FACT: It’s really hard to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan during the holidays. Everywhere we turn there are tempting foods and drinks. Add in a busy schedule filled with shopping and get-togethers that make it tough to squeeze in exercise and you have a recipe for disaster as far as our scales are concerned.
But throwing caution to the wind and indulging in every craving “because Christmas comes around only once a year” will only make facing reality on New Year’s Day a lot harder.
The good news is that you really can get through the holidays without gaining weight. It will take a little bit of effort, but you will thank yourself a thousand times when January 1st rolls around and you have no regrets!
Here’s my 8 Holiday Survival Tips to stay on top of your game and keep your weight in check through the holiday period:
- Keep Your Goals Realistic – Make It About Maintenance
Stay positive by setting some realistic goals to help you stay on-track.
It is wise to maintain your weight during the next few weeks, instead of trying to lose weight. Remember: you want to enjoy the holidays, not be miserable from deprivation. This means that you will allow yourself occasional treats and splurges and keep the scale where it is rather than trying to actually decrease your weight.
- Make Exercise Not Negotiable
Exercise is often the first thing to be eliminated from a busy schedule.
Not on! While a workout can’t compensate for overeating, it does help stabilize weight and gives you a psychological boost too. You’ll be less likely to overeat if you have sweated through a great workout.
Write your exercise time in your weekly planner and consider it not negotiable. If you have a busy day, get your exercise session in early so it’s done; leaving you free to run around with last-minute Christmas shopping.
- Keep Feeding Strategies In Place By Planning Ahead
Usually you know in advance when you’re going to have a really busy day. So with a little bit of planning and forethought, you can prep some healthy meals and snacks the night before so the right food is readily available to you at crucial times to keep you out of trouble.
Take your prepped food with you everywhere you go. Invest in a small esky to keep your food cool in the car.
Don’t go to Christmas lunch absolutely starving. Eat a small healthy meal to take the edge of your hunger before you go, so you don’t end up overeating or binge eating.
And never skip breakfast – it’s a recipe for disaster that will make you likely to overeat at lunchtime.
- Rethink Your Drink
Remember, gram for gram, alcohol is almost as high in calories as fat. Alcohol stimulates your appetite and lowers your resolve. Try and stick to a limit, alternate your alcoholic drinks with sparkling mineral water, drink slowly, offer to be the designated driver – anything to help you keep that alcohol intake down.
- Give Yourself Permission To Enjoy A Little Extra
Recognise that you are susceptible to using little mind tricks to justify overindulging. We tell ourselves stories like “If I overeat on Saturday I’ll be extra good on Sunday”, or “I’ll eat what I want today and do an extra workout to make up for it tomorrow”.
Likewise, if you go to a Christmas Day feast with the intention of being strict on yourself “I won’t eat this or that”, and your will power fails you (which it almost certainly will because you are human)…then you will fall victim to the common pitfall of abandoning all your good intentions because of one mistake: “Well I’ve stuffed it up, so I may as well go the whole hog” and you end up binge eating.
If you do slip up like this forgive yourself and move on; pick yourself up and get back on track the next day. Remember you are the sum of what you do consistently, not what you do sometimes. And 2 steps forward, 1 step back is still progress! Punishing yourself for lacking will-power or telling yourself that you are hopeless will not do you any good and it won’t help you to do better next time. It will only push you to seek comfort from feeling bad about yourself by eating even more food.
Break this negative feed-back cycle by understanding that deprivation does not work. Instead, take control from the outset by giving yourself permission to eat some of your favorite ‘sometimes’ foods. You know the food won’t be perfect for weight loss purposes, you know you’ll eat sugar, you know you’ll consume more calories than normal.
It’s ok! It is Christmas and it’s ok to enjoy a few things you normally wouldn’t eat.
Giving yourself permission is the difference between enjoying a few things you normally wouldn’t eat and then moving on, and binge-eating which can sometimes carry on through to the next day.
Giving yourself permission, or exercising conscious choice, is a form of self empowerment that will help you last the distance and stay in control.
- Deal Quickly With Leftovers
If you have unhealthy leftovers in your home, you are likely to indulge. Don’t leave them sitting around, teasing you with their mere presence every time you open the fridge. You are human, and there’s only so much will-power you can muster!
Give them away or toss them out. Believe me you won’t miss what you’ve tossed out and it’s not worth the constant temptation.
- Be Accountable To Yourself
Write down every single thing you eat—even if it is only one bite of a gingerbread biscuit. It is a proven fact that keeping a food journal results in better weight control than not keeping one. I use it as an integral component of my Body Transform Challenge. It is a powerful form of self-accountability. You will think twice before reaching for that second glass of wine when you have to record it and be confronted with it in black and white.
- Practice Saying The Word ‘No’
It’s ok to say ‘no’. It’s ok to turn down invitations or to tell a pushy host you don’t want a top-up or seconds.
A firm “no, thank you” is all you need to say. Don’t offer an explanation – don’t give your host/friend/family member any opportunity to pick apart your defense or turn it around to why you should.
Saying No is empowering. And the more you practice saying ‘no’ the easier it gets to say ‘no’. It’s a good feeling being in control.
The Bottom Line: Sticking to your healthy lifestyle during the holiday season can be difficult, but there’s no reason to abandon all the progress you’ve made this year for a few gluttonous meals. Indulge occasionally, schedule your workouts, plan for nutritious meals, and be kind to yourself!