With the holidays upon us, it’s time to put your health and fitness goals on hold. You’ve got family events and work parties, plus there will be all manner of food gifts, more meals outside the home and plenty of celebrations centered around holiday treats. It’s nearly hopeless to hold on to your current level of fitness, much less to actually make progress toward goals, right?
In the words of our orange president-elect, “Wrong.”
I posit that YES! You can absolutely continue to make progress toward your health and fitness goals AND enjoy the holidays!
If you go in to the season expecting to blow it on your goals, you will. That’s called planned failure. How about opting for planned success this year? I’m sharing a few of my favorite strategies for making it through the season better than come into it!
1. Set a healthful intention! The intention you set ahead of the holiday season has a tremendous impact on your behavior. Draw on the reason behind your health and fitness goals: Are you working to lose weight? Are you trying to eat better in light of recent bloodwork? Are you training for a race or wanting to stay in race-ready shape for the spring? Keep that inspiration at front of mind and move to item #2.
2. Set specific, achievable behaviors in support of your goals. Instead of committing to lose 2 pounds between now and January 1st, how about committing to exercising 4 times per week, eating two vegetables at every dinner Monday through Friday, snacking only on fruit, or making dinner at home 5 nights a week? Then track those behaviors and be accountable to your commitments.
3. Eat your vegetables. When we’re eating indulgently, vegetables are usually the first item to go missing from the plate. At holiday meals and parties, fill at least half your plate with raw, sautéed, roasted and steamed vegetables first (I’m not talking about god-awful casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions, either!). With your plate full of nutritious stuff, there’s still room—just a little less of it—for more indulgent choices.
4. Be a snob. Cheap pastries with red and green sprinkles, flavorless gummy pumpkin pies, waxy chocolates, and all manner of commercially-made candy is showing up in office breakrooms and on our kitchen counters. I encourage you to only indulge in those really special holiday treats made with love, and pass on the packaged and highly processed options. Splurge on really special foods here and there, and savor those bites!
5. Don’t show up hungry. Women’s magazines used to encourage their calorie-counting readers to skip meals during the day and “bank” calories so they could eat whatever they want at the party. We now know that approach backfires: Show up at the party hungry, and you’re much more likely to overdo it at the buffet and the bar. On the other hand, if you make good choices during the day, eating plenty of vegetables and lean protein, your hunger will be more in check, and it’s much easier to make good choices (see #3 and #4).
6. No wallowing allowed. OK, so let’s say you arrive at a party with a good intention but you overdo it on dinner, drinks and dessert. Go immediately to Plan B: Get over it. One meal doesn’t make you healthy, just like one meal can’t give you heart disease or make you fat. It’s about a lifestyle of choices, so get back on track with the next meal or snack.
7. Remember the reason for the season: Sure, there are lots of delicious foods around at the holidays, but this time is really about family and friends. It’s about expressing gratitude for all that we have. Food brings back and creates memories, but don’t let it be your sole focus.
If you need support and accountability to get you through the holidays, let’s talk.