It happened last weekend. I walked out of the movie theater and felt a cold breeze. Not cool – cold. I knew that I should be wearing a jacket but in Houston you never think about pulling them out of the closet until you feel that first cold breeze.
When I feel the weather change I know that the holidays are close behind. It’s time to make a plan to manage holiday temptation (from Halloween to New Year’s Day) and get to the New Year feeling great about my health. Today we’re focusing on the big 3 – healthy eating, exercising, and managing stress.
The big myth is that people gain 5-7 pounds during the holidays. Thankfully, research from the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 tells us that people who begin at a normal weight only gain 1 pound from mid-November to the end of December. The more overweight you are, the more you tend to gain. The study also showed, however, that the 1 pound you gain during the holidays tends to stick around. In any given year it’s not a issue. But add those pounds up over the course of any adult’s life and holiday weight becomes a problem.
Weight gain tends to be the obvious place to focus attention when it comes to holiday health, but there are other issues that are more insidious. People blow off their workouts when they get busy during the holidays. It is much more difficult to re-start a good habit than it is to continue. We’ve seen many people say, “I’ll be back in the New Year.” Exercise is one of the best stress busters we know, so not only do these folks not get the benefits of the workout, they tend to be stressed out, big time during the holiday season.
Managing stress is the most impactful thing that you can do during the holidays. When you are stressed you will eat more, drink more, blow off the workout, sleep poorly and possibly fall into holiday depression. Stress management is something that you have to build into your day. It doesn’t happen automatically in our society – you must find ways to decompress and make it priority.
1. Monitor. This is our best tip to help you get through the season feeling great. Log your eating, exercise, weight, sleep – whatever issues tend to come up for you. There are great apps for this. Our favorite is LoseIt. This is something that we use with our coaching clients. They can monitor everything from calories to hydration levels and more. When you keep your health goals in mind by committing to writing them down every day, it’s much easier to get back on track if you need to course correct. If you know that you will be writing down the 4th cupcake or cup of holiday wassail, it might make you stop and think twice.
2. Accountability. Having some accountability during the holiday season will help stay on track. If you know that you’ll meet up with a trainer or check in with your wellness coach, you will likely make better choices than you would otherwise. For some, it’s enough to have a workout buddy or belong to an exercise group. I’ve even known people who schedule their annual doctor’s visit during December so they will stay on track long enough to have good numbers (blood pressure, blood glucose, etc.) I say, whatever works! External accountability can be a powerful method of maintaining good health habits.
3. Calendar your health habits. This applies to your workout, of course. If you don’t make time for the gym, your yoga class, a run in the park – whatever type of exercise you do – it won’t happen when life get’s busier. Put it on the calendar and stick to it like the important appointment it is.
Also schedule time for managing stress. This might mean a nap after lunch, 5 minutes of meditation, or a little time listening to your favorite music. Find ways to de-stress and do it daily.
Lastly, schedule meals. While there are many healthy holiday cookbooks, our recommendation is to keep it simple. You will eat better if you cook it yourself. And you will be more likely to cook yourself if you limit ingredients and cook simple foods. Chicken with broccoli, salmon and asparagus, steak and green beans. Make a pot of chicken soup and enjoy for several days. Eat salads for lunch & use your leftovers. You can throw in baked sweet potato or brown rice if you want to include some complex carbs. But keep prep times and ingredients to a minimum. You’ll save time, money, and calories when you do.
4. Be ready for life to derail your plans. If you think through potential problems in advance and have solutions waiting, you’ll be ahead of the game. Have a secret, at-home workout that you can do anywhere. Have a couple of wonderful, healthy dishes that you can take to the cocktail party or potluck. Pick 2 or 3 restaurants where you know you can make a healthy choice off the menu. Look for ways to sneak in extra sleep or a phone call with a friend. Be aware and realize that it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your health habits.
Enjoy this holiday season to the fullest! We know that the best way to do that is to head into the season with awareness and a plan. And if there is a way that X Factor can help, give us a call or email.
Question: What is your favorite trick for staying on track with your health routine during the holiday season?
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