By definition, holiday means a time of festivity and recreation. It’s a time of year to enjoy gatherings with family and friends and to celebrate the meaning behind religious or spiritual events.
While caught up in the spirit of the holiday season we may eat and drink more than normal. After all, many foods are made only once a year (and thus should be enjoyed)! Packed shopping and party schedules often leave us crunched for time to work out.
As a result, many people may find themselves carrying a few extra pounds into the New Year. Holiday weight gain isn’t inevitable. You don’t have to throw in the towel on your health goals until January. Here are some strategies to help you enjoy the holidays while also maintaining your health.
Check in on your Holiday Mindset
For those focused on weight loss, holiday parties may be a dreaded event designed to test willpower. Either you’ll stoically resist the dessert tray or give in and blow your diet. This frame of mind sets a negative tone to the event. Try shifting your focus away from food; instead set an intention to make the evening about catching up with friends, family and colleagues.
Set Realistic Expectations about Food Choices and Weight
If you’ve been working on weight loss and are facing a packed schedule of get-togethers, consider shifting your goal to weight maintenance. If you’ve normally gained weight during holidays past, maintaining your weight will be a success!
Give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite holiday foods. All foods can fit into a balanced eating plan. The key is to enjoy them in moderation versus with abandon.
I frequently tell clients they can enjoy richer foods on occasion, whether it is while eating out or during a celebration, but to listen carefully to their body about how much they need. In other words, honor your fullness cues.
Rigid rules and labeling certain foods “good” or “bad,” even outside of the holiday season, usually backfires. This all-or-nothing mindset can lead people to overeat or give up on their efforts to eat healthy once they’ve eaten something considered off limits.
If you do overeat at a meal or event, move on and strive for balance at your next meal. One day of over-indulging cannot dramatically change your body or health in the long run. Try to avoid thinking about a day as either all good or all bad with regards to food.
As with holiday foods, enjoy alcohol and other holiday beverages in moderation. Holiday cocktails are a source of hidden calories that don’t fill you up like food, so it’s easy to overdo. One to two drinks per day is considered moderation. If you are going to several events, pick and choose which you will drink at and have an alternative plan for the others.
Maintain a Regular Eating Schedule
Skipping meals will lead to increased cravings for carbohydrates and make you more likely to reach for the office goody tray. Nourishing your body regularly will also help you better manage stress during this time of year.
Don’t Forget about Exercise
Competing priorities or travel during the holidays can make it difficult to stick with your exercise routine. Prioritizing and scheduling time for self-care and exercise is ideal.
However, when you’re strapped for time, flexibility is key.
Consider adjusting your workout schedule and expectations. If you usually go to the gym, try a workout routine at home and save the commute time. If you miss an exercise session, try to increase your daily non-exercise activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Get up from the chair at work more often. Activity trackers and pedometers can be helpful in monitoring how many steps you are getting per day.
Be open to a 5 to 10 min workout if that’s all you can squeeze in. You may be thinking, “What’s the point? Five to ten minutes isn’t enough to help with weight management.”
However, exercise has more benefits to our well-being than simply serving as a strategy for weight control. A few minutes of movement can contribute to your total daily activity and can help you clear your mind and manage stress.
Example 5-10 minute workouts:
- Walk or jog around the block, weather permitting
- Stretch tight muscles
- (For you yoga enthusiasts), do a few sun salutations
- March in place for one minute to warm up, do 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 lunges (each leg), Plank for 30 – 60 seconds. Cool down with a quick stretch for your legs and chest.
Get your ZZZ’s
Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep at night. Studies have shown that getting less than six hours of sleep contributes to poor food choices and skipping exercise due to reduced energy and motivation.
About the Author:
Jocelyn Mathern is a NASM certified personal trainer who trains clients for Happy Human. She is also a registered dietitian.