Getting Through the Holidays Without Gaining Weight

Monica Rowland


“The wishbone will never replace the backbone” -Will Henry



It’s that time of year again. Everywhere you go there are delectable smells of baked goods, bowls of festively wrapped candy and offerings of eggnog or hot buttered rums. It isn’t likely to change in the course of your lifetime – this time of year will always bring enormous numbers of calories along with its good tidings, so it is time to figure out a method to handle it so that you can enjoy the season without fear of setback. After all, isn’t life more fun when you embrace it in its entirety and welcome all that comes with the changing of the seasons and the holidays? It is, except when you enter the New Year 10 pounds heavier and have the post holiday blues with your new heavier frame. So, here’s how to not only welcome the holiday season and the new year, but welcome a new way to do it all without guilt or deprivation.

First and foremost, go into the season with a positive attitude that you can enjoy every celebration that comes your way AND stay healthy and fit in the process. Do whatever it takes to get this message imprinted into your subconscious mind. Create a mantra that you say when you wake up or when you enter a party. To remind yourself of your goals, post notes or pictures of yourself in pertinent places you will see multiple times per day. Make yourself a tape of positive affirmations that you pop into a tape player a few times a day to remind yourself of the successful and joyous season you are about to begin. Gain support from family members and friends that can join in with you for a season of modest indulgence and great cheer.

My favorite fitness/weight control motivator any time of year is a calendar. One that you create and take some time to decorate. Remember those advent calendars that helped you count down to Christmas by having a treat or message to open each day? This concept can be adapted into a fitness calendar for yourself with about the same amount of time and effort it would take for you to create one for a child anticipating the upcoming holiday. The first thing is to copy a simple calendar for the month(s) you want to cover. The second step is to decorate it with some inspirational quotes, Nike ads, pictures of yourself at your finest moment in the last 5-10 years and maybe even some words or picture of a reward you plan to splurge on to celebrate your success. The third step is to look at your schedule for the month and plan your exercise regimen, meals and social calendar in a way that will achieve balance for you. For example, make the days you have holiday parties or family dinners a distinct color so that you have a visual of the upcoming event. This will heighten your awareness of it and it will remind you to eat very well the few days preceding and following it. Make time on those days to do an extra long workout so that you provide yourself a little allowance for the specialties you have enjoyed all your life at this time of year. Plan your meals so that they are extra high in fiber and vegetables on those days surrounding an event and extra light on fat the day of the party. And finally, structure your exercise so that you are adding 30 minutes more per week than you have been doing the rest of the year whether it is in the form of a power walk through the mall during shopping time, or organizing a family hike or football game instead of hors d’oeuvers before dinner. Write all this planning and organization of your workouts and meals into each day at the beginning of the month. If you take your calendar as seriously as you did when you were a kid, then I can almost guarantee your success this year will surpass last year.

Another tip is to always drink a full glass of water before each meal or snack. Especially if you are at a party buffet line, then drinking one before you go through it and another just after you finish your plate will help you avoid going through the line again. Alternate drinks with water or plan how many you will allot yourself before the evening arrives. This can help you keep alcohol intake at a safer and less caloric level. Taking a late night walk with reflectors or a flash light before you turn in after a party is a great way to debrief the evening with your partner or friends and well worth paying the babysitter an extra few dollars for 30 more minutes to yourself and for your body.

Your biggest hurdle is your own mindset. If you read this and think “great ideas, but I won’t get around to it” or “it won’t work for me” than you are sabotaging yourself and have only yourself to blame. This CAN work for you and WILL work for you if you decide this is the year for your success. In the time that you take to think about doing these little methods you could actually be done with the planning phase and well on your way to feeling very in control of your weight and health this season. Posting motivational reminders on your mirror to read when you brush your teeth and water/veggie reminders on your desk at work are little ways to help increase your success on a daily basis.

Finally, you know yourself best. If you cannot do this by yourself, then enlist the help of a personal trainer, a dietician, a group fitness class, a fitness partner or a therapist. I have written a booklet called JUST EAT to help my own clients and friends down this path of planning nutrition in a balanced and simplistic way. This may be the way you get through the holiday season this year, but shouldn’t it ultimately be a way of life for you forever? Temptation will be around 12 months a year, but feeling great about yourself and staying healthy can also be achieved 12 months a year. If you bring in the New Year with a month of a solid fitness and nutrition plan under your belt it will be the perfect shift into a lifelong habit. Who knows, pretty soon you may agree with me that roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips can be as delectable in smell and taste as sugar cookies and pumpkin pie.

Monica Rowland is an ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Fitness Instructor. She started her own company called Balancing Life, LLC and trains individuals, leads group fitness classes and does corporate workshops. If you like the idea of no calculations, eating a variety of foods and putting a little planning into each week, JUST EAT may be a good guide for you. Her booklet explains the basics of how your body and your fat cells work so that you gain an understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of the human body and it gives you sample meals and tips to put her approach of nourishment into action.

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