Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. It seems that the day after Halloween, Christmas explodes all over us. It's time to start thinking about holiday parties, gifts and celebrations. It's a wonderful time to spend with family and friends and to show our love & gratitude. It's also the time of the year that most people shift their focus away from health and fitness with a self-promise to start over again in January.
Just when you finish up the last piece of the leftover Halloween candy, the cookies show up daily at the office, the neighbors send edible gifts, the holiday party buffet is abundant with dedicant treats and the drinks are overflowing. It's hard to avoid this time of year.
You don't have to accept holiday weight gain. You don't have to start over in January. You can start right now. Being mindful over the holidays can help you maintain and not gain (and even lose).
"But Lea," you scream. "Don't you know how crazy my life is? I don't have time for health and fitness right now. I promise to focus on it more in January when things calm down."
Life rarely ever calms down. The beauty of healthy habits is that when you cultivate them throughout the year, you're already on healthy auto-pilot when life gets crazy. It is not about changing your whole life to live healthier, it's about learning to live healthier inside your crazy, busy life. If you only practice healthy habits when life is calm, you'll only learn to do healthy habits when life is calm. Get it? You can be healthy and crazy busy.
5 STRATEGIES TO MAINTAIN & NOT GAIN OVER THE HOLIDAYS
THE 80/20 RULE
It's not the Thanksgiving dinner or the holiday parties that are the problem. It's the choices we make the other 300 days a year. Special occasions are just that, special. If you practice daily healthy habits then what you do on special occasions doesn't matter. If you've made good choices all week then you can go ahead and have the pumpkin pie, no guilt.
A good rule of thumb is to eat 80% of your calories for the week from whole foods from nature, then the other 20% can be for the special occasions, Grandma's favorite pie and any other treats that you savor and enjoy.
Food is fuel, yes, but food is also how we bond with other humans. Bonding with people we love is part of living a healthy lifestyle. There's a balance.
The biggest mistake a person can make over the holidays is to decide that they aren't going to think about health and fitness at all. While there is definitely room for dedicant meals and holiday treats it is shouldn't be an excuse to overindulge.
One strategy you can try is to eat slowly. Take your time and enjoy that indulgence. You could scarf down a 1/2 dozen cookies because they are in front of you or you could savor a cookie or two by eating them slowly and mindfully. Chew your food. Think about the texture, the taste. Take a drink between bites. Eating slowly can help you control your calorie intake and you may even find you enjoy it more when you slow down to savor it.
Mindless eating can lead to holiday weight gain, mindful eating can help keep it under control.
Make it a family affair. Take a daily family walk. Challenge your friends to walk one mile a day every day from Thanksgiving until the new year. Sign up for a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell 5K. Do pushups against the counter when you're waiting for the microwave to ding. Do lunges as you vacuum. Park farther away in the parking lot when you go grocery shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner. Take 10 minutes to do a daily body weight routine, do it twice in the day. Structured exercise is great when you can do it, but every little action counts.
It's not an all-or-nothing choice. If you don't have time for an hour long exercise session today, then what do you have time for? Great. Then do that. Something is always better than nothing.
The habit of daily movement goes a long way in maintaining your weight.
Try making healthy substitutions in some of your holiday dishes, I bet your family won't even notice. If you're going to a holiday party be the person that shows up with the healthy dish, that way you'll know there will be at least one healthy option there. Volunteer to bring a chopped veggie tray, a fruit salad or a healthy casserole. A quick search on Pinterest for healthy holiday substitutions returned hundreds of delicious options.
PRIORITIZE PROTEIN & VEGETABLES
Never show up hungry to a dinner or party. When you build your plate at the buffet or the dinner table, prioritize protein and vegetables first. Turkey is a great source of protein. Fill your plate up with mostly protein and veggies, then allow smaller portions of whatever is left. Fill up on the healthiest foods first, eat slowly, then if you still have room, have a few bites to try the other dishes.
In the end I think we should all enjoy everything that the holidays have to offer: family, friends, food and fun. We can be mindful and have the best of both worlds. Then when January rolls around and everyone is just starting to make their new year resolutions, we'll already be well on our way to reaching all of our health and fitness goals.
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