Many of us worry about the typical 1-5 lbs of fat that is gained during the holiday season. However, the holiday season is really only four days: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. When thought about in that context it would be okay to enjoy a piece or two of candy on Halloween, treats made from a secret family recipe on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a few cocktails on New Year’s Eve. Having small portions of our favorite indulgences on those four days spread over two months would not be a big deal.
However, those days have become a reason to stuff ourselves with giant-sized portions of every single dish that is brought. On top of that, the season is usually filled with additional get-togethers that take up the time that we might be able to workout as well as fill our bodies with empty calories. These little parties add up: your work party, your significant other’s work party, the big family cookie exchange, the candy exchange with your crafting club (or insert other hobby group), your friend’s birthday is three days before Christmas so he has an annual birthday/ Christmas bash, etc…So what are we to do?
-Plan ahead- Plan out your holiday schedule. Know when you’re going to go to a party and try to know what the specialty is at the venue. Pick whether you want to eat or drink your calories. If it’s a restaurant, know what healthy choices they have as well as what your indulgence is going to be. If your buddy makes a mean Christmas cocktail at his annual Christmas bash then pick that as your indulgence. If a restaurant is the venue for your work party and they have your favorite appetizer, go with that. Mostly, I’d recommend that you not drink your calories because alcohol lowers your inhibitions as well as increases the likelihood that you will overindulge on goodies. In other words you’ll be more likely to get the munchies and make more trips to the buffet.
-Get moving – Don’t let the busy holiday schedule stop you from working out. Even a quick 20 min workout to get your blood moving is better than nothing. You can’t out exercise a bad diet but you can try to lessen the effects of the treats by increasing your calorie output. Also, see if your host has an Xbox or Wii that will get everyone moving during the party as well as provide an extra workout for your abs as you spend the whole night laughing at their antics. Are you having movie night with the family? Try some quick body weight exercises: 15 squats, 15 push-ups, 15 reverse crunches, 15 alternating front lunges (15 each side), 15 bench dips (use the edge of a coffee table or couch), 15 jumping jacks, 15 Russian twists (15 each side). Do these exercises in a circuit and see how many sets you can complete during a commercial break. Rest during the show and repeat during the next commercial break. See if you can get through more sets during each commercial break until you’ve gone through 3 or 4 breaks. You can have competitions with your family members as to who can compete the most sets during a certain break.
-Don’t leave the house hungry- Eat as clean as possible on the days that don’t have special events. Then the day of a party make sure to have a healthy breakfast and several small meals before the event is supposed to start. Have a good healthy meal before you leave the house so you’re not tempted to fill up on high fat and sugary hors d’ourves or other treats. When you get to the party, get some veggies and a few bites of your host’s signature dish and leave the table.
-Work the room– Take advantage of the time to catch up with family and friends that you may only see a few times a year. If you do find yourself at an uncomfortable work gathering where everyone is drinking the time away, then find someone you can get along with, maybe a coworker or a coworker’s spouse. You can also use this time to get to know a new coworker. I find that this is my big hang up. I’m used to being the quiet one that hides in the corner and fills my time by eating everything on the buffet. This year if I have to go to an event where I don’t know many people, I’m going to try to work the room and make new friends using FOR (Family, Occupation, and Recreation). If you get someone talking about themselves, their family, their hobbies, and what they like about their jobs (and really listen), you can easily make a new friend and pass the time. Even cranky Uncle Frank that is always complaining about the economy, politics, and how bad his favorite sports team is doing will stop complaining and light up when you ask him about his new grand-baby.
-Water and sleep – Make sure to stay very hydrated this season. Water is one liquid that you don’t want to skimp on. Dehydration can lead to excess snacking because many people mistake thirst for hunger. Sleep is also paramount. Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to lead to binge eating. Sleep is also important for fat burning and recovery.
-Slow down – You’ve waited all year for Grandma’s pecan pie, don’t inhale it. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly; truly enjoy the treats of the season and savor every bite. That will also help you know when you’re full. Listen to your body and step away from the table before you start to feel uncomfortable. No one likes that feeling after you eat so much you think you’re going to be sick. The slow-small-meal concept will also help for those of you who have to go to mom’s house for a 2:00 lunch and your in-laws for 6:00 dinner.
-ENJOY YOURSELF- It only comes around once a year. Enjoy the food and savor the time with friends and family. Be thankful and remember the reason for the season.
Questions? Comments? Please ask.