sobering perspective on that, if this weight gain continued all year, the average American would gain between 41 and 72 pounds! Holy inflatable waistline Batman!
If you’ve found yourself falling victim to the “Seasonal Seven” in the past, I’ve got some good news for you! If you read on, I’m going to offer you some weapons for your defense against the “Holiday Fat Attack.”
In fact, if you do it right, you can use this season as a time to establish habits that will help manage your fitness, nutrition and your weight during the holidays and conquer any New Year’s Resolutions you may have in those areas! Use these tools and you’ll find that you can enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer and NOT turn into an “un-jolly” fat elf!
While there may be magic in this season, there’s no real magic to beating the holiday bulge. Moderation is the key, along with a few other “tricks.”
There seem to be several approaches to dealing with holiday festivities and the “risks” involved. Some people take the “run and hide” approach, avoiding social and culinary situations that may put their diet and fitness regimen at risk. These scaredy-cats run a serious risk of being boring and anti-social, not to mention missing out on some serious holiday fun!
Another approach is to throw reason in a snow pile and dive head first into the egg nog, hors d’oeuvres and pumpkin pie. Still another is to “save up” calories by starving all day, then indulging at will at night. Caloric rationalization, I suppose. None of these approaches will allow you to really enjoy the season AND maintain your physique and fitness/nutrition regimen.
By now, you may be asking “What am I supposed to do if I want to be a svelte and sexy elf this holiday season? Hide at home singing carols to my dog?
While that might work, your dog would likely get bored and you would definitely regret missing the fun of the holidays.
You absolutely can deck the halls, hit the malls, sing the carols, ring the sleigh bells and enjoy all the other fun stuff the holidays have to offer, including some of the festive drink and goodies! And you can do it all while avoiding a holiday nutritional meltdown and staying on track with your weight and fitness goals.
Think of it this way: if you plan to succeed and have fun, you can! Let’s dig in on some specific things you can do this holiday season to avoid getting an unwanted “gift” after they’ve passed.
1.Be reasonable, Frosty! Recognize and be aware of the truth about the holidays. They add new and unplanned-for events, errands and (lots of) opportunities to eat like a diet plan dropout.
To counter this uncertainty and the risk it creates, break out your planner (phone, tablet, etc.) and write in all the events, errands and other holiday-related stuff you already know about. Make specific plans, with start and end points, as much as possible.
This will allow you to do better meal planning for the meals on either end of one of these events. When you know you have a good, healthy meal waiting for you after, say, a happy hour event, you’re less likely to allow your hunger pangs to lead you into something you’ll regret!
Once you have the known factors set down in writing, prioritize your time to include some time for exercise. Be real, be reasonable, but be diligent about sticking to the plan you lay out for yourself. And speaking of planning…
2. Plan your meals! The holiday season is pretty unforgiving when it comes to what’s available for unscripted grazing. Parties and other events all too often include foods that you wouldn’t even consider eating during other, more nutritionally sane times of the year.
But there you are scarfing down the pate, dipping the chips and devouring fatty, buttery, sweet treats while you drink and party like it’s 1999 and Y2K is a real thing!
To combat this, try to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Some tips to help this happen:
- Use high-protein meal replacement shakes or bars during “crunch” times, when other foods might not be available or convenient.
- During meal prep, package some of your meals into smaller serving “snacks” that can be eaten quickly and easily.
- Pack “power snacks” that can be carried easily and eaten (almost) anywhere. Veggies and cheese cubes come to mind.
- Take a look at your travel routes. Whether running errands or going “over the river and through the woods,” try and find some places to pick up healthy choices while you’re out and about.
3. Drink lots of water. When you get thirsty, you may be tempted to drink calorie-laden options instead of water. Also, thirst sometimes masquerades as hunger. Having a glass of water just before an event where ample amounts of holiday treats are being served may prevent you from filling up on body fat hiding in the shape of appetizers or cookies.
4. Think again, Prancer! Thinking of putting your fitness goals on hold until after the New Year? Um, yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and not do that. Now is no time to bag your workouts!
Tight on training time? Get efficient by using circuit training, cardio interval training, Primal Movement workouts, early morning cardio (yes, walks count!) or whatever you can fit into your busy day. But fit it in! Like I mentioned in the first tip, you plan for as much as you can, then adjust to the rest!
5. Park on purpose. This tip is activity-specific. When you go shopping, whether for food, gifts or whatever, park in a safe location that’s a few minutes from the store or mall entrance. That guarantees some calories burned while walking to and from your car.
Then, instead of waiting until you’re all done shopping, try making several trips to your car with packages. Do this 3-4 times during a mall trip and you’ve guaranteed yourself 10-15 minutes of walking without even thinking about it!
6. Parking lot picnics. Taking advantage of tip #5? If you’re with a family member or friend (or just feeling secure about it,) try packing a “picnic” lunch of healthy foods. Take a few minutes to eat it in the car on one of your package trips. It may sound a little hokey, but I bet you can pack a nice lunch that’s a lot healthier than most of your mall food court choices!
7. 10 minutes is…a start! When you’re feeling lazy, de-motivated or really pressed for time, try starting with just 10 minutes of exercise. If you push yourself to just do that much, you’re likely to find yourself feeling up to just a little more. Before you know it, you might be right back on track with your exercise and workouts.
I hope you find these helpful! More important, I hope that each and every one of you finds joy, peace and cause for celebration this holiday season! From me and my house to you and yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a very healthy, Happy New Year!
Keep the faith and keep after it!