It’s that time of year again – the time of year many of us fear (but also really love). Fresh baked cookies, homemade pies, mountains of mom’s fudge, plates overflowing with fatty foods and smothered with gravy, gallons of hot cocoa by the fire, scores and scores of boxed candy in the office…the Winter holidays are coming! We hit mid-November with the best of intentions but, by the end of December, we’re eating all the foods and hibernating on the couch. Many of us make the mistake of having an all-or-nothing attitude about the holidays and wind up careening off track a few weeks in. I find the key to success during this time of year is to be realistic and prepared. To help keep you from freaking out as you navigate the holidays, here are my tips for getting through the season in a healthy way :
1. Get ahead of the holidays. Now is the time to start (or restart) healthy habits. Commit to eating healthy and an exercise plan in the weeks prior to the big holidays; it will help you to build up some momentum before all the temptations arise. It is much easier to avoid over indulging when you have a pattern of healthy choices on your side.
2. Set yourself up for success. Are you going to a potluck dinner this holiday season? Sign up to bring something healthy, nutritious and delicious. This gives you something to enjoy during the meal that won’t negate all your hard work. You might be surprised to see how many others will enjoy the respite from the heavy, fatty and calorie-laden dishes, too. Going to a party that will be catered? Have a healthy snack prior to attending to curb your appetite and ensure you aren’t ravenous when the plates start coming out.
3. Know what you want most versus what you want now. Holiday cookies, pies, cakes and candies are delicious and tempting. Before indulging, ask yourself what you want more: a treat or to meet your goals. A treat may be pleasurable for the few moments you are eating it, but that might not compare to the lasting pleasure of smashing your goals.
4. Indulge in moderation. You’re going to enjoy a few treats during the holidays. How could you not? You may be spending time with family and loved ones, celebrating the season, and you’re going to find yourself in situations which make it very easy to indulge. That doesn’t mean you have to over-indulge. You can have a small piece of pie, a few bites of dessert, without eating the whole thing. Have a taste, savor it, but know when you’ve had enough and stop. I promise you, you’ll thank yourself later.
5. Keep things in perspective. One meal cannot undo a week’s worth of hard work – don’t let one day of overeating or skipping a workout turn into a weekend, then a week, then a month of overeating and skipping workouts. If you over-indulge at a holiday party, just get back on track the next day (if not the next meal). I guarantee that getting yourself back on track after a bad day is going to be a lot easier than getting back on track after a bad month.
Don’t let holiday indulgences set back your fitness and weight loss progress. Enjoy festivities, in moderation, as they arise but keep to your healthy diet and exercise plans the rest of the week. Make up for missed gym days on weekends or scheduled rest days, follow up a heavy meal with a day of light, healthy eating. Set realistic goals – maintenance during the holiday season is absolutely a realistic goal – and keep things in perspective. Don’t beat yourself up but don’t let yourself off the hook. You have a plan, you have goals, and the holidays are no excuse to cast those aside.