And, just like that, with the flip of a calendar page…the holidays are here! I don’t know about you, but this is definitely my favorite time of year. Delicious food, fun music, festive parties, delicious food, decorating the house, gift giving, did I mention delicious food? Hands down, my favorite holiday memories revolve around the table! However, with so many tempting treats and high-calorie dishes, it can be near impossible to stick to your healthy eating habits while still enjoying the festivities. But not this year! I am here to help you stay on top of your game! Following a few reasonable guidelines and taking a moment to develop some quick “game day strategies” can ensure that you still get to enjoy that slice of pie (or two!) and fit into your skinny jeans on New Year’s Eve. Game on!
First Quarter: Know Your Opponent
The first step to surviving the holiday madness is to know (as much as you possibly can) what you are getting into. Take a look at your calendar for November and December. What do you see? Parties and after-work events that may derail healthy eating? Extra errands and volunteer activities that cut into hard-earned workout time? Don’t despair! You can still participate in all of these festivities while staying in the healthy lifestyle game. Understanding ahead of time what demands will be made on your schedule is the first step to success. By preparing in advance, you will be better able to maintain a healthy eating and fitness plan whenever possible. And when it is time to let loose a bit and enjoy yourself at a party, you are able to do so without feeling like you have thrown in the towel! How do you do this? Take a look at step two.
Related: 7 Healthy Thanksgiving Day Swaps
Second Quarter: Prepare for Victory
Taking a few moments with your holiday schedule will get you ready for the second step, er quarter: planning ahead to guarantee success! Have a busy week with multiple parties where you plan on enjoying delicious food and drinks? Is a day of errands going to keep you out and about? Excellent! Now is the time to put your best organizational skills to the test.
To stay on top of your healthy eating efforts, stick to the 80/20 nutrition plan. 80% of the time, do your best to eat healthy foods that you know help your body perform and look its best. 20% of the time, loosen your reigns and enjoy yourself! Savor that cup of eggnog and fancy hors d’oeuvre knowing you will be back on track the next morning. Pack healthy snacks (cut up fruits and veggies, plain, low-fat Greek yogurt and whole food protein bars are wonderful choices) to make healthy eating easier on the go. For nights at home, try to keep dinners a bit lighter and healthier than usual as well.
Maintaining a regular fitness schedule can also be a challenge this time of year. When parties and events cut into your normal exercise time, what can you do? I like to take a look at each day or week during the holiday season and find my “workout window” for the days I know I will want to get a sweat session in. Sometimes that means getting up earlier in the morning (my least favorite time to schedule exercise, but I always feel better when it’s done!) or doing a video at night after the kids have gone to bed. As long as it happens at some point in the day, I am happy!
Related: 4 Steps to Holiday Happiness
Third Quarter: Every Effort Counts
The hardest part about maintaining a healthy lifestyle over the holidays is sticking with it. There are 9 full weeks in between Halloween and New Year’s. Trying to stay fit and motivated while being inundated with treats and obligations can be a true challenge.
At these moments, it’s critical to remember that this is a special time of year and that enjoying yourself is also an important part of your wellness plan. Can’t find any time to exercise for a couple days? That’s ok. Look for simple way to fit in movement; even a walk around the block counts (better yet, encourage your guests to join you for a walk and make an event of it!). On super busy days (well actually every day!) I choose to wear an activity tracker. Then if my scheduled workout gets interrupted or simply can’t happen I still have made every step count and that makes me feel better.
The same thinking can apply to your nutrition plan. Have a weekend filled with parties and events where you enjoyed amazing food? Not to worry, hop right back on the healthy eating wagon Monday morning! Just continue to do your best to make choices that you know will serve your body well that week. Let go of the guilt and choose to move forward!
Fourth Quarter: In It To Win It
I heard a saying once that if you worry about what you eat and drink from New Year’s to Christmas, you don’t have to worry about what you eat and drink from Christmas to New Year’s. I kind of like that; and though it isn’t exactly that easy, there seems to be a truth in allowing yourself a few things you wouldn’t normally have when the rest of the time, you are choosing healthy options!
If you have made it into the homestretch of the holiday season and stayed on track with nutrition and exercise: congratulations and keep it up! If you have had a few slip ups along the way, that’s ok too; the game is not over yet! Take a minute to remind yourself of the tools that have made you successful over the last several weeks, months or years. Have you found that eating a filling and nutritious breakfast keeps you from overeating at lunch? Or that if you schedule a workout at the gym with a friend, you’re more likely to keep to it and actually enjoy it? Wonderful; make sure to keep those things up as you approach the holiday season. A little pre-planning and schedule adjusting can make a big difference in the world of fitness and nutrition. Remember to give yourself credit for even the smallest efforts and most importantly, enjoy this magical time of year. By following the steps in this game plan, you can help ensure that you start 2016 a winner!