Whenever the holidays roll around, I get anxious as excessive calories lurk behind every corner. Baked goodies, holiday parties and candy bowls garnish the days between November 25th and January 2nd making this season a particularly difficult time to avoid packing on the pounds. Did you know the average weight gain (for North Americans) between Thanksgiving and New Years is anywhere between one and seven pounds? Yikes! Needless to say, I’ve managed to survive many seasons of culinary indulgence by following the tips listed below in addition to an extra serving of self-control. And I haven’t popped a button on my skinny jeans yet! Here’s what you need to know to survive the holiday consumption marathon:
Schedule your workouts. I know it seems obvious, but many of us muddle our fitness schedules during the winter months. Cold air and an erratic social calendar filled with holiday festivities can really throw off your exercise regime. Nevertheless, this is probably the most important time of year tosweat it out! Make time to work out. Schedule it into your calendar. I cannot stress this enough: Make fitness a priority. Not only will working out help you de-stress, it will also keep your metabolism revved up and ready to handle all of your holiday feasting. To offset increased caloric intake, tack on an extra 10 minutes of cardio to your workout sessions. I also try to walk after big meals like Thanksgiving dinner—it’s amazing what a lap around the neighborhood can do for your digestion and legs!
Start counting. While I’d like to think holiday treats are magically sprinkled with non-fattening fairy dust, the calories are unfortunately still there. Darn it! Since it’s easy to forget of what you’ve eaten, keep track by adding calories on the calculator of your phone or with one of the many calorie-tracking apps. I’ve never been a fan of counting calories, but it really helps keep holiday binging in perspective. When appetizers are in the mix, keep the leftover toothpicks in your hand or on your plate so you have a better idea of how many you have eaten. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean the calories are smaller too! The bottom line: Be aware of how much you are putting in your mouth.
Don’t go hungry. Hunger leads us to do crazy things: Binge on chocolate-covered gummy bears, down a 700-calorie soft pretzel as a snack or absentmindedly eat three cookies instead of one. Don’t let yourself become ravenous, ladies! When you go gift shopping, pack a healthy snack such as trail mix or a granola bar to stave off mid-day hunger. We all know the food court isn’t going to do your waistline any favors. Additionally don’t show uphungry either. If you’re going to a holiday fete, have a healthy snack before heading out the door to avoid gorging on the cookie platter upon your arrival.
Drink wisely. The holidays bring out all the good stuff that’s not-so-good for your figure such as hot cocoa, whipped cream, specialty cocktails, Baileys Irish Cream coffee (yum) and open bars (dangerous). While wining and dining is fun, flex your self-control by either limiting yourself or making tradeoffs. If you’re going to have that delicious cup of hot chocolate, skip the peppermint bark—and voila, you have traded off. As for alcoholic libations, treat yourself to one specialty drink. Instead of refilling with a second, stick to low calorie drinks such as vodka-water with lime for the remainder of the night. In between drinks, have a glass of water. Drinking too much can lead to eating too much. Keep you inhibitions in check by pacing yourself. Finally, whether you’re sipping on the sweet side or treating yourself to a cocktail, it’s especially important to stay hydrated with water. People who drink more water, consume less food, which means less calories. Before you eat anything, have one tall glass of water. I promise, this is one of my favorite tricks.
Mind your PC. No, I don’t mean Paper Crown (although you should check out the holiday collection). I’m talking about portion control. When you pile your plate at the buffet, remember where all that food is going. It’s essential for energy, but what about the overflow? That goes straight to your hips and thighs. Be vigilant to only eat when you are actually hungry. If you’re unsure, have a glass of water and see how you feel after. Ideally, you should aim to fill 40% of your plate with complex carbs such as vegetables or fruits. The other 40% should be a lean protein (that’s turkey—without the skin). And the remaining 20% of your plate may be dedicated to fats like dessert, butter or oils. (Remember to eat slowly and chew.) Seconds are very tempting this time of year. Before heading back for round two, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. More often than not, you will realize you’re already full. Instead of another helping, save room for dessert! If you’re especially concerned about gaining weight, use a smaller plate to keep holiday gloat at bay.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful! At the end of the day it is all about willpower. According to Psychology Today, “willpower is like a muscle.” Working it regularly can strengthen it. By flexing your willpower you will increase your ability to control yourself. But, like a muscle, willpower can also get fatigued! This is the perfect excuse to indulge from time to time. After all,it is the holiday season so enjoy yourself!
Fitness, health, and happiness— it’s a winning combination for a full, rich life. However, the direction we go comes at the expense of our daily choices— the ones that impact our behaviors, moods, and even our appearance over time. Before I was writing about this stuff and helping others reach their personal fitness goals, I was on my own journey. The journey was rough though, mainly because I had to do the research myself and seek out fitness professionals to get the information I wanted. I made many mistakes. For some, exercise seems cumbersome, boring, and even expensive. I was one of those people.
I finally broke through, and once I figured out that my health and fitness should complement my life as opposed to ruling it, everything fell into place. Once I shifted my focus to the long-term as opposed to the short, everything became easier. Neither our diets, nor our training schedules are ever perfect.
If you can relate, I want to share some tips from others below on making health and fitness complement your life as opposed to ruling it.
First we have Jen Sinkler, senior fitness editor of Experience Life magazine based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is RKC and CrossFit L-1 Certified, and a former U.S. national women’s team rugby athlete.
With such a busy schedule, how do you continue training and healthy eating without experiencing burnout?
“Perspective, almost 100 percent. I used to try to separate ‘work’ from ‘life.’ That did not go particularly well for me, however. Although I spent plenty of time assigning, editing, reading and writing fitness stories, I spent too little time working out myself. So, a few years back, I overhauled myperspective of my job and made the decision that a major part of it was going to be firsthand fitness exploration of what’s going on out there. Burnout isn’t an issue, because I’m always trying something new.”
“As for dining on the go, as long as I stick to bun-less burgers and salads instead of fries at least most of the time, I don’t see much fallout. I tend to keep the rules pretty simple, and I find it easy to avoid grains and dairy and not feel deprived in the least.”
How do your healthy habits improve your life outside of fitness?
“Good health and fitness means I don’t get sick. It means I wake up feeling great, it means my energy is boundless and it means I’m aging backward. As long as I don’t trade on or abuse this too often, it remains true and gives me an immense amount of freedom.”
What are your tips for those who want to get similar results?
“I believe so much of the fitness factor is mindset. If you don’t enjoy the type of training you do, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sustain it for the long term. Fitness and nutrition have a lot of ‘right’ answers; the trick is experimenting long enough to find what’s right for you.”
Next we have Leo Babauta, a simplicity blogger, best-selling author, and creator of the popular blog ZenHabits. Leo is a former journalist (almost 20 years), a husband, and father of six children.
With such a busy schedule, how does one continue their training and healthy eating without experiencing burnout?
“I start by simplifying my schedule— reducing commitments so I have time for things that are important to me, like creating, exercise, and family. I also see exercise and good diet as the things that keep me from burning out— they’re necessary for balance, and if I didn’t do them, I wouldn’t have the energy release and relaxation I need to keep doing the other things I love. So it’s one of the few things that mustbe scheduled.”
How have your healthy habits improved other areas of your life (relationships, productivity, etc.)?
“It’s really profound how much health and fitness can change everything. I feel better, more energized, and more motivated in everything I do. I work better and create better. I play with my kids and run around and climb with them. I’m happier, which makes every interaction and relationship better. I just love life more.”
What are your tips for those who want to fitness to complement their life?
“Start small. You might see the fittest people committing hours to exercise, but they’re like the black belts. All you need to do is start. Commit to doing five minutes of an activity you enjoy, every day, and commit to changing one thing about what you eat— replace a junk food with something healthy you enjoy. You can find time for five minutes. Slowly, you’ll see yourself improve, and you’ll want to make more room for fitness.”
And finally, we have Leigh Peele, a certified trainer, writer, and fitness consultant from North Carolina. She is a vegetarian for ethical reasons, lifts heavy, and prefers dancing over traditional cardio workouts.
With your busy schedule, how do you train and stick to a healthy diet without experiencing burnout?
“This might come across as a cop-out answer, but it just isn’t an option. It isn’t something I feel I have to do. I want to do it and it is crucial to who I am as a person.”
“I have a very healthy relationship with diet and exercise. I know how to manipulate body composition with my eyes closed. I don’t exercise or eat healthy out of fear. I do so because it is a part of who I am. I like being strong.”
How have your healthy habits improved your life outside of fitness?
“I believe deeply in cause and effect. I believe that one motion leads to another and another. The chain reaction of making your body and health a top priority trickles down to everything. It isn’t about being the hottest or the strongest. Someone is always more attractive than you, and being a 5′ 4 ½” female, I think it is safe to say someone is always going to be stronger. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t surpass the average with my intent. My intent is to be the strongest I can be, the smartest I can be, and as successful as I can be. It isn’t about other people; it is about me.”
“I don’t believe in being average or letting your life pass you by, and that shows in the gym. That shows on your plate. It shows in how you treat people. It all leads to the other.”
What are your tips for those who want to fitness to complement their life?
“Don’t cheat your life. If you go into a situation saying to yourself, ‘What is the least I can do to actually make a change in my life?’ you aren’t going to change. You might as well go back to the drawing board… This isn’t about becoming obsessive and overtaking your life with diet and training, but it is about becoming obsessive with making your life something worth living.’
“Care enough to do something, anything to start taking better care of yourself. Then, once you make that an important part of your life, you can find the method and philosophy that works for you.”
Accept your body.
Sure, there are things you can change, but, for the most part, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. As I said above, you are who you are. You should love yourself no matter what shape or size you are in. You are awesome. You are beautiful. You are YOU. Don’t ever forget that!
Be who you are.
Don’t forget that your body is not YOU. You are not your body. The essence of you comes from within — from your mind, your personality, your heart. I often find it hard to remember that I am not what I look like, but, when I do recall this, I know that there is so much more to me than appearance.
Cultivate a health environment.
Put yourself in a healthier place. Keeping fresh fruits and veggies around, eating healthy, and exercising are great ways to love your body (and yourself!). And don’t forget about your mental health. Consider meditation to get your mind in a calmer, happier place.
Dive into self love.
Okay, so you’re having trouble loving yourself. You look in the mirror and think, “YUCK!” Try looking into self-help books or blogs that encourage positive thinking about life and, more specifically, about body image. Sometimes reading up on loving yourself can really help you put it into action.
Embrace your abilities.
Think about what you do well. Your body is only a part of who you are. You might be a great writer, a great athlete, an amazing parent. No matter what you are, there is more to you than your appearance. Embrace what you’re good at and spend more time indulging in these activities.
Forget about comparisons.
Stop comparing yourself to others. No matter what you do, you probably will not ever look like Heidi Klum or Brad Pitt. But that’s okay! You are beautiful in your own way and you will always and forever be you. Accept yourself, love yourself, and stop looking to others to see what you “should” look like.
I don’t know about you, but when I get in a funk thinking about the way I look or how much weight I’ve gained, I don’t want to do anything. I just want to lay around, watching E!, thinking about how pathetic it is that I’ve resorted to watching E! Break the cycle. Get off the couch and use that awesome bod!
Indulge in what you love.
Don’t overdo it, but every so often, let yourself eat or do whatever you wouldn’t normally. I’m sure you’ve read this a million times, but if you completely cut yourself off from something, you’re more likely to go nuts the next time it comes along so let yourself indulge every once and awhile.
Join something fun.
Joining a group (or even starting a blog, which feels like joining something) can really help you with your image of yourself. You meet new people. You try new things. And, bonus!, you can have a lot of fun. Being happy in general can make you happier with how you look so check out some groups you can join.
Keep thinking positively.
Ah, my favorite! Keep thinking positively — no matter what. So you gained 5 pounds. So you got an terrible haircut. So what. Keep thinking positively! No matter how bad you feel about yourself, there is always something good. Focus on the good, the positive, and push the negative from your mind.
Let go of your past.
You were a size two in high school. Sure, that’s super, but you’re not in high school anymore. Remind yourself that this is where you are now. You may have been something else in the past — thinner, prettier, more muscular — but here you are now. In the present. Love who you are right now.
You are the best motivation tool you have. Other people might encourage you, but only YOU can really motivate yourself. Do whatever you have to to remind yourself how great you are. Read books. Get off the couch. Talk to friends. Do whatever you have to to motivate your inner desire for self love.
Never say never.
You’re looking in the mirror moaning, “I will never lose this weight.” You know what? You’re right. With that attitude, you won’t make any changes at all. You’ll settle, thinking there’s no hope, and you’ll be unhappy. If you believe you can change something, you can. Never say never.
Open up to new ideas.
Try something different. If you’re not in love with your look, try something new. New clothes. New makeup. New workout routine. Experimenting with new things isn’t going to solve your body image issues (that comes from within), but you can give yourself a little boost by trying out something new.
Put on your best outfit.
For those of you who read “rainy days and mondays…” you know that sometimes just a change of clothes can change your perspective. Don’t stay in sweatpants all day. Don’t settle for average or blah or you will feel average and blah. Dress up. Put in the effort and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.
Question your perception.
You look in the mirror. You see ugly, fat, tired. But is that what’s really there? As I talked about in my last post, your mind can really distort your thoughts. Sometimes what we see isn’t what’s really there. Keep the positive thoughts in the forefront. Avoid looking for the bad and try to keep a positive outlook.
Remember what you love.
You hate your stomach, but your love your eyes. You hate your arms, but you love your thighs. Focus on the good parts of you. We often spend so much time obsessing about what we don’t like about ourselves that we forget to spend time thinking about what we do love. Make a list of your favorite parts of you.
You are your worst critic. You are judging yourself much, much more harshly than anyone around you is. Stop it. Stop it right now. There is absolutely no good reason to critique yourself in a harsh or demeaning manner. Love yourself and the world will love you too.
Take time for you.
Your body is the only one you have. Take time to pamper yourself. Do whatever you have to do to get some quality alone time. Take a bath. Take a walk. Take a vacation. Whatever you take, take some time to be alone with yourself, to rejuvenate your body (and your mind).
Understand your needs.
What do you really need? What makes your body happy? When you exercise and eat healthy foods, does your body feel better? When you get plenty of rest, do you wake up refreshed? Think about what your body asks for and give it what it needs. The better your body feels, the better you will feel about it.
Vacate your mind.
As Chania Girl mentioned in the comments section of “13 ways you distort your thoughts,” sometimes we become prisoners in our own minds. Sometimes we obsess about our looks and our appearance to the point that it’s unhealthy. If you’re doing this, get out. Get out of your mind and free yourself.
Watch what you say.
Are you always saying to your friends, “Ugh, I’m a fatass” or “This make me look fat”? If so, think about what you’re saying. The more negative things you say about yourself, the more you will start to really believe what you’re saying (and others might too). Try, just once, saying, “Wow, I look great!”
X-ray your desires.
Think about — I mean, really think about — why you want that piece of chocolate cake or that new handbag. Will external things make you feel better? You bet! But the feel-good feelings are only temporary. Lasting happiness comes from within so give some thought to what you really want.
Yank yourself out of your routine.
Routines can be deadly. They set us in patterns that feel old and tired, that make us feel as if we are old and tired. Some routines are good and necessary, but what routines do you have in your life that aren’t good? What can you do to change them, to make them more positive experiences?
Zap any negative thoughts.
Last but certainly not least! Getting rid of negative thoughts about yourself and your body is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Whatever you need to do to do this, do it. Read books. Go on a retreat. Get rid of negative people in your life. Whatever you do, be positive about you!
Many people who feel it’s time to get healthier want to get fit fast. They don’t want it to take a long time for their sacrifices and hard work to start showing itself off to themselves and others.
A new level of fitness will depend on how out of shape you are currently and how self disciplined you are as to how quickly these changes will happen. Assess yourself and your lifestyle realistically. It is obviously going to take longer if you are morbidly obese and have terrible eating habits. If this is your situation, please don’t expect to get fit in a month.
For those of you who are only a few pounds overweight, and are truly motivated to get in better shape, it is obviously very possible for you to do this much faster than someone who has 50+pounds to lose. The extra weight can be conquered with a healthy eating plan, cardio workouts and regular resistance training, which helps grow and define muscles.
This calls for dedication and commitment to whatever exercise program and eating plan you design for yourself. A good plan that is tailored to your specific needs can start to show some results in as little as 30 days. While you may not get fit overnight, you will see something positive for your efforts.
The positive results you desire won’t happen if you don’t fully commit to sticking to your program. If you aren’t used to getting a lot of physical exercise, you may need to start out with a regular walking plan, either outdoors or on a treadmill. Set reachable goals and increase them steadily.
Do something that you enjoy as part of your workout, whether that is playing tennis, dancing or swimming. Something fun will add to your motivation in keeping to your workout, and it may help you to get fit faster. Look for a walking partner, someone you can meet 5-6 days a week at the same time each day. You won’t want to let the other down, so you will be extra committed to your workout.
While your new exercise routine will help you get fit, making healthy changes to your diet will speed up the process. You can still enjoy foods that you love (for now), but start eating those in moderate to smaller portions than you are used to. Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals, and eat them for a healthy snack. Drink plenty of water each day. This flushes impurities out of your system, and keeps you from retaining excess fluids.
If it’s really important to you that you get fit fast, sticking to the plan you have chosen for yourself will make it happen. It might not happen as fast as you like, but you must remember that you didn’t get out of shape over night, and you will not get fit over night. It takes work and dedication, but the new choices that are made with every step create new habits that insure you stay fit forever.