It’s the most treacherous time of year for those who are trying to lose weight: the Holiday Season! The weeks of overindulgence between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are the time when people manage to pack on 5-10 pounds of fat to their waist lines, only to promise themselves that they will start a healthy way of life starting January 1. It’s the same promise that they’ve made year after year, but somehow they believe that this year, the outcome will be different.
By mid-February, whatever promises have been made towards self improvement on the health and fitness front are typically abandoned, while the cookies, pies, and cakes that were enjoyed so many weeks ago are still stubbornly attached to your hips, thighs, and mid-section. If this sounds like you, here are some tips to allow you to enjoy the holidays with family and friends without gaining weight and feeling like crap about yourself for allowing it to happen. Again.
Make Sure You Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Balanced means a combination of healthy fats, lean proteins, and carbs from fruits and/or vegetables. Real food instead of processed junk. Preferably organic. If you’re scrambling to get out the door in the morning, consider making something the night before that you only have to reheat. Or one of my favorite breakfasts is a protein shake with coconut milk, unsweetened yogurt from grass fed cows, pineapple, kale, lemon or lime juice, whey protein, turmeric, ginger root, and cucumber. Easy to put in a stainless steel mug and drink on the way to work if you don’t have time to sit down and eat at home.
The holiday season is one of high stress for many people, which can contribute to weight gain in a variety of ways. Stress leads to poor sleep, elevated cortisol levels (which wreak havoc with metabolism and appetite), and emotional eating. Women in particular tend to take on more than their fair share of holiday chores such as the decorating, gift buying (and wrapping), party planning (and execution), entertaining friends and family, cooking special meals, baking cookies, doing special projects with the kids, etc. Find non-binge-eating ways to take the edge off, like a massage, yoga class with a friend, or meditation. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself – it’s essential.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This goes hand in hand with de-stressing, and works best if you can wind down an hour or so before bedtime. Perfect time for meditation, a hot bath, or listening to relaxing music.
Get Some Exercise
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get an effective workout – a short, high intensity interval workout can be done in 15-20 minutes and actually be more effective than an hour long jog on the treadmill. You’ll have more energy, burn calories, and shed fat instead of gaining it. Many simple body weight routines can even be done in your living room without any equipment so you don’t have to go to a gym if you don’t want to. For example, do a few rounds of squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, dips, and planks, for 30 seconds each with 30 seconds rest between each exercise. Done. You’ll feel better, I promise.
The Dreaded Cookie Exchange
This one comes up with at least one client every year. People feel obligated to participate at work, at church, with friends and even family members – in cookie exchanges where everyone makes a batch (or batches) of their favorite cookies to trade with everyone else in the exchange. Some folks even get involved in more than one exchange. This can be a tough one since there can be a lot of social pressure just to keep peace in the family or workplace. Some of my clients have successfully navigated this issue by attending the social party where the exchange takes place without actually trading cookies – they’ve brought their own healthy appetizer to share or their own meal to eat without accepting any cookies or other junk food in return. Others have simply declined to get involved because they just can’t say “no” once they start eating something sugary. I’m not going to tell you what to do here – you’re a grown up and it’s your decision to live with. But really, are the holidays more about overindulging in junk food or spending time with friends and family? Perhaps you can negotiate a compromise to control what types of foods (does it have to be sweets?) you choose to exchange in your group.
These are just a few tips to help you get through the next five weeks feeling good about yourself and enjoying the holidays without gaining weight. You’ll be 5-10 pounds ahead of everyone else who over did it when January 1 comes around. And these simple strategies can be helpful all year long, not just the last month of the year. With just these few tips, the annual New Year’s Resolution to lose weight may become a thing of the past. Liberating, isn’t it?