You've been hearing the music and seeing the decorations for weeks now. Perhaps you relish it as the most wonderful time of the year, or maybe, like me, you've been in a state of mild denial since November 1st. Either way, there's no getting around it now; the holiday season is in full swing. With it comes stress, food, demands on your time, food, travel, and more food. Many people abandon their health & fitness goals this time of year, with the promise of getting back on track in January. That isn't how it has to be. Here are a few tips on how you can make it through the next month or so.
Make a New Plan
If your schedule is shrinking and you are finding it difficult to fit your workouts in, it may be time to reevaluate your fitness plan. The important thing is to keep at it, even if it means a temporary change. You've worked hard to establish a set of good habits, and giving up on those will make it more difficult once the tree comes down and the songs on the radio go back to normal. Instead, come up with a reasonable schedule that you know you can maintain. Even if it means working out once or twice less per week, or for 20 minutes rather than 60, it is important to continue with your plan rather than giving up. Make a new schedule to act as a placeholder for the old one, making it easier to ramp things up in the new year.
Allow Yourself Reasonable Indulgence
It is almost impossible to separate holiday celebrations from food and drink. Big meals, parties, desserts, and treats are everywhere. Should you avoid every single bite of holiday food? Should you just not go to your Mother-In-Law's Christmas dinner? That seems a bit drastic to me. You need to be able to enjoy these things, but at the same time, there is a spectrum between not eating at all and going for a third plate of turkey and stuffing. Portion control is your friend here. If you really love the act of going for seconds, just take less the first time through. Try to really commit to actually enjoying these things when you do eat them, since eating mindfully makes meals more pleasurable and less likely to get out of control.
Ditch the Scale
Our weight fluctuates throughout the week, and even through the day, and this can be exaggerated after a big meal or a night of snacks and drinks at the Office Party. Obsessing over the 3-5 pounds you may have gained over the weekend is not a positive use of your time. You know what the results of overeating are, so being upset about them is a waste. Instead, make the best choices you cam, and know that you'll be right back at it once this holiday season is over.
Tune out Negative Voices
This is a time where we see people we may not have seen in a while, so be prepared to have conversations about your commitment to eating right and working out, especially if its a new thing. I've covered this in depth elsewhere, but remember that ultimately the decisions you make are for you, and you don't need to explain yourself to Aunt Tina. The most difficult part of this is the pressure to eat something you may not want to eat. Saying “no thanks” to a homemade treat can feel rude, even if it isn't meant to be that way. As I said above, be mindful of your portions, be fair and reasonable with yourself, and you'll be fine.
Most of all, don't just give up. An effective change to your diet and fitness is really a lifestyle change, so it can't just be put on hold while you celebrate whatever it is you are celebrating. There will always be a reason not to stick with these changes, and birthdays, weddings, vacations, etc all have similar ways of sabotaging our plans. The holidays can be difficult because they're a 6-week marathon of tough choices, but you can do it.
Ryan Casselman is a personal trainer, musician, and the founder of Real Trainers. Stay tuned as he finds out what he's going to write about each week or so!