The holiday season is a notoriously difficult time for anyone with a health and fitness goal. Food is every where you turn, family demands more of your time, and the number of temptations to stray from your healthy routine drastically increase.
Every year millions of us health-conscious Americans struggle to get through these last few months of the year without completely undoing everything we've worked for over the past 9-10 months. But, more often than not, progress is lost and we come out on the other side fatter and in worse shape than we entered.
With this post, I want to present to you a tried-and-true strategy for getting through the holidays while maintaining your results or even moving them farther than you thought possible. These tips are derived directly from my personal strategy as well as from advice that I regularly give to our clients here at Devoted Fitness & Strength. So here goes...
Don't Skip Your Workouts
Pretty much every year I hear someone say that they'll "be taking time of from the gym for the holidays." I can understand the temptation to do so too... Family is often in town, demanding more of your time or you'll be traveling to meet elsewhere. It gets pretty tough to fit in your workouts as usual.
Consider this though... whenever you're trying to reach a fitness goal, especially one related to body composition, the balance between exercise and nutrition is vital. If you decide to skip out on your workouts this time of year, you're guaranteed to shift that balance in favor of weight and body fat gain. You're tipping the scales in favor of calorie intake rather than expenditure.
Rather than skip your workouts, I suggest doing whatever it takes to continue to workout as usual (or get extra). This will mean having to plan your schedule out ahead of time, scope out gyms in the area that you'll be traveling to, and deliberately setting aside time specifically dedicated to your workouts. You may even have to have some body weight workouts in mind to do at a family member's house in case of emergency.
Plan ahead to get those workouts in and make them a priority no matter what.
This is a pretty basic one here, but often overlooked.
Staying hydrated will keep cravings under control, help you feel more vibrant and energetic, take the place of other high-calorie drinks that may be near by, and help you feel satisfied sooner.
Get a really big water bottle and keep it with you at all times. And don't forget to drink from it ;)
The single biggest danger of this time of year is that those holidays meals aren't just one meal. They're entire week-long food and alcohol binges.
If you do nothing else form this guide, do this; Compartmentalize those feasts to only the main meals themselves and you'll survive.
On Thanksgiving for example, be sure that the Thanksgiving day meal is the only "feast" you're partaking in. Outside of that, do your best to stay on track with your nutrition by eating as you normally would otherwise.
Your meals on the days leading up to, and on the day of, should consist predominantly of a lean protein source, lots of veggies and fruit, and high-quality carbohydrates. Stay away from the desserts, cheese trays, and alcohol binges whenever possible.
Junk food will be everywhere. There's no avoiding it. You're going to have to practice the discipline of saying "no," even when grandma is shoving food in your face.
I like to practice a "cheat next time" mantra. I literally say to myself, "if I stay disciplined now, I will reward myself next time." The trick is that "next time" is always in the future.
Prepare healthy food Ahead of Time
Okay, it's easy to say "eat healthy on those other meals," but how the heck is that even possible? Pretty much all there is to eat is junk! What other choice do you have?
As painful as it is to say, compartmentalizing those feasts will mean you've got to be prepared ahead of time!
That means you'll need to have some alternative meals prepared ahead of time. Precook some lean proteins and have fresh cut veggies and fruit with you and easily accessible. If you're traveling, use plastic zipper bags or containers to take your healthy fixins with you.
Heading to a restaurant? Look up their menu ahead of time and preselect your order. When you get there, don't even look at the menu. Order the healthy meal you decided on ahead of time.
In general, think about what your schedule is going to be and plan ahead of time to make good decisions. Don't leave things up to chance.
Don't Skip Meals
Often times you'll be tempted to skip meals. "If I just don't eat all day, I can save all my calories for the feast later on," will likely cross your mind.
My best advice here is to keep to your regular meal schedule. If you start skipping meals, you'll depress your metabolism and be more likely to over-indulge on junk... especially on all the random appetizers laying around. And trust me, those calories add up fast!
There is one adjustment you should make to your other meals though; limit the carbs. Stick mostly to lean protein and fresh veggies or fruit.
Contribute to the meal
Another great way to insure there's healthy food available to you is by contributing to the main meal. Don't just show up with fork-in-hand ready to eat whatever's there.
Prepare a healthy side dish or two to take with you. That way you know without a doubt that you've got something to eat at that main meal that's good for you!
One of the easiest things you can do is roast a big pile of mixed veggies in the oven. Drizzle some olive oil, fresh black pepper, salt, and garlic powder (or fresh garlic) over broccoli, colored peppers, onions, brussel sprouts, carrots, asparagus, and any other veggies you like.
Make enough to share and load up at meal time.
Take home healthy leftovers
There's always leftovers. The key is only taking home the ones that support your goals. After all, if it's in your house you or someone you love is eventually going to eat it.
Skip out on taking home desserts and rich sides, and grab more of the proteins and veggies that are leftover. Turkey, hams, green beans, etc are all at these meals in plenty. Let someone else take the junk home.
Forgive yourself and enjoy
Okay, so you've got your workout in, you prepared food ahead of time, and you worked really hard on compartmentalizing your meals, now it's time for the main event.
Load your plate with protein and veggies first, then add in whatever else you like to eat. You're human after all! Enjoy the foods you like that you wouldn't normally eat.
When the meal is over, wipe the slate clean and immediately get back on track with the normal healthy eating that supports your goals.
Good luck to you all on your fitness journeys this season!
The new year is fast approaching. Wouldn't it be nice to start off next year already fitter than you've ever been? Get the ball rolling with a free trial of our training here at Devoted Fitness & Strength with the link below!