For some, the end of the year means holiday parties, fantastic food and treats on treats on treats. This can also be a source of stress for those that are mindful about their nutrition intake and worry that the holidays can derail habits, progress or both.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful if you have the right mindset and strategy going in. You can still enjoy your family, meals and treats without feeling guilty or overindulged. With the right attitude and tools, you can enjoy that special cookie recipe or holiday meal and still stay on track with your fitness goals.
Have a Game Plan and Be Present
Take a moment to jot down your days of training and when you plan to be in the gym. Text a gym buddy for accountability and let them know which days you will be there and ask them to join you! Know the days you are planning to celebrate with a meal and let yourself be in the moment and present on your gym days and your parties. Don’t stress about your gym time when you’re at the party, and don’t stress about the party in the gym. Be present and mindful in the moment. Extra stress can raise cortisol levels, which in turn can store the wrong kinds of nutrition. Breathe, enjoy and know that one meal won’t set you back, just like one workout won’t get you in shape. It’s the long term habits that matter.
Don’t Skip Meals
Sometimes, on those big days, with big meals, you think it might make sense to skip breakfast because you know you’ll be eating a larger meal later. However, unless your body is used to this kind of strategy, (ie, you’ve been consistently doing Intermittent Fasting) this could backfire in keeping you on track. When you skip breakfast before a large afternoon meal, without proper planning and portion control, your body could take the signal that you’re starving, and store all those extra calories in long term storage you consume in the afternoon. In contrast, when you have a healthy breakfast, and eat your meals at regular intervals, your body knows it will get the proper intake of food, and metabolize your meals into energy instead of hoarding the calories in fat cells.
Eat Slowly and Pay Attention to Portions
You can say "yes" to your Aunt Betty’s apple pie. Especially if she only makes it once a year and it's your favorite thing ever! Enjoy that pie. Savor each bite and understand that one slice is enough for your belly and heart to feel satisfied. By taking your time with your plate full of food, you’re also giving your belly and brain time to communicate. It usually takes 20 minutes for your brain to signal to the rest of your body that you are full and have eaten enough food. So don’t gulp down your plate in 5 minutes and go back for seconds. Take your time, be sensible about the amount of food you’re loading on that plate and enjoy.
Be Smart About Drink Choices
Those liquid calories can add up. Whether it’s the pre-meal cocktail, or cup of cocoa at bedtime, the drinks can be the sneaky assassin to your nutrition goals. Moderation is the key here. Too much alcohol can also lead to a domino effect in your portion control and ability to recognize when you’re full. Aim to intake a glass of water for every alcoholic or sugary drink. It’s also a good idea to be conscious about increasing your water intake throughout the holiday season (and every season for that matter) to help with the digestive and metabolic process of your food intake.
Give Yourself Grace
Listen. The holidays are supposed to be about friends, family, community and warmth. Don’t let poor nutrition choices get in the way of that. Just because you have one meal where you overdid it, it doesn’t mean that you ruined your goals and have to wait until January to get back on track. Drink lots of water, choose the veggies at meals as well as the savory gravy. Don’t skip your planned workouts. And don’t “punish” yourself in the gym because you ate more than one piece of Aunt Betty's pie. The cooperative way your brain and body can work together to find that balance of fitness, health and celebrating can be magic. Let your mind and body work together to find that cooperation. Eat the cookie. Go to the gym. Enjoy the season.
We would love to hear your plans and strategies for enjoying the holidays and staying consistent with your fitness goals!