Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a 5-week holiday celebration that often spells doom for your health and fitness plan unless we flip our mindset. Along with those celebrations will come headlines highlighting the holiday weight gain that thousands of people experience every year.
My advice is to ignore them. Don’t think about weight gain this holiday season – think about celebrating with friends at family while simultaneously enjoying the sensation of living in a body that’s healthy.
Here are 10 tips to flip your holiday health strategy and make it easier to make the right choices, even when a lot of people around you aren’t.
Have a Healthy Holiday Mindset
What you do on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, or on any other major holiday isn’t your biggest concern. I believe you should eat 80% of the time spot on. It’s all the other days in between that will determine if your holidays are healthful.
You may encounter holiday treats at random at work or at home from a kind neighbor bringing you a home-baked gift. These situations are more frequent than a binge on a holiday.
Overeating on a holiday isn’t going to get you out of shape. Just like doing things right one day isn’t going to get you in shape. All the little things you do on a daily basis determine if you are moving toward fitness or away from it.
Commit to Eating Your Top 2-3 Favorite Holiday Treats
We’ve all got our favorites. List them, and stick to them so you can enjoy your favorites without consuming any “accidental” junk food you weren’t planning on. Mine are Italian wedding cookies and shortbread cookies. I will eat them this holiday. This is where my 20% comes in. I will eat well at least 80% of the time.
Let Go of Perfect
We don’t expect it in other areas of life – school, work or with our family members. So why do we expect “perfect” when we think about our fitness routines? You may miss a workout. In fact, everyone will at some point. It’s not the end of the world. Really. Just make sure you get the next one done.
Forget Your Workout Routine; Just Challenge Yourself
You may not have time for your full routine, so don’t do it! Exert yourself for 10 minutes if that’s all you have. Your body responds to the challenge of exercise, not to the amount of time you spend exercising.
Focus on What You CAN Do
Every year, I hear an endless chorus of, “I’ve just been so busy with the holidays and family visits, that I couldn’t work out.” This year, focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. Look for solutions instead of repeatedly dwelling on the problems and obstacles.
Enjoy Parties for Friendships and Fun, Not the Food
I hope you answer was to see friends. Every year, we go to several parties sometimes three each weekend leading up to Christmas.
Here are a few tips to surviving without weight gain.
- Focus on great conversation with folks that you might not have seen for a long time. Move around the room and visit!
- The party is not about the food! Don’t go to the party famished. Fill your wine glass up with water in-between refills.
- Load your plate with salad and vegetables, eat that then go back for main dish.
Pick Your Top 5 Favorite Exercises
Write down your five favorite exercises – I’m sure squats will be on everyone’s list this year. And when you need a blast of movement, do all of them for 30 seconds each. It will be easier if they are bodyweight exercises, but you can use anything as long as they are your favorites.
Get the Family Moving
Family gatherings usually involve too much food and too much sitting around. Get everyone outside any way you can. Reinvent old traditions in movement-based activities.
We play touch football, before dinner. We walk after dinner and before desert. Anyone who stays at home has cleanup duty. I remember my Dad jokingly asking, “If I have a second piece of pie, are we going to walk again?”
Don’t Sugar Your Veggies
I used to hate sweet potatoes. A few years ago, I realized this was due in large part to when I was growing up they were always served with brown sugar and marshmallows. Awful.
Let there be no glazing of carrots this year. Sugar has no place on vegetables. There will be enough sugar in your favorite dessert. Glazing is for doughnuts. This year, find ways to make side dishes that are both delicious and nutritious.
Holidays Come Around Every Year
Your favorite holiday comes on the same day each year (for the most part). No surprises here. So there’s no reason why you can’t plan for them.
Unknown interruptions to your fitness program, such as car trouble or sick children, can’t always be avoided, but when celebrations come every year, there are no excuses.
Use your smarts, creativity, and these tips to come up with a plan for celebrating that will allow you to enjoy the festivities without wrecking your fitness plan in the process. Keep at it, and you’ll get a little better each year!