Holiday fitness – that almost sounds like an oxymoron! The holiday season (we’ll define that as Halloween up through New Year’s) is so complicated for so many of us. It doesn’t matter what your faith or background is or which holidays you celebrate. This time of year is full of food, stress and social gatherings. That makes it extremely difficult for even the most dedicated and disciplined individuals to stay on track with their health in November and December.
It’s really a perfect storm of factors that create this phenomenon. We are all busy and trying to fit a lot more than usual into our already hectic schedules. We have friends and family at our house, we are entertaining, shopping, traveling and totally frazzled despite the “holiday spirit”. There can also be lots of emotions tied to these events and to spending so much time with loved ones. Add to that equation a heavy tradition of foods that are loaded with sugar, heavy cream, and ALL the carbs. Oh yeah, and then there’s the booze!
When we get to the point where are so overloaded that something just has get cut from our busy lives, it is often exercise that takes a hit. Once we give up on exercise, we tend to totally throw in the towel on our nutrition as well and just give ourselves over to those holiday vibes. I hear so many people tell me that they are just going to give up until January. That it doesn’t even make sense to bother until the holidays have passed. I used to fall into that trap as well, but now that line of thinking makes me so sad.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret….
It is COMPLETELY possible to enjoy yourself over the holidays without waking up on January 2nd full of cheese and regret. It is possible to indulge responsibly without losing a whole year’s worth of progress in just a few weeks. It is also possible to set realistic and manageable fitness goals in December. It can be done, I promise!!
Here are my top 5 tips for staying healthy through the holidays:
- Make exercise a PRIORITY, not just a second thought to fit in if you have time. Look at your calendar for the week and schedule those workouts like an appointment. That might mean that something else has to go (think Netflix, or browsing FB), but I promise that you can find 30 minutes to carve out of the day for YOU. Not only does your body need it, but I guarantee that it will help with those stress levels as well. Also remember that fitness and nutrition are a cycle. When you exercise you are more likely to make good choices in the kitchen. Check out my Facebook page each week this month for a new and simple holiday exercise routine that you can incorporate.
- Set realistic goals that set you up for success. December is not the time to set a major weight loss goal. It’s also probably not the time to start a dramatic new exercise routine or diet. A great goal for December is simply deciding that you won’t GAIN any weight. Or deciding that you will only drink wine or have cookies 3 nights a week instead of 6. Commit to moving your body in some way every day.
- Drink lots of water. Yes, I know that can sound patronizing but it is SO important and will have a big impact on how you feel this month. Not only will it help keep you feel full, but it will help with all of the extra sodium you are certainly consuming along with the food at those holiday gatherings. Drinking a lot of water will help flush that system and keep away unnecessary bloating that makes us feel crummy.
- Look at your calendar each week and assess your scheduled parties or social gatherings. Whether it’s a work luncheon, a cocktail party, or you are baking special cookies with your family. Look at those events and prioritize. You can and should do all of them, but decide when and where you are going to indulge. If the luncheon is at your favorite restaurant then make that your splurge and be sure to eat a healthy meal before the cocktail party. If you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe then enjoy those with your family but get a salad at lunch. If you have a crazy week with 5 straight evenings out then maybe you decide that you will only have a cocktail on 3 of those nights. With a little planning and strategery you can enjoy yourself without waking up on Monday morning feeling like all of your pants are too tight. You don’t have to be overly restrictive, just avoid situations where you “accidentally” eat a whole wheel of brie cheese because you forgot to have dinner in advance.
- Give yourself a whole lot of holiday grace. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan. Just because you miss a workout or go overboard one day (or week) doesn’t mean you should just give up and drown your sorrows in egg nog. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge how you feel, think about what you could do differently next time, and then JUST MOVE ON.
The holidays should be fun and festive but so many of us waste a lot of mental energy worrying about our expanding waistlines and thinking that it’s hopeless. It’s not!! Try these little tweaks and see if you can make it to New Year’s feeling proud of how you closed out 2018!!
I would love to hear from you as you try this out. Please feel free to visit my Facebook page and leave a note and look for more workout inspiration!!
Hadley Sorensen is a health and fitness coach who lives in Virginia with her husband and 3 boys. She is an avid reader, runner and fitness instructor who has a passion for helping others learn to enjoy exercise. Hadley uses one-on-one coaching as well as virtual accountability groups to provide support and motivation to her clients. Her guiding philosophy is that it’s never too late to take charge of your health and improve your level of fitness. Find her on Facebook @HadleySorensenFitness