Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
Family, food, football… And in my mind it is the “kick-off” to the holiday season! (I actually refuse to listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies until Thanksgiving, and then… it’s ON!!) 😉
However this is the time of the year when many of us may struggle the most to stay on track with fitness goals. Between holiday parties, busy shopping days that may pull us away from our workout routines and tasty holiday goodies that only pop up once a year, its easy to find yourself feeling sluggish, out of shape and set back come New Year’s Day. Statistics show that about 75% of annual weight gain happens during the holiday season.
I personally have battled holiday gain more than once… And it is NOT fun to have to shed that extra unwanted body fat come January!
I can proudly say that the past few years I have been able to find more balance than ever before when it comes to staying on track with my fitness goals AND still enjoying myself and indulging in moderation.
So I want to share with you my best tips for enjoying the holidays without packing on the pounds… Just in time for Thanksgiving!
My 5 Tips for Staying Fit Through the Holidays:
1. Set up a game plan. If your family is like mine, they know how to party. For my family holidays mean fun, food and booze!! (We’re from Wisconsin, after all.) Going into the holiday season I look at my social calendar and plan ahead to set limits for myself. The week of Christmas alone I have SIX different holiday parties to attend… If I were to have a free-for-all at every party the aftermath would NOT be pretty. So I decide ahead of time when and where I’ll splurge. One night I might indulge in a few drinks but skip the dessert table. At another party I might stick to protein and veggies so I can have a few of my favorite Christmas cookies. Establishing a plan ahead of time keeps you from getting caught up in the moment and going overboard.
2. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t slash your food intake the day of a holiday party when you are going to indulge. This will only slow your metabolism, making your body more likely to store excess calories as fat- AND it will leave you famished by the time you get to the celebration, making it way more likely for you to overeat. Instead, stick to small, healthy meals and snacks through the day. Load up on lean proteins and vegetables those days since many “party” foods are higher in carbohydrates and fat.
3. Fill your plate with healthy choices. When you get to a holiday party, scope out the options and fill your plate with nutritious foods first, like the fresh vegetable or fruit platters, salads, steamed vegetables, plain sweet potatoes, and white meat turkey. Then choose a few of your must-have holiday favorites, and enjoy smaller portions of these. Practicing portion control is key for getting through this time of year! If you are unsure whether there will be any healthy options at a party, volunteer to bring a dish to pass so you can at least resort to that. My go-to is a fresh veggie tray with hummus for dipping.
4. “Earn your bird!” This is my phrase for my workouts the week of Thanksgiving, but this goes for the entire holiday season. If you want a little more “wiggle room” to indulge in seasonal goodies, then put those extra calories to WORK… In the gym! At the end of the day it’s calories in, calories out, so if you are eating a bit more this time of year it’s a good idea to also crank up the intensity of your workouts, to get a bigger fat-burn effect. I suggest circuit training, supersets and tri-sets while lifting, and high intensity cardio intervals to up the ante and make the most of your sweat sessions. For more suggestions and 6 hardcore, fat-blasting holiday workouts, check out this article I was featured in on Bodybuilding.com: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/6-hardcore-holiday-workouts.html
5. Last but not least, keep things in perspective. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… But there is a lot more to it than just the food! One of the best pieces of advice I ever received on this matter was: “Life is about the people and experiences around you, NOT what is on the plate in front of you.” Remind yourself of this before you walk into each holiday get-together. Remember to be present in the moment, and enjoy the precious time with family and friends, instead of being hung up on food. When you do indulge, savor that moment- take it the sights, the smells, the tastes… The more present you are, the more you will really enjoy the holidays, and most likely find yourself satisfied with feeling the need to go overboard.
Wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy, blessed holiday season!