It’s that time of year – the holiday season is coming soon, and with its arrival comes many reasons to get off track with your current exercise and nutrition plan: shopping, travelling, family dinners, and parties. While most people do not gain a significant amount of weight during the holidays (most studies have shown a 1-2 pound increase), it’s the continuance of overeating and avoidance of exercise after the holidays that we need to be mindful of, which may lead to an even greater amount of weight gain in the long run.
The simple strategies listed below will allow you to enjoy the holiday season as it should be, while also staying on top of your fitness goals.
Pre-gaming in this case isn’t referring to having a few beers before going out, but instead ensuring that you attend parties on a full stomach so that you do not feel like you need to clear the snack tables of every morsel in sight. Going to a party hungry can be dangerous as there is bound to be plenty of delicious foods available, and while there may be some healthy choices, your hunger will trigger cravings, causing you to reach for the cookies, potato chips, and other high-calorie, low nutrient foods.
It is hard to keep track of calories while snacking and before you know it, you’ve eaten enough to be considered one or two meals (just two cupcakes will typically run you 300 calories or more)! Have yourself a good, nutrient dense meal, with plenty of protein and fiber to keep you full, before heading out to parties to reduce the temptation to mindlessly graze the snack tables.
We can all maintain, or even lose weight during the holidays without depriving ourselves of the foods we love. Moderation will be the key to enjoying all of the holiday goodies that come your way while also ensuring that you don’t stray too far away from your diet. Now, moderating your intake of grandma’s cookies or your favorite Thanksgiving dish will take some willpower, as it can be difficult to have a small serving of the foods you love without reaching for more as soon as your plate is clean. You will need to remind yourself that a little bit of your favorite holiday foods is all you need and, over time, demonstrating the willpower to moderate unhealthy, high calorie foods will become easier as you begin to understand that you don’t need to eat a full dish of macaroni and cheese to satisfy your cravings.
Eating light and healthy during the rest of the day can give you a bit of room to be looser with your diet when it’s time to sit down for a big family dinner or attend a party. Since most of the dishes available at these events will be heavy in carbohydrates and fats, why not get in your protein and veggies during the rest of the day?
You could start your day with an egg white omelet stuffed with all of your favorite vegetables (spinach, peppers, and mushrooms are my go-to omelet fillings) and maybe even a bowl of fruit on the side; put together a nice, big salad with a variety of vegetables, a lean protein, and a light dressing (or better yet, skip the dressing altogether) for lunch; and then have a protein shake for a quick snack later on during the day. This should leave plenty of room within your macros to allow you to take part in all of your holiday favorites at the day’s party or dinner, without putting you over your caloric needs. Keep in mind, this strategy isn’t an excuse to go overboard and you will still need to practice moderation, but to a lesser extent than if you were to eat as you regularly would during the day.
Make Working Out, “Work Out”
Things can get hectic during the holiday season and it is easy to lose track of time as you travel, cook, shop, and visit with family. However, the most important thing you can do to ensure you stay on top of your workout routine is simple: do not stop working out! There will always be a way to get in a couple of workouts per week, even if it means shortening your sessions or even exercising at home.
Being consistent with workouts through the holidays will help burn some extra calories, lower stress levels that this time of the year can bring into your life, and most importantly, keep you motivated to continue with your routine once the holidays are over. It can be surprisingly difficult to pick back up on a gym schedule once you’ve ditched it for over a month, so do yourself a favor and make it a point to stay as close to your current routine as possible, so that you will not have to start the New Year from scratch.
Don’t let the holidays prevent you from progressing towards your fitness goals and cause you to start all over again with the New Year’s crowd. Be conscious about what you are eating, how much you are eating, and keep up with your gym schedule so that you can avoid losing everything you’ve worked so hard for in the time leading up to the holiday season, and easily pick back up where you left off once the New Year arrives.