The Halloween candy has been in the stores for weeks, now, and if you've resisted temptation so far, congratulations! But you know that the season of temptation is just beginning, and you've got weeks of holiday parties and treats to endure. Between the parties, the family dinners and the crazy hectic schedule, it's not surprising that so many of us gain a few (or a few too many) pounds between October and January.
With such powerful traditions behind it and such a powerful hold on our emotions, the holiday season is a force to be reckoned with. But, with a few common sense health & fitness tips, you can make it through the holidays with less stress and without the extra pounds.
- Take control of your time. This means learning to set priorities and say no. Decide what's really important to you about the holiday season and make sure you spend your time accordingly. If you hate searching for parking at the mall, shop online. Go only to parties and events that are really meaningful to you and learn to politely decline the others. Scale back on the gift giving, decorating and card sending. The time you save can be spent on your own health, fitness and rest.
- Get some rest. Lack of sleep is associated with weight gain. Sleep deprivation leads to an increase of ghrelin, the hormone that tells us we need to eat, and a decrease in leptin, the hormone that tells us we've had enough. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night can help you manage your stress and maintain a healthy weight.
- Party smart. Of course you want to indulge in the season's treats, but do it carefully and mindfully so you really enjoy it. Just as you should never grocery shop while hungry, you should never go to a party hungry. At least have a healthy snack 30 minutes or so before the party so you aren't tempted to overdo it. Scope out the menu or buffet first and make a plan. Choose one indulgence and the rest healthier foods. And don't forget to count the calories in the drinks! Alcohol and eggnog add up quickly without filling you up.
- Fuel up before you hit the mall. If virtual shopping is not for you, be sure you don't fall for the food court trap at the mall. Eat a healthy meal before you go and bring a snack to keep you from being tempted by the smoothies, burgers and cookies at the mall.
- Make family dinners all about family. If you're in charge of the meal, you have the opportunity to control the quality of the food. You don't have to give up all your traditional foods, but look online for healthy variations of your favorite recipes. Instead of making your family dinners all about the food, try adding events. Play games, share stories, get a family softball game going, or at least take a walk together after dinner.
- Keep moving. With all the extra social obligations in November and
December (not to mention the short days and dark nights), it can be hard to fit in your regular workouts. One way to make it work is to get more bang for your time with high intensity interval workouts. With high intensity intervals you alternate moderate work with vigorous work in short spurts of one to four minutes. In just 30 minutes you can get a terrific calorie-torching workout that will boost your metabolism.
- Leave perfection to Martha Stewart. The desire to have everything perfect for the holidays creates unnecessary stress and leaves you performing rather than enjoying the holidays. This year, try letting "good enough" be good enough.
- Remember what the holidays are all about. Faith, family, thanksgiving. All the rest of it is just noise. Whatever your faith, you can honor your traditions with healthy variations that won't leave you full of regret in January.
Have you developed a strategy for surviving the holidays without the stress and weight gain? Share your tips in the comments!
(photo credits: tawest64, Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, Jessica Spengler)
Just in time for the holiday season, Prime of Life Fitness is offering Hold the Line on Holiday Pounds, a special holiday season personal training package of 16 high-efficiency sessions during November and December. This year, enjoy the holidays without regret!