Should you give yourself a free pass to go wild for the entire month of December? Or should you bring your own tupperware to the office lunch party? The answer is no….and, no.
I’d like to personally give you a high five if you have the energy to pack food into tupperware this time of year, with all the parties, dinners, shopping trips, extra cleaning, tidying, decorating, and wrapping PLUS the accompanying emotional, financial and physical stress. Gah! I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I find the responsibilities of the festive season to be pretty overwhelming at times.
Now, because we can all use a little chuckle when things are hectic, here’s some serenity inspiration from the best television show of all time.
One of the stresses that many of our BB personal training clients face in December is the fine line between keeping an eye on that fitness prize while not going into a rabbit hole of calorie counting and obsessive workouts. After all, treating yourself and your loved ones is a big part of what makes this time of year special.
I really don’t recommend resisting every bit of temptation. I don’t think the mid- to late-December time of year is a great time to target any substantial weight loss or performance goals, if you’re one who celebrates a winter holiday. And if you celebrate more than one, God help you.
Instead I prefer to think of this time of year as a maintenance time. I try not to gain any weight. I try to balance my indulgences with some exercise. But I also recognize that pumping my veins full of carbohydrates and booze does not set me up for stellar workouts. I am sleeping less. I am drinking more. I am drinking a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot of coffee. I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off because I am the textbook definition of a procrastinator. Willpower wanes. Schedules get tight.
So do what I do.
I know from years of fitness training that there are times to fight tooth-and-nail, and times to admit I’m beaten. Give yourself a free-pass to enjoy the festivities over the next couple of weeks, by all means… but let’s keep it to something slightly more wholesome than the food and drink version of “Girls Gone Wild.”
Here is your 7-step plan to enjoy the holidays without giving yourself a month-long hangover come January 1st.
1. Don’t eat every carbohydrate that passes under your nose.
You’re not a raccoon. When you get to the party, dinner, brunch, survey the options and decide which of the side dishes or appetizers you really love, and which you can pass up while still feeling satisfied. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? Are you carbing up for an Ironman Triathlon? If it doesn’t really excite you, skip it. You won’t remember the mediocre rice pilaf. Instead, splurge on those scalloped potatoes your grandma has made since you were 4. That you’ll remember.
2. Beware the condiment.
Seems harmless, right? Just a dip in the ranch dressing. Maybe a smear of some kind of strange cheese spread. Dip 15 veggies in ranch dressing (pay attention, double dippers…) and you’ve likely consumed a couple of tablespoons and a half a meal’s calories in dip alone. Don’t even get me started on the gravy. Remember that healthy foods covered in mayonnaise, oil, and sugar are no longer “healthy” foods. Enjoy them, but be aware you’re in snack food territory.
3. Volunteer to be on kitchen duty.
This is a good one! Not only will you keep your butt off the couch and burn calories cooking and cleaning, you’ll also spend the day hovering over the stuffing, potatoes, latkes, braciole [insert your festive cuisine here]. This takes the excitement of the “reveal” away when you sit down to the table. Look around the dinner table and notice – I’d be willing to bet the people who spent the day smelling, cooking and tasting those dishes are not piling their plates as full as everyone else. It’s a “been there, done that” kind of thing.
4. Or… volunteer to be on kid duty.
Take the kids outside. Snow or not, you can keep the kids from going totally nuts if you get them some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. And, unless you take the box of chocolates to the park with you, you’ll probably eat less and burn more than you would staying at home. As they say, “Idle hands are the devil’s work.” As in, devil’s food. As in, cake. As in, keep busy and you’ll probably snack less out of boredom.
5. Don’t drink too many calories.
You’re going to eat and drink more than usual…pretty much guaranteed. So choose cocktails that don’t provide the equivalent of a meal’s worth of calories in a glass. 150 calories of red wine (about 5-6 oz) will get you just as drunk as 300 calories of a mixed drink cocktail (the average 6-7 oz glass). Lower carbohydrate and lower calories options for mixed drinks are vodka, gin and tequila.
6. Keep a mental food budget.
Don’t count calories at the holidays. That’s more depressing than receiving a small appliance from “Santa”. If you know dinner is going to be heavy, skimp earlier in the day on the types of foods you’ll probably be eating later on. Specifically, most of us will eat a portion of meat surrounded by 463 side dishes of various starches, swimming in sugary and fatty sauces. Don’t skip breakfast & lunch in order to save calories; you’ll just be drunk and starving by the time dinner rolls around. Instead, bulk up on veggies and protein early on (which are, conveniently, filling while still lower in sugar and calories) so by the end of the dinner you’ve had a more well-rounded day of nutrition.
7. When the going gets tough, get going.
I like to party as much as the next personal trainer. No, really. We do like to party. My style is the go-hard-early-and-disappear-after-dinner style. In other words, I drink before dinner and enjoy dinner, help clean up (most of the time) and then generally head to bed pretty early. Stay up late and more drinks, dessert, snacks and midnight leftovers just become WAY more likely. Go to bed and you’ll not only miss that second round of gluttony but log some z’s so your metabolism stays somewhere near normal and you’ve got just an ounce of willpower tomorrow when the next holiday meal or leftover treats are beckoning.
BONUS: If you mentally lower the fitness bar, you’ll find it’s so much easier to squeeze in a workout because it doesn’t have to be the perfect hour in the gym. This 5-minute kitchen workout is the perfect, attainable goal!
Happy holidays, mamas!