The holiday season is undoubtedly a time for rejoicing. Unfortunately, the average adult does a little too much celebrating during this time of year, which leads to extra baggage when the New Year rings in. Festivities that include indulging in extra helpings, snacking on seasonal treats, and little to no workout time all contribute to the increase in dieters in January.
So, this holiday season buck the trends and avoid the Seasonal Seven (the average weight most of us will gain between Thanksgiving and the New Year). That’s one trend you don’t want to participate in!
Even though this time of year may bring upon additional stresses and challenges, there are ways to find balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Though at times it may seem impossible to bypass the season’s traditional foods, there are many ways to partake in the fun without increasing your pant size. The festivities don’t have to be eliminated or avoided. You can have a fabulous time while also maintaining your weight and your fitness regimen.
Every year, I swear that I will be thin enough to wear my smallest dress to the office party. And every year, I dont quite make it. Oh, I can usually get into it by the beginning of February after a diet-obsessed, guilt-ridden January, but it doesn’t mean as much then.
Why are November and December so toxic to our weight control efforts? Certainly there is abundant food available during the month long celebration from Thanksgiving to New Year. It is the season for non-stop parties and gifts of food from colleagues, friends, family, and customers.
But more than just the food, there is a special atmosphere that descends on the Western World at the end of November. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzai whatever the celebration involved evoke the onset of primitive emotions. We wax nostalgic over the holidays we recall from childhood. We turn towards family and traditions that have been absent from our thoughts for the rest of the year. We indulge ourselves in the joy of giving and receiving.
Cookies, and chocolates, and gift baskets bursting with preservatives, which we would politely refuse during any other time of the year, are now gratefully accepted in the spirit of the season. Food we would normally avoid creamed soups, fruit glazes, gravy, fruit breads, honeyed hams appear as comfort foods, warming and welcoming. Our sophisticated and world-weary veneer fades in the face of traditions that make us feel whole and contented again.
The goodwill we feel demands a context and a continuity that was established many years ago. Each December, we trot out the same old carols, enjoying the familiarity of tunes we learned to love sitting next to a glittering tree and a roaring fire. For a month, we emotionally step back in time to reconnect who we are with who we were. Despite its current crass commercialism, we need the holidays to remind us of our roots, our values, and our beginnings.
Moderation is the word of the season. It’s the secret to achieving a fun but also healthy holiday time. With a moderate approach both to what you eat (or don’t eat) and how much exercise you do (or don’t do), you can avoid packing on weight AND also partake in all the fun of this time of year. So this season, get a head start on the New Year instead of starting January with extra pounds to lose.
Here are some tips to help you during those hectic holiday weeks:
• Create a plan ahead of time. Before the holidays sneak up on you, create a plan for incorporating fitness and good nutrition into your daily routine. Evaluate your holiday schedule and then determine how much time you will realistically have available to devote to working out.
• If you work in an office setting be prepared for the deluge of guilty treats your co-workers and other business associates will graciously want to share. Stash your own healthy snacks in your desk so you won’t be tempted to overindulge when your grumbling stomach demands a 3:00 snack time.
• Don’t put your fitness goals on hold until the New Year. If you can’t exercise as often during this time period as you normally do, adjust appropriately. Don’t use the excuse that since you don’t have time for your full workout you just won’t workout at all. Instead accept your limited availability and simply reduce the frequency and/or duration of your exercise. It’s much better to cut your fitness time in half than to completely eliminate it.
• When attending a holiday function, try to eat ahead of time to lessen your hunger. If the party is in the evening, eat breakfast, lunch and a snack before hand (just as you would on any other day). Since you have eaten meals earlier in the day, you’ll be less tempted to go overboard and eat everything in sight. However, if you instead starve all day long attempting to “save up” all your calories for the party, you will be so famished by the time it begins that it will be difficult not to overeat.
• Schedule your workouts. Mark them on the calendar and set-aside time to complete them. Consider them as important as any other appointment or event you have marked on your calendar.
• At holiday dinners, skip the gravy, dressings, and high-calorie condiments.
• On days that you really lack motivation or simply do not have time for your complete exercise routine, commit to do just 10 minutes of exercise. You’ll probably end up doing more than that once you get started. Even if you only end up completing 10 minutes, that is still a lot better than zero minutes.
• When at a party, scout out healthy food options rather than doing a grab and run on all the unhealthy selections. For example, vegetable sticks (without dip), fruit pieces, plain chicken pieces, etc. Then move on to some of the less healthy (but yummy) offerings. You will be less likely to overindulge on these foods if you have already filled-up on some of the healthier items. Yet, you will not feel deprived or unsatisfied.
• Exercise at home. You’ll be more inclined to follow-through on your exercise commitment if you don’t have to drive somewhere to do your workout. Plus, you won’t waste any time on driving, parking, the locker room or waiting to use equipment. Working out at home requires very little equipment (it even can be equipment-free) and is quite inexpensive.
• Avoid wasting calories on alcoholic beverages. The average alcoholic drink contains 150-200 calories per glass. Indulge in just 2-3 drinks and you’ve drunk the equivalent calories of an entire meal. If you partake in these beverages, choose wisely. For example, instead of having a full glass of wine, try mixing half a glass of wine with sparkling water or with a diet soda. This will help cut your calories in half.
• When running errands or shopping, be sure to pack some healthy snacks to have on-hand. Then after you work-up a big appetite, you won’t be tempted to grab something at the mall food court or the fast food restaurant on the way home.
• Don’t linger at the buffet or in the kitchen. If you loiter in close proximity to all the guilty temptations, you’ll struggle to keep from unconsciously shoveling food into your mouth.
• Focus on socializing. Remember one of the great things about the holidays is spending time with friends and family. During get-togethers spend the majority of time sharing conversation instead of sharing desserts.
Hopefully these tips will help you find a balance between staying fit and also enjoying the fun of the season. Remember, moderation is the key.