Oh the holiday season that is upon us! This most wonderful (yet busy) time of year is filled with food, festivities, gathering, decorating, shopping, and traveling. If you are anything like me, the sights, smells, and music all make this time of year so nostalgic and magical. But along with all of the magic comes the inevitable stress, overeating, last minute shopping, planning/hosting parties, and full calendars for the entirety of the month of December it feels like.
Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK, which is crazy! But there is a 5 week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that we need to plan and prepare for. We all want to enjoy the holiday season and all of the fun and joy it brings, but we also want to do our best to maintain our healthy lifestyle that we’ve worked so hard for. And 6 weeks of festivities and parties and eating can sure do a number to our waistlines and all the hard work we’ve put in.
The goal of today’s post is to help you feel confident going into this season and ready to take head on the temptations, reduce the stress, and simply enjoy! We’re going to talk about three of the most common “problems” people face this time and year when it comes to maintaining health and wellness and a few tips on how to maintain health given these potential barriers. I think everyone can agree that some of the biggest struggles in staying fit and healthy this time of year revolve around our time, food and drink, and overall stress
This time of year always seems to fly by. There are never enough hours in a day to get all of the items checked off our list it seems. In order for this season to not become overwhelming and no longer joy-full, we need to make a PLAN to maximize our time and priorities.
If one of your priorities this holiday season is to continue to exercise and move your body, make a plan for it. Our bodies need just as much exercise during the holiday season as any other time of year. Plan your workouts/movement around travel or plan to move while you travel. Pack a pair of running shoes and some resistance bands. Even walking for just 30 minutes a day will keep you feeling good and keep you active and well.
Here are some common “problems” or barriers around exercise that arise for people during this time of year and some solutions.
PROBLEM: There isn’t a gym at the hotel or grandma’s house (or wherever you are staying).
SOLUTION: Body weight exercises are a great way to exercise when you have no equipment. Body weight exercises help to improve balance, coordination, core strength, and flexibility. Stair climbing, walking outside, lunges up and down the driveway, squats while you brush your teeth.
Travel Tips- Pack those running sneakers and easy to carry equipment like a workout DVD or a jump rope. Those things easily can fit in your carry on or check on luggage.
PROBLEM: There simply isn’t time to workout, Meghan! Shopping, decorating, cooking, running around…there is no time left for working out.
SOLUTION: Use a Tabata Timer to do a quick HIIT routine.
You can download a Tabata timer app on your phone. It’s simple- you do 8 rounds of exercise in 4 minutes. You can choose to do one exercise or two and alternate back and forth. You will complete 20 seconds of all out work followed by a 10 second rest for 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes. Do a couple of tabata’s and I promise you will be sweating and your heart rate will be elevated…and you’ll feel so good afterwards! Exercises like squats, jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups, tricep dips, mountain climbers, and jumping rope are perfect to do with the Tabata timer.
Second- plan your workouts! Because this season can be so hectic, it may be a good idea to institute early morning workouts for these few weeks. Getting a good morning sweat in will also help you to maintain those healthy habits and choices the rest of the day! If you can’t do 30 minutes to an hour at one go, split up your workout into 10 minute bouts throughout the day.
PROBLEM: You’re family and friends don’t understand why you want to exercise.
SOLUTION: Stick to YOUR goals! Don’t let others detract you from your plan and your wellness goals. Stay firm. Maybe invite them along. It’s a good way to de-stress and can be a fun family activity.
Another family fun activity is to sign up and hit the road for your local Turkey Trot, which is typically a 5K race that you can run/walk. It’s a great way to get in some movement before you put on your stretch pants for your big dinner!
FOOD AND DRINK
Cookies. Egg Nog. Casseroles. There is always plenty…and plenty of temptation. How can you overcome these temptations around all of the yummy foods and drinks this season?!
Eat a pre-party snack. One trick I tell my clients if they are going to a party or out to a dinner where they know they could splurge and over-eat is to eat an apple before going! Apples are full of fiber and will help fill you up a bit before you even go to dinner, therefore you will consume fewer calories. This will help you to not overeat the bad stuff and keep your appetite in check.
Choose your beverages wisely. The holiday season inevitably comes with lots of alcohol consumption between the eggnog, wine, fancy cocktails, and social drinking. Drinking alcohol is consuming empty calories because it won’t curb those hunger pangs. Alcohol doesn’t provide satiety. It’s best to avoid mixed drinks that have a lot of sugar. The number of calories isn’t the issue per say, but rather the number of grams of sugar in these fancy holiday drinks. For example, 1 cup of eggnog typically contains 30-50 grams of sugar depending on the brand. Let’s remember that the daily recommended sugar intake is 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men according to the American Heart Association.
Eat your protein first. When we eat our main protein source first, we help to curb our hunger and keep our blood sugar in check. Eating protein can help to keep your insulin levels lower. Eating protein before a party or first thing at the party will help you to control your cravings for the other high calorie foods.
Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps to fill your stomach so that you feel fuller and won’t cave to those cravings as much. Try to drink a bottle of water en route to your party or drink several glasses throughout the party.
Pick your cheat or “treat” meals and fully enjoy it. We all need a cheat meal! That is key to any sustainable life changes and finding balance. We can’t deprive ourselves all of the time, otherwise we will go off the deep end eventually and lose all progress. Each day during the holiday season, we are tempted with treats- whether leftover at home or sitting in the lobby at our office. We could easily consume cookies and pie everyday between Thanksgiving and New Year, which is 37 days by the way for 2020. Let’s say you are consuming an extra 300 calories per day of sweets and goodies, which is equal to about 2 cookies or a piece of cake or pie. This adds up to just over 11,000 calories which equals 3 pounds of fat! The average already overweight person gains about 5 pounds during the holiday season according to NY Times. A survey by Fitness Magazine and Jenny Craig in 2013 found that 47% of women gain 4-5 lbs during the holiday season. So what is the key? My suggestion is to enjoy those holiday parties and get together’s, which typically happen on the weekend, but that will require sacrifice throughout the week. Leave the cookies in the jar at the office and say no to any treats at home or that your kids bring back from school. Eating a reduced-calorie diet, higher-protein diet five days per week and enjoying a couple of holiday parties or get-togethers each week can easily result in maintenance of body weight through the holidays.
- Try new recipes or try replacing ingredients in your favorite recipes with healthier ingredients.Try replacing the not so great ingredients with healthier options. It can be pretty simple to clean up your favorite recipes. Some of my favorite swaps include swapping oil for Greek yogurt in breads, applesauce instead of butter or margarine, whole wheat flour instead of bleached white all-purpose flour, veganaise instead of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, honey or maple syrup instead of pure cane sugar.
- Eat mindfully. Eating mindfully might be a new concept for you. Eating mindfully is simply being more aware of your eating experience. Paying closer attention, notice your thoughts, feelings, sensations of the food. Oftentimes we eat so mindlessly and just put whatever in our mouths and don’t think anything at all about the sensation, taste, texture, etc. Give your body 15-20 minutes to recognize if it is full or not before going back for seconds.
Over the years, this joyful time of year has transpired into a stressful, chaotic time of year for many. The holiday season shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be stress-filled. By using these 5 tips, hopefully you can reclaim your sanity and the season and say good riddance to the stress that every other year has brought you.
- Be Realistic. Oftentimes we enter the holiday season with expectation in mind as to how things will go with certain family members, what food we will eat, what fun we will have, etc. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. Try to keep those expectations in check so that you don’t come away feeling disappointed and upset and so that you can be fully present and enjoy the time with family.
- Plan Ahead. Planning ahead does take forethought and time but in doing so, it will greatly reduce your stress you feel later on once the crunch time comes. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup. Also, plan ahead with your budget! Our budget can easily fly out the window this time of year and then create immense stress come January. Think ahead, talk with your spouse or other family members and come up with a plan for your budget so you aren’t overspending and having to pay the repercussions of that later. Maybe instead of gifting to everyone this year, you can start a family gift exchange, or make homemade gifts for friends and co-workers.
- Set Aside Differences. Everytime families come together, there will be differences in opinion, tradition, sometimes values, etc. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- Take a Breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include: Taking a walk at night and stargazing .Listening to soothing music. Getting a massage. Reading a book.
- Learn to Say ‘No’. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time. Learning to say no is very powerful and freeing. Learning to say No then allows us the freedom to say yes to the things that really matter!
“The more you live in the extremes of all or none, good or bad, the more likely that’s going to get you into difficulty,” says Gary Foster, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International. “The key is that this is a lifestyle. When it’s an on-or-off diet or a boot camp mentality, that’s a short-term behavior. It’s destined not to work out very well.”
We don’t have to live in an all-or-nothing state of mind around the holidays. Starving to over-indulging. Feelings of deprivation to feelings of guilt.
Give yourself permission to enjoy but in reasonable portions and reasonable frequencies- not all the time and not the whole cheesecake. The goal is to strike a balance.
I hope these tips will help lead you into a life-giving, balanced, and enjoyable holiday season. If you need other accountability, book a health coaching session with me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer a FREE 30-minute health coaching consult call if you’d like to set a plan in place for your holiday season.
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer