Statistics tells us that the average American gains about 6 pounds in the 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve celebrations. That doesn’t even include the candy-coated binging that happened over Halloween. Hello! Don’t tell me you didn’t eat candy for breakfast the morning after Halloween.
There is evidence telling us that what we weigh before the holidays begin is the lightest we will be for the next five to six months. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very happy about those statistics. I’m a little rebellious when it comes to people telling me “that’s just the way it is.” I always think to myself “but it doesn’t have to be.” Well there is hope. We don’t have to give in to being our heaviest selves during the holidays and then work the next half a year trying to lose what we gained. We can be fit for the holidays!
Why search the Internet on how to detox your body and lose weight fast after the holidays after eating all those high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie laden foods, when we can prevent the pounds from coming on in the first place? I’m not going to tell you to not eat your favorite foods, but here are some common sense, yet often overlooked tips to help keep you fit and feeling good during the holidays:
Make a Plan! You’ve heard it before, and I’m going to tell you again… plan ahead. Mark your calendars with the dates you’ll be at a party, all day shopping and eating out, or sitting down to address a gazillion Christmas cards. Set small, tangible goals to help keep yourself on track.
On party nights:
- Make sure to eat healthy throughout the day. Incorporate lean protein at every meal, and make sure to snack on high fiber, high protein snacks like an apple, a handful of nuts or some veggies and hummus throughout the day.
- Bring something healthy to a party or a potluck and fill up on that! Peruse the food stations before you begin to fill your plate, then take just enough for 3-5 bites of those higher calorie foods and load up on the veggies. You’ll still get the satisfaction of its deliciousness without filling up on the calories.
On shopping days:
- Plan ahead to what time you’ll eat lunch then set an alarm if needed to stop and eat. Then you won’t get so hungry that you’ll eat anything you see first!
- Map out the area restaurants and plan where you’ll stop for lunch or supper. Look at the menu ahead of time and know what you’ll eat. Most places offer menus and nutrition breakdown online. Choose places where you know you can eat something healthy.
On sitting days:
- On days you know you’ll be all day at your desk or sitting around addressing cards or other low-key tasks, plan to work out early or work in a walk around the block. Once your day gets started, it’s harder to stop to work out. Plus, working out first thing gives you the energy throughout the day, burning calories more efficiently.
- Set a timer once an hour to get up and walk at least 250 steps. That’s one flight of stairs and back, a trip to the restroom or a quick jaunt around the building. Just move!
Do things together with the ones you love. Check out your local events page and plan to walk or run in a 3K, 5K, or 10K holiday dash when your relatives are in town. Go sledding or build a snowman with the kids, or just act like one yourself. Playing outside in the cold burns calories faster than when you’re warm. The first few minutes of shivering burn calories too. Added bonus!!
Drink up! No, I’m not encouraging bad behavior. Sometimes our brains confuse being dehydrated with being hungry, so staying hydrated with water and non- caffeinated, non-alcoholic drinks can help us eat less. Drinking half our bodyweight in ounces of water not only keeps us hydrated, but also helps our bodies burn calories quicker and more efficient. If you do indulge, drinking eight ounces of water after an alcoholic drink will keep you hydrated. Alcohol decreases the body’s production of an anti-diuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. Not to mention, when others see you holding something in your hand, the likelihood of insisting to “have another” decreases. Besides, alcohol has empty calories and metabolizes as sugar in our bodies, which then stores itself as fat! Boo!
Sleep. According to reports, almost half of Americans lose sleep at night due to stress. A lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on your health. Sleep is when your body can relax and recuperate from the effects of our day, from what we eat to injuries sustained. Not to mention it allows our minds to reset, allowing us to feel refreshed when we wake. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try these:
- Turn your phone, and other electronic devices, off, or keep them in another room. The glow from these devices messes with our sleep hormones and keeps our bodies confused and restless.
- Tell yourself it’s bedtime! Turn off the TV and all electronics 30 minutes before going to bed. Slip into your jammies and read while getting comfy. Most likely you’ll be ready for sleep before you realize it.
- Allot yourself at least 8 hours to sleep and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Our bodies quickly fall into a routine and will remind you that it’s bedtime, helping you to sleep better.
- If your mind is going over all the things you need to get done, get up and make a list. You’re awake anyway and once you have a list, you’ll feel more in control and can rest.
- Listen to your body and rest when your body tells you to. Being aware of our body’s rhythms helps us be proactive in our health.
Learn to Deal with Stress. In Europe holiday means vacation, but in America the holidays, especially Christmas, feels nothing like a vacation. Holiday shopping, family gatherings, meal preparations… they can all leave us feeling anxious and downright exhausted.
- Enjoy the holidays – Make dinner a potluck instead of cooking it all yourself. Ask everyone for a Christmas wish list to expedite your shopping while getting exactly what he or she wants. Remember, the house doesn’t have to look perfect; the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, not how pretty your tree looked this year.
- Find balance – Set priorities and let go of the impossible goals. Ask family members to help with tasks. Little Timmy’s handwritten addresses on the cards are keepers and no one will miss that 20-year-old decoration in your china cabinet this year. Ask for help and I bet someone will take you up on it.
- Take time for yourself. Even if only for ten minutes, get alone and breathe. Research shows that people who pray are better able to cope with stress. Faith, as it turns out, is the ultimate stress reducer.
Staying fit during the holidays is possible. With a plan in place, we can all relax knowing that we can meet the typical stressors and diet busters head on. With a little common sense, some commitment to not throw in the towel at the first piece of divinity fudge we encounter, and faith in our Creator to get us through it, we can not only survive the holidays and enjoy it, but stay fit in the process!