At Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle we have a white board on which we ask our members a question. The most recent question was: “what’s one way you will help yourself to stay on track during the holidays”. Christmas is about a month away, and the holidays are in full force. Peppermint mochas and gingerbread cookies have already been out in coffee shops for a few weeks now, your social calendar is dotted with parties and gatherings, and every other ‘small talk’ conversation starts with “are you ready for Christmas? (please don’t ask me…)
Sticking to a healthy eating and exercise routine can be a challenge any time of the year. During the holidays, however, seasonal treats, long ‘to do lists’, dark nights, and the ‘it’s Christmas… live a little’ mindset can make it a little harder to make choices that make you feel your best.
To help you stay on track with your health goals this holiday, I’ll be sharing a few tips from the experts and ideas from our members at Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle.
1. Shift your mindset: the holidays are not that special. Holidays are special because of the time we get to spend with our friends and family; holidays are not special enough to warrant gaining weight, or feeling lethargic. If you find yourself worried about the holidays, remind yourself that the holidays are just a series of social events; and for most people, social events and family gatherings happen all year round. The November and December months are really not that different. Yes, there will be opportunities to eat foods you wouldn’t normally find in front of you, but you’re an adult. If you really want chocolate, or shortbread, or a certain type of cheese, you can likely have it anytime of the year.
2. THINK ahead. Planning ahead is a powerful strategy all year round (think meal planning, scheduling in your workouts, etc.) and the holidays are no different. One suggestion on the white board was to have an eating “game plan” when going to parties and dinners. Thinking ahead helps you to be intentional about your choices and your plan, versus just going with the flow and doing what comes easily (eating foods that are ‘not worth it’, having more drinks than you would have liked, etc.). Decide on your own game plan. Maybe your plan is to have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink, to drink lots of water before going out to a party or to enjoy a single serving of pie.
3. Another tip on our member’s board is to remember your goals. So often we set goals, but we don’t stick to them because we simply don’t remind ourselves what we want and why we want it. I recommend reading your goals and your reasons WHY your goal is important to you with daily. Goals related to feeling good, and taking care of yourself are even more important during the holidays. The holidays are a wonderful time of the year- would you rather spend it feeling energetic and vibrant, or sluggish, bloated and frustrated with yourself?
4. Set up your environment for success. Our members suggest buying only small portions of treats and to do less baking. While in a perfect world, we’d easily be able to withstand the desire to eat the treats we have in our house, but why make things harder on yourself? Many of our members are successful because they stock their fridge and pantry with healthy foods, and the holidays are no exception. And no one will be horribly disappointed if they drop by your house for an unexpected visit and you offer them a pot of tea instead of a plate of Christmas cookies.
5. Our members suggested to have more fun with friends and music. In other words, focus on friends, not food. The holidays are about spending time with the ones that you love, so make that the focus. Fully engage in conversations and activities with your loved ones, instead of focusing on the food. After all, it’s just food. Like I said in the first point, you can likely have meatballs, cheese, or Gingerbread cookies almost anytime you want, if you really want it. You’ve had it before, and you’ll have it again. It’s just food.
6. Keep moving. Yes, workouts can offset some of the extra indulgences, but there are a few more important reasons to keep up your workouts over the holidays. Many people struggle with low energy, sadness and stress over the holidays. Workouts will help manage stress and pump up those ‘feel good hormones’. Exercise will make you feel energized and healthy, and may make you less likely to overindulge in holiday treats. After dinner walks are another good way to fit in a little extra exercise. Remember that something is better than nothing, and everything counts.
7. Lower your standards is another suggestion from our members. Instead of adopting the ‘black or white thinking’ or ‘all in or all off’ diet mindset, give yourself permission to NOT BE PERFECT. In fact, ditch the aim for perfection altogether. The ‘all or nothing mindset’ is one of the most common reasons people do not make consistent progress toward their health goals. Adopt an ‘all or something’ mindset. Try to make better choices more often. Aim for pretty good.
8. Be really, really picky. One member suggested to “eat for joy, not out of guilt of offending the host”. Don’t waste your calories on foods that you just ‘sort of’ like. Instead, decide what foods you love- and enjoy those foods mindfully and with gusto. Slow down, pay attention to the flavours and textures of each bite. Eat your favourite foods first when you’ll enjoy them the most.
9. Do less. A big reason why we feel stressed over the holidays (and then fall face first into a box of hedgehogs) is simply because we do too much. The holidays are supposed to be enjoyed. If you feel stressed, or counting the days until the holidays are over, you’re doing too much. Reset expectations with family and friends, get help, and be okay saying no. Each time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So, choose wisely!
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and that means feeling your best! With a bit of planning, you can ring in 2019 feeling fit, vibrant and healthy. If you do get a bit off track, keep in mind that what you do from January and November is more important than what you do in December.
Enjoy the holidays!