It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holiday season. With shopping sprees, dinner parties, sparkling lights, and indulgent food, you may suddenly find that your exercise program and healthy eating gets placed on the back burner.
Don’t get me wrong: the holiday season is all about celebrating while being together with friends and family, and indulging…. within moderation of course. Unfortunately, those excess pounds that we quickly put on during the holiday season don’t automatically disappear while we pack up the Christmas decorations in January. In fact, most Americans never lose the weight that they gain during the winter months. String that cycle together for a few years and you could find yourself 20-40lbs heavier before you know it.
But you don’t have to fall into this trap. With some careful planning and knowledge, it is possible to enjoy the holidays and maintain your fitness and if done correctly, you won’t have to spend all of next year trying to undo the damage you just did. To help you with this, I’ve outlined a few tips below to make preventing holiday weight gain much easier.
- Plan Time for Exercise.
Exercise helps to relieve stress from the holidays and if done correctly, can prevent weight gain. Seeing as the average person gains 4-10lbs during the holiday season, taking time out for exercise is pretty important. I notice that most people, myself included, are more consistent when they actually schedule their exercise time into their day/calendar. For instance, I always try to squeeze in a workout from 2-4pm every day. Having that framework and habit built into my day makes it much easier for me to schedule around it. A mistake I commonly see people make is thinking that every workout needs to be perfect or if you only have a limited amount of time, you should just skip your workout all together. Don’t fall into this trap. Any exercise is better than no exercise at all. Even if you only have 10-15 mins during your lunch break, take that time to go for a brisk walk outside. You’ll burn calories, clear your mind and feel more energized when you come back to your desk. Trust me.
- Eat Until You Are Satisfied, Not Stuffed.
Many of us are guilty of quickly shoveling in all of the delicious food during Thanksgiving. Keep in mind, it takes 10-20 minutes for the satiety signals to reach the brain, alerting us that our stomach is full and we should stop eating. If you quickly rush through all of the food on your plate, you may accidentally overeat before you realize it. Portion control is definitely key during the holidays. I’ve always found that when I use smaller plates, I automatically eat less. Studies have confirmed that smaller plates can help trick your brain into thinking that you are eating more. You naturally can’t put as much food on your plate and the break between courses gives your brain enough time to realize that you’ve had enough to eat.
- Limit Leftovers
One “cheat” meal isn’t going to destroy your fitness results, but 7 days’ worth of unhealthy leftover meals can. If you’re anything like my family, then you always have a ton of leftovers after a holiday meal. Consider making less food this year, or use a strategy that we use in my house, send guests home with most of the high-calorie leftovers and keep a little for yourself. This way, you can still enjoy another meal or two, but the leftovers won’t derail your eating habits for a whole week. When guests leave, we use our meal prepping skills to portion out the remaining food into separate containers, which drastically helps to decrease our chances of overeating. Remember, one bad meal is not the end of the world. The holidays are all about enjoying time with family and friends. That being said, using this strategy can help you return to your normal eating habits much faster.
- Create New Traditions
If you become stressed out during the holiday season, why not try something different this year? Instead of cooking a huge meal on your own, make it a potluck. Last year, we were in charge of a few of the side dishes, my cousins made the turkey, and my aunt and uncle brought dessert. Do you tend to overeat during your Thanksgiving holiday meal? Start a new tradition of going for a walk around the neighborhood as a family after everyone is done eating. Our family tradition involves tossing around a football after our Thanksgiving meal. It certainly helps us to burn off some of those delicious calories we just took in, eat less during the meal because we know we are going to run around afterwards, and enjoy time spent with our family. Taking the focus off of food and placing into new traditions will help you eat less, enjoy the holidays, and spend quality time with family and friends.
- Work Towards a Goal
Setting a specific, tangible goal to accomplish during the holiday season is a great way to stay consistent with your exercise plan and prevent holiday weight. There are 37 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which is the perfect amount of time to master a yoga headstand, work up to a 3-minute plank hold, learn to do a pistol squat, or whatever other fitness goal tickles your fancy. You can also find an equally matched partner to compete with. A new study published in the journal of Preventative Medicine Reports found that competition is the best motivation to workout. A little friendly competition during the holiday season with a friend or relative will help you stay on track towards your fitness goals.
Yours in health,