Let’s face it – like it or not, the holidays are quickly approaching. Malls nationwide have had their Christmas decor out for months now, and grocery store meat departments are being inundated with frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving. Soon enough, we’ll be faced with holiday dinners for the office, ugly sweater parties (which are basically just an excuse to get a keg – something you’re never too old for), and Mom’s infamous chocolate snowflake cookies. By the time we get around to kicking off those New Year’s resolutions, we’ll have the added guilt of holiday weight gain to tack on to those pounds we already vow to lose starting in January. But what if we took the steps now to keep the holiday weight gain at bay? It’s totally possible to survive the holidays without gaining weight, and it’s even possible to lose weight during all the festivities. How? Well, start by following these tips:
Make an event calendar. Start by listing all your planned holiday events on a calendar. Include work parties, holiday parties and any other pre-planned events that will involve food and alcohol. If you look at it on the calendar, chances are, it’s not as bad as you thought. On my personal calendar, I’ve got four parties over the next month and a half, plus celebrations on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. That’s what? Eight days? Eight days. A visual breakdown of your events is a helpful reminder that you don’t have to throw your diet out the window for an entire month just because the holidays seem packed full of food-driven events. Enjoy those pre-planned events, and make it a point to eat mindfully the rest of the time.
Compensate. If you know you’re going to indulge (okay, maybe binge eat cookies like you’re auditioning for the next Cookie Monster), compensate with some exercise or healthy choices made previously that day. Knowing you’re going to have a big dinner or dessert should be motivation to eat light early in the day or hit the treadmill to “earn” those indulgences.
Bring a dish. If you’re heading to a holiday party at someone’s house this year, offer to bring a dish or two to share. Food bloggers like Skinnytaste and Emily Bites offer delicious healthy alternatives to some of your favorite holiday dishes, and by doing this, you can guarantee you’ll have something healthy to snack on while you’re there.
Pack a snack. Fighting the crowds at the malls during the holidays is exhausting. Chances are, you’re going to need a coffee break (since drinking wine while holiday shopping, albeit fun, is probably frowned upon) and a serious snack break to refuel before you tackle the crazies at Bath & Body Works. Instead of hitting the food court or snagging a greasy pretzel, pack a snack from home. KIND bars, a banana or some almonds are great ways to refuel without loading your body full of processed sugars and carbohydrates that will leave you passed out behind the discount DVD box at Target in a food coma.
Alcohol or food: pick one. Chances are, both food and alcohol will be in full force during most holiday celebrations. Instead of overloading on both, pick one indulgence. That doesn’t mean you get to binge drink or eat – just keep in mind that those syrupy shots and peppermint schnapps often have just as many calories in them as a plate of buffalo chicken dip. If you’d rather eat all your favorite goodies, go light on the alcohol that night. And if you’d rather drink your dinner (I’m not an advocate for this, but hey – it happens), fill up on something healthy beforehand so you’re not tempted to hover over the crockpot of BBQ weenies.
Find alternative ways to celebrate. Our society is incredibly food-driven, and we’re taught to celebrate with food from an early age. But we don’t have to. Make it a point to organize an event that doesn’t center around eating sugar-laden goodies. Check out Woodland Lights in Centerville and indulge in a cup of hot chocolate to keep warm. Go ice skating at RiverScape and actually burn calories without sacrificing on fun. Hit up Raise Your Brush to paint and drink wine – you’ll get to take home your painting at the end of the night without the added guilt of consuming the extra calories. Dayton has so much to offer and there’s no law that says we have to focus our holiday celebrations around food.
Commit to a fitness plan. In addition to just compensating for your eating choices with some extra exercise, commit to a fitness plan before the resolutioners come walking through the doors in January like deer in headlights. Give yourself the next month to get comfortable with your new gym (or reacquaint yourself if you haven’t gone in awhile) and establish a routine. Check out some new classes and get control over your fitness plan before the bulk of the holidays set in. Once you’re in an established routine, battling the holidays won’t seem as tough. You’ll also feel infinitely more confident come January when you’re already feeling like a rockstar and you can help motivate the “newbies” with resolutions.
It’s all about balance. Last year, I managed to lose weight over the holidays and I plan to make this year just as successful. Balancing real life with maintaining a healthy lifestyle is hard – and definitely more of a challenge when faced with all the temptations of the holidays. The best advice I can give anyone is to not wait until the first of the year to get control of your diet. The holidays are jammed full of impromptu happy hours, reunions with out-of-town friends and celebrating with friends and family. Feeling in control of your diet now will give you confidence to make healthy choices when faced with spur of the moment events. Throwing caution to the wind during the holidays doesn’t change the fact that you’re still overeating and not compensating with exercise. Your body will know the difference, even if you choose not to mentally acknowledge it. Make a decision to be actively engaged with your food and exercise choices this year, and you won’t be looking at the scale in horror come January.