Somehow, in some way, 2011 is quickly coming to a close. I’m not quite sure exactly how that’s happened but the year has simply flown by and all of a sudden I’m being bombarded with Christmas music and decorations in every store and figuring out logistics for visiting both mine and my fiancé’s family between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. We’re both also trying to make sure we stay in great shape in preparation for our wedding next year and for pretty much everyone, the holiday season is a nightmare when it comes to trying to stay on track, eat right and finding the time to exercise.
Many people just give up during this time, letting themselves eat whatever they want and then vow to get back on it come January. Others stress themselves so badly that they end up loathing the season. Neither are very good options in my book!
First, there’s never a good reason to just throw your goals out the window for a month. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you should give yourself license to gorge and swear off exercise as, come January you’ll end up feeling horrible about it all. On the other hand, it is the holiday season and thinking that you’ll never have a bit more sugar or a few heavier meals is just not realistic.
So what are we supposed to do?! With all of the increased social activities, how are we supposed to fit in our exercise? How do we stay away from all of those amazing meals and sweets?
Well, here are a few ways you can enjoy your holidays without going crazy (and maybe even losing a pound or two):
- Don’t skimp on exercise! I know you’re busier than usual but now is the time to plan how you’re going to continue to get some exercise in. Not only will this help you not to gain some unwanted poundage but it’ll make you feel better about yourself and more in control. It’s also a well known stress reliever so it will help you to handle any stressful family situations! Schedule your workouts into your day and make them non-negotiable. Wake up 1/2 hour to an hour earlier if you have to, just get it in! Also think about planning some active activities with your family so that everyone is active and you can make some traditions that don’t revolve around food. This also helps to build in some extra activity to offset the increase in food you’ll inevitably eat throughout the month.
- Only indulge in those food items that you can’t get any other time of the year. This is my go-to advice and can work really well. If you find yourself staring at a table with 50 different desserts, quickly assess which items you can eat at any time. Cheesecake? You can buy it or make it any time. Tarts? Ditto. Cookies? Same goes! But if it’s your Aunt Millie’s special Christmas log go right on ahead! This is one item you only get one chance every year to have so cut yourself a SMALL slice and, instead of scarfing it down, take your time eating it. Really appreciate how awesome it is, let it sit in your mouth and melt over your tongue. Savour it. Choose wisely and eat slowly!
- Stay away from the kitchen! I don’t know about your family but my family centres our holidays around the kitchen (that’s where the food is, duh!) This year? Hang out the furthest away from the kitchen as possible and if there are treats on the coffee tables and end tables, position yourself as furthest away as possible. This will help to curb some mindless snacking. When in doubt, make sure you are more than an arms length away from food!
- Back off the booze! If you’re heading to a shindig and you plan to drink, try the “one-on-one-off” technique. Sandwich your drinks with a glass of water. Better yet, start off with water because then you’ll be more likely to stay with water than the booze throughout the rest of the evening. The more water you’ll drink the better your body will flush out the booze and it’ll remind you to stay away from the alcohol in the first place.
- Learn to say no! Don’t let people shove food down your throat! I know people are always dying to get you to try someone’s homemade food but put your foot down! Thank them for thinking of you but tell them that you’re not hungry and that you’ll probably have something a little later in the evening. It’s okay to say no even if they keep pestering you, trust me, they’ll stop after awhile!
- Stop, think, then eat. I advise you do this every time you eat but none more so than during the holidays. When you find yourself at the food table do not just grab stuff! Stop yourself, think about what it is that you’re going to eat (and how much) and only then grab it. Doing this will help curb your temptation to overeat or grab food that’s not the healthiest for you. Don’t allow yourself to act reflexively, act deliberately!
- Decline social invitations. I’m not saying to hide yourself in a hole all season but there’s no need to agree to go to every party that you’re invited to. Make a priority list (i.e., your family’s party, work party and the annual party at your BFF’s) to go to, anything else is optional. This will not only help you to not overindulge on the food and drink but will also help your stress levels as you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy the season rather than rushing to and from party after party after party.
- Cut out the annual bake-a-thon. If over indulging during the holidays is really a problem for you then you may think about cutting out your own baking for the season. We all know that, even though we give away most of these treats, a heck of a lot of them stay in the house! If this is hard to do because it’s tradition between you and someone else, talk to them about it, tell them about your goals and work towards finding another tradition that doesn’t have to do with food.
- Take it outdoors! I know it’s cold out but use this time for getting together outside with family and learn something new! Dust off those skates and go to a local skating rink or take some skiing or snowboarding lessons! Create traditions outside of the home to do together that involve getting active!
- Eat before you head out. Never go to a party on an empty stomach! Eat a healthy dinner before you head out that will fill you up so that you won’t be starving and head straight towards the food table!
- Socialize! Engage in conversation with people at the party! The more engaged you are in the conversation the less of a chance you’ll have to eat. Make it a point to talk to some new people or acquaintances that you only sort-of know and ask a lot of open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing, not the booze!
The holidays don’t have to become a big stress ball when you’re trying to stay healthy and/or lose weight. Just be realistic in that you will indulge a bit, keep up with your exercise (remembering to add some more where you can) and remember that the holidays do NOT equal food! The holiday season is about family and friends, so keep the focus on that as your destination, not the food table!
Photo Credit: Rodale