There’s a reason why losing weight and getting in shape is the number one New Year’s resolution: it’s because so many of us give up on diet and exercise and give in to temptation during the holidays. When you think about it, it’s only natural.
The holiday season lasts more than a month, starting with Thanksgiving and going straight through to New Year’s Day, complete with feasts and fetes galore. In addition, scads of high-calorie consumption, including family meals, gifts of baked goods, and abundant alcohol, punctuate this season. Even the staunchest of health nuts could find it hard to stay in shape amid this endless barrage of temptations.
However, there are plenty of ways you can maintain your resolve to stay in shape and healthy, not to mention battle the bulge during the holiday season. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you to stay in shape and on track all year long.
Carry a Token
We can all use timely reminders of why we’ve chosen a certain path. Just as recovering alcoholics use sobriety chips as physical reminders of how far they’ve come in their fight against addiction, you can find a meaningful token to help you stay on track with weight loss, fitness, or maintaining good health in general.
Every time you feel like going back to old habits, simply look at your token and consider how far you’ve come as a reminder to yourself why you don’t want to go back. Whether you wear a necklace, carry a message stone, or keep a photo of your out-of-shape self on your phone, having a token can really help to keep you motivated to stay in shape when you’re tempted to skip a workout or overindulge in tasty treats during the holidays.
Plan for Success
Without a plan in place to keep you on track for success, it’s all too easy to get lost and go off script, so to speak. This is how you end up with an extra 5-10 pounds to work off come January. So take the time to sit down and create a plan that keeps you going even when your motivation wanes.
In terms of exercising to maintain your level of fitness, schedule in workouts, complete not only with dates and times, but also with intended activities. You can always change your mind later on if you feel like jogging instead of lifting weights, for example, but having a set plan for workouts will help you to stick with the program.
As for eating right, this can be a bit more difficult when you’re surrounded by delectable dishes during the holidays. There are several tricks you can try, though, to help you through moments of weakness. Start by planning for healthy options that allow you to forego temptation and stay in shape.
Bring appropriate snacks to work and healthy dishes to family gatherings as alternatives to trays of seasonal baked goods and rich, indulgent meals. This will ensure you have healthy options available to you no matter your appetite. You can also pre-game parties and feasts by filling up on approved foods at home so you’re not staring down a pile of tempting treats on an empty stomach.
As for feasting, limit your intake rather than denying yourself completely. Use a small plate (salad instead of dinner, for example), and take only one small scoop of each dish, avoiding the ones you know you don’t like. Then take your time and enjoy your food. If you’re still hungry, go for one more scoop of only your very favorite dishes.
You don’t have to avoid alcohol completely, but you should definitely limit your intake. Alcohol not only has a ton of empty calories, but it can also lower your inhibition and lead to overeating, not to mention a hangover that causes you to skip your gym appointment the following day.
Factor in Cheating
There are going to be times when you simply can’t maintain your resolve in the face of overwhelming cookie trays at the office or special dishes that Grandma only makes once a year. The good news is that you can anticipate some amount of “cheating” and create a strategy that takes these extras into account. Simply maintain awareness and leave some wiggle room in your daily intake to account for a cookie here and a candy cane there.
There’s no need to go it alone – you’re not the only one in your family or your group of friends or colleagues trying to maintain motivation to stay in shape this holiday season. Talk to family members, friends, and colleagues about starting a group to exercise, swap recipes, and generally encourage and support each other when it comes to staying fit and healthy over the holidays.
If you’re not finding the support you need, think about signing up for a free online community like SparkPeople. If you have a support system to pick you up when you fall off the wagon, you’re much more likely to stay in shape and enjoy the process of maintaining health and fitness year-round.