Hoping to shed some pounds during the holidays? No matter how motivated you are, 'tis probably not the season to make drastic changes to your routine. With all the lists you're making and checking twice, you'll barely have time to breathe, let alone think about adding a weight-loss or fitness plan to your to-dos.
But that doesn't mean the holidays have to be an unhealthy time. In fact, it's important to keep long-term health goals in mind in the months ahead, even if there's no time yet to really start on them.
If you ignore your goals altogether they may be much harder to address — mentally and physically — in the new year. The 10 pounds you wanted to lose by Christmas may seem like a tough hill to climb, but the 18 pounds you'll face on January 1 if you overdo it during December, will feel like a mountain.
Have a healthy holiday!
Your first step toward good holiday health: Don't use the season as an excuse to splurge. The second? Always be on the lookout for ways to fit healthy behaviours into your life. Even in the hectic weeks ahead, there are steps you can take that will make it easier for you to tackle your weight-loss goals in the New Year.
Challenge yourself to use these easy tricks:
- Always eat a healthy dinner before you go to a holiday party.
- "Don't go to a party wearing spacious clothes," suggests Josh Fink, MD, owner of Prescriptions For Fitness, a personal training studio. Wear something slim-fitting, or pull your belt one notch tighter than it should be — you will be much less likely to overeat.
- Bring "safe," healthy foods to potlucks.
- At appetizer tables, choose two or three of your favourites, put them on a napkin rather than a large plate which you're likely to want to fill up.
- If there are fruits and veggies available, load your plate with them first. Then find room for smaller portions of the high-calorie mains.
- Watch out for craving binges, says Leslie Fink, MS, RD, nutritionist for Weight Watchers, which are times when you feel guilty for overeating, then figure you might as well just eat as much as you can while you're at it. Remember: One meal is one meal. One day is one day.
- On the nights you decide to have a drink, limit yourself to one or two and don't indulge every night, says Fink.
- If you are drinking, alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic choices. Asking for wine spritzers, which are half wine and half seltzer, is a great way to limit the impact of the liquor.
- Drink extra water to help flush out the extra sodium you consume during rich meals, says Fink.
- No matter how busy you get, make time for a healthy breakfast. Eating a morning meal will help control cravings later on.
- If baked goods are your holiday weakness, consider hosting a cookie party: Everybody brings one batch of his or her favourite cookies, plus the recipe, and shares. This way, you and your family get a variety without having to bake loads. (For extra credit, challenge your guests to bring low-fat or low-calorie cookies.)
- Store healthy snacks at the front of your fridge and pantry, and go for them before you treat yourself to the splurge stuff.
- Just say "no" to holiday-coloured, packaged candies and cakes! So what if they're red and green or blue and white — with all the homemade goodies hanging around, you don't need them.
- Streamline your grocery shopping with lists of the ingredients you'll need for a week's worth of quick, easy meals. This way, you won't be limited to last-minute convenience and fast foods during those nights when you're dashing around.
- Park as far away from stores and malls as you can, so you're forced to get in those extra minutes of walking.
- Online shopping is a great time saver, but it means you lose out on the mall walking that usually goes with shopping. Make it up by figuring out exactly how much time you saved (say, 15 minutes per gift), and increasing your cardio by that much for the week.
- On heavy-eating weeks, compensate for the extra food with more weight or resistance training. "It will increase the metabolic rate of the muscle tissue," says Fink. That means your body will be better prepared to handle the extra calories.
- Add health-related gifts to your wish list this year — they could help make for a slimmer, healthier new year!