Monday, December 16, 2013

5 Ways to Stay on Track Over the Holidays (Without Going Insane)

Ahh, the holidays are upon us once again.  If you are anything like me, you have lots of gatherings coming up with family, friends, coworkers,or even just you and your significant other having some quality time to yourselves!  So with all of this, often comes the anxiety and guilt associated with figuring out what to eat at all of these parties, or how to stay motivated to work out.  And you're also getting bombarded with magazine covers that are trying to show you how to "Beat Holiday Weight Gain", etc.  Well, bah humbug!  Instead of deciding that you need to log 90 minutes on the treadmill, or that you need to eat nothing but celery at your next holiday party, try these 5 tips to help keep you on track, without being too hard on yourself!  After all, what good would it be if you lost 5 pounds over the holidays but were a total Scrooge the whole time and no one wanted to hang out with your grumpy self??  No one needs that!

5 Real Life Tips for Healthy Holidays

1.  Make a Plan

This means for your meals, snacks, and workout time.  If you map out your week, including all gatherings, shopping trips, and other time commitments, you will be much more likely to stay focused on your goals.  I like a BIG calendar with lots of space to write, so I will print out a weekly agenda page or even one page per day and start filling in spaces.  Plan out your workouts and relaxation time (because this IS important too, especially around the holidays - you must de-stress!) and sketch out your meals, along with that you have on hand for snacks.  That will help remind you that there are healthy things you can eat, so you don't just grab the first pre-packaged thing you see.  Raise your hand if you have a bunch of veggies pushed to the back of the fridge that you've been ignoring.  Go ahead, I wont judge you.  ;)  If there is a party or work lunch or something coming up, think about the choices that will be available and how you can make them work for you!  Which leads me to...

2.  Make Good Choices

For a lot of us, restaurants and parties are where we really tend to get off track with our eating.  Luckily, if we think about things ahead of time and make a plan, we can alleviate some of the stress about what to eat.  Ok, so make a plan - but what should I plan to eat?  This is where you will have to use your best judgement, but here are some guidelines.  For example, avoid things that are fried.  Restaurants for the most part do not use good oils to fry things in, and fried things are often coated in refined starches of some kind.  Two strikes against fried foods - so avoid them.  For your main course "meat dish", try to stick with things that are roasted, grilled, or baked, and pile up the veggies instead of the mashed potatoes or fries.  You can always sub out potatoes for the "veggie of the day" or even a small side salad.  Salads are a good choice, but watch your toppings and dressing serving size.  I previously mentioned refined starches/carbs.  Those are things like crackers, bread, cakes, cookies, sweets in general.  Limit these to avoid an insulin spike that will actually make you hungrier in the long run, and can make you crave MORE bad foods!  So, how about some other party foods:  Dips and spreads - this is a tough one.  Some of these things are made with healthy ingredients, but most are not, especially if they come prepackaged.  So it's best to use these sparingly with your veggies.  Veggies are what I would consider a free for all food, honestly.  It is VERY hard to overeat on veggies - assuming they are not in some kind of cheesy casserole.  ;)  Fruit is another great thing to add to your plate in place of sweets.  Sure, fruit has some sugar, but it also contains fiber and lots of great health benefits, so that makes it a better choice.  Nuts are also a good choice because for the most part, the are in the category of good fats - just don't overdo it, and don't go for the nuts doused in a bunch of sugar.  Deviled eggs are generally ok to eat as well.  Even though they are usually made with unhealthy oils (in mayo), small amounts are fine - and will give you health benefits of eggs, like protein and good fats, which will help you stay full and satisfied.  EAT the foods you know are healthy - fuel up with the good stuff.  And for goodness sake, no starving yourself - eat every 3 hours!

3.  Listen to Your Body

Holiday parties are tough - there is ALL of this gorgeous, delicious looking food, and you want to sample it all.  Did you know that there have actually been studies that show that we tend to eat more when we have a big variety of foods to choose from?  Makes sense, right?  A little of this, a little of that...  Well, don't worry, you can sample a lot of different HEALTHY foods - just skip over the bad stuff or take a VERY small spoonful if you want.  Is chocolate or cupcakes or chips or something like that a "trigger food" for you, meaning, does it make you want MORE and send you into a downward spiral?  Then avoid those foods altogether, and save yourself the hassle.  The key here is to listen to your body when it tells you that you are satisfied.  Try to stop there - at satisfied or full.  You shouldn't feel stuffed or uncomfortable.  You want to feel good and enjoy yourself without unbuttoning your jeans, right?  (Yes, I've done it, don't judge me!)  So don't overdo it.

4.  Make Time For Fitness

I know the holiday season can be super busy, but it's so important to schedule some "me time" in your week!  However, iff you are busy and stressed, I don't advocate going to the gym and killing yourself for an hour and a half.  This actually causes MORE stress for the body and raises cortisol levels.  Yep, cortisol - the fat hormone!  There are SO many great short workouts out there these days.  Know why?  Because the experts have found through scientific studies, that short increments of exercise are best, especially when done along side resistance training.  What does that mean?  Basically, they are saying that the body gets the most benefit from the first 30 minutes of cardio, especially when it is intense and involves really raising the heart rate.  So choosing something like a HIIT (high intensity interval training) or another short and intense workout is a great idea.  You can find ideas on YouTube, Instagram, and I have a January challenge starting in the new year that is ALL 30 minute workouts (feel free to use the Contact button or find me on Facebook about this).  So definitely plug into these resources!  Any time you spend working out during the holidays is a great investment in yourself, and will help so much in relieving stress, even if it's just some simple stretching and yoga.  So be kind to your body and give it some love!  That being said...

5.  Relax!

You don't have to be perfect!  There, I've given you permission to chill out a little.  Believe me when I tell you that the point of this article was NOT to make you feel bad about your habits, or to shame you out of having a slice of pie at grandma's this year.  There are ENOUGH articles out there that do just that.  I want you to enjoy
your holiday, enjoy your friends and family.  And I know that for a lot of us, that is tied to food, so the best we can do is try and make the right choices as we go.  Just being conscious of our goals and having them in the back of our mind is a huge step.  If there is a dish you love, enjoy it!  Have that treat if it's worth it and you won't feel bad about it!  Just balance the rest of your choices accordingly.  So here are the things I DON'T want you to do.  Don't weigh yourself incessantly.  Please, just don't.  Seriously, we all know that there is going to be some indulging going on with food and alcohol, so you are going to get a little bloat going on.  Just drink your water and move on.  Don't make it worse by making yourself feel bad about what you weigh!  Also, don't try to exercise away your bad food choices.  For one, it doesn't work.  And two, it can actually make things worse (see cortisol comment above).  Depriving yourself by just plain not eating is also a really bad idea.  Your body needs fuel, just make sure it's the nutrient dense, REAL stuff, and you'll do great!  Just stick with the plan.  ;)

Another thing worth mentioning is that it helps to surround yourself with people who have similar goals to yours.  Did you know that I have a 100% free fitness group on Facebook just for this purpose?  We'd love to have you join us.  We'll be talking a lot about staying motivated, and how to make it through the holidays with our sanity intact.  ;)  If you'd like to join, click here and I will make sure I reach out to you and get you added.  Have a great holiday, everyone!!


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