It’s oh-so tempting to let the winter months get the best of your waistline. Especially when you factor in holiday get gatherings and family dinners filled to the brim with rich, fat-heavy foods. But when you’ve made a commitment to a healthier lifestyle, you don’t want to be the one frowning at your scale come January 1. You don’t want to be forced to make the same resolution, again.
So, how do you prioritize health through the holidays without being entirely tight-lipped when it comes to your favorite dishes? The holiday season presents a series of unique challenges that usually add up to a little extra poundage. It isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but if it changes your entire lifestyle, that’s a red flag.
THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU, RIGHT?
The cold weather urges us to stay indoors and under blankets. It makes your favorite outdoor morning runs a torturous, lung-burning experience (unless you’re in California or Florida, you lucky beach dwellers). There are far less daylight hours to enjoy, leaving your brain more fatigued after 5 p.m. than it is when you have until 9 or 10 before it gets dark in the summer. And, of course, there’s the food. Comfort food rules all as the temperatures get colder and the snow starts to fall. It seems as though the world has purposely stacked the odds against your health bets come this time of year.
But, it doesn’t have to mean detriment to your regimen or complete and utter refusal to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving, Christmas, and beyond. You just have to outwit the odds and be willing to stick to your guns a little harder than you want to.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
It’s not like you have to head into the holidays with a notebook filled out, detailing an excruciatingly strict plan for you to keep the weight off. One of the biggest ways to ensure your failure is to hold yourself on a pedestal, expecting to do everything perfectly. Setting yourself up to stay healthy through the holiday season is actually about allowing yourself some wiggle room, but understanding when you’re about to hit the point of no return.
Everyone has a different set-point for their weight. For better or worse, our bodies like to stay within a reasonable range of that set point. With continually good or bad habits, that set point can raise or lower (but it is a LOT easier to make it raise than it is to bring it back down again.) The important part of realizing this is that if you gain a couple pounds while keeping up most of your healthy habits, but allowing yourself a little indulgence, you aren’t ruined. Your habits aren’t doomed.
BALANCE IS ABOUT PRIORITIES
Every health-related article on the planet talks about striking a balance, so I won’t harp on it here. Instead, let’s discuss what it really takes to create that balance. As we’ve already covered, you are not doomed to forever be gaining weight if you have an extra helping of stuffing and eat a bigger slice of apple pie than you normally would this holiday season. So what makes the difference between maintaining health and getting back on an even healthier track after the holidays and falling off the wagon, spending the next three months ordering in chinese and pizza and wondering where you went wrong? Priorities.
It’s one thing to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and eat a couple of the cookies you were going to put out for Santa, but still work out as regularly as possible and prioritize healthier options at the other meals throughout the season. That’s prioritizing your health without giving up everything. If, instead, you gorge yourself on everything at the table as though it might be your last meal, and eat nothing but holiday sweets in between, deciding somewhere in the midst of the mad feasting that you are just too busy to work out – now you’re in for trouble.
In one of those scenarios (hint: moderation and reasonable amounts of exercise) you are prioritizing your health. In the other, you are shoving it way down to the very bottom of your list of things you care about, down past cleaning up after your dog and buried underneath actually folding the laundry when it comes out of the dryer. If you don’t at least drag your health up to somewhere in between brushing your teeth daily and making sure you don’t miss the newest episode of Scandal on your priority list, you’re not going to like what the holiday train does to you.
SAYING NO TO GRANNY
In the end, though, you aren’t the only factor in your holiday fitness achievements. Grandmas the world over spend the months of November and December insisting you have another helping and weird old aunts will attempt to force feed you cookies and fruit cake until you want to keel over, but here’s the thing. Your family is encouraging the overeating because they love you and want you to be happy. And we both know how much Granny’s mashed potatoes make you happy. But, you’d be perfectly happy with just one helping. So when they offer another – politely pass. And when they insist, laugh a little, make a joke about too much of a good thing, and pass the baton to the next person at the table. Promise your grandma will respect your decisions. After all, she’s got at least 10 more relatives to attempt to force feed.
See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now when you step on the scale January 1 (seriously, though, why do we all feel the need to do that as though the morning after what was likely a pretty decent party is going to be the best stick to measure our New Year’s health goals against??) you won’t feel like you undid an entire year’s worth of work in two short months. Here’s to lookin’ at you and your beautifully balanced 2016!