Most of us gain some weight during the holidays. The food, festivities, alcohol, and general lack of discipline typically leads to an increase in fat, a decrease in muscle, and a very busy time for personal trainers and fitness instructors such as myself come the first of the year!
I’m not going to tell you to deprive yourself or not have fun or get up every morning and hit the gym at 5am (although I’ll be at the gym at 5am every morning, so feel free to come join me!). What I am going to do is give you some simple tips that will help you avoid waking up on January 1 and thinking “why don’t my pants fit?”
Always. (See what I did there?) I love food. All of the foods. I love wine (so much!), chocolate, pumpkin pie, perfectly roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, buttery rolls, and just about anything else you might see at a holiday feast. So I eat it. What I don’t do is go back for seconds (or thirds), eat those feast-foods every day, or stuff myself until I feel sick. I take a little of everything I like and I eat it. Slowly and with great pleasure. Sometimes a glass of wine turns into an entire bottle with friends and the slice of pumpkin pie turns into a dinner plate covered in sweets, but it’s just one meal and I don’t let it dictate what happens the next day. Which leads to my next tip:
2) It may be the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you have to feast every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
There will be parties and family meals and goodies given to you by friends and neighbors. Plan for those. Otherwise, eat like you normally would! If you don’t usually eat candy for breakfast and piles of your mamaw’s cooking every day for lunch, then don’t do that now. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to fly off the rails.
3) Stay (or get!) active.
Fitness doesn’t have to mean sweaty, grunting weight sessions or 10 mile runs. If you like that (and I do!) then, go for it! For many of us, though, our lives have become so sedentary that just a little more moving and grooving will make a difference. Go for a Saturday hike, play a game of football with the kids, race to the mailbox, park a little farther away from the mall entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, dance around the kitchen while cooking dinner, or have a jumping-jacks break during tv commercials. Little actions can mean big changes, both physically and mentally.
4) Don’t let the holidays get you down.
I’ve battled anxiety and depression for most of my life, and the forced merriment along with less daylight often means a relapse for me. One of the best things we can do for our mental health is the very thing we need to do for our physical health – exercise. The great Elle Woods once said “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” If you find yourself feeling blue, a 15-minute walk around the block or a quick tabata workout can boost your spirits! Please remember, though, that a little holiday blues may be normal, but hopelessness and despair is not. If you are feeling anything beyond the normal Winter blues, talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is a good place to start (1-800-273-8255). You are not alone!
5) Have fun.
Staying healthy doesn’t have to be a drag. Use the next several weeks to figure out how you like to move and make a commitment to doing more of that in the New Year. While I love group fitness classes and hitting the gym, my husband prefers Krav Maga. I’m a terrible dancer, but my friend, Mindi is an amazing WERQ instructor. Don’t think of exercise as drudgery or eating healthy as boring. Look for little ways to have fun while moving your body or indulging your sweet tooth without eating an entire apple pie.