The holidays are not the easiest time of year for a healthy lifestyle. The stress, lack of physical activity and availability of high calorie foods all contribute to the weight gain experienced by many over this time period. There are strategies, however, to decrease the impact of the holiday season and come out the other side, if not better, at least with your sanity and waistline intact.
Even Santa has a hard time over the holidays
The three holidays most associated with consuming large quantities of unhealthy foods, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, all occur within an eight-week period. It’s almost as if our ancestors are trying to set us up for failure. As a result, we need to be realistic about our health, weight and fitness goals during this time.
Losing ten pounds in both November and December may be only a dream, but weight maintenance is reasonable. Not eating a single sweet at the office party has a zero percent change of happening, though grabbing one healthy snack or dish for every high calorie option is doable. Set goals and develop habits that you are totally confident in achieving and maintaining. Reaching for the stars sounds great now, but in the heat of the moment is more likely to be abandoned and failure almost assured. Choosing behaviors that are almost too easy has been shown to have an exponentially higher chance of success that those in which confidence is even slightly below maximum.
Leave The Stress Behind
Even if it’s the food, drinks and lack of exercise that is the fuel for holiday weight gain, it is our hormones that drive the car. Increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol will make the body crave high calorie foods, elevate fat storage and decrease immune function. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and regular exercise are the best methods of avoiding increased cortisol levels. Strategies that can be included during the holidays to combat the increased demands of the season are to avoid procrastination as much as possible, take breaks from any anxiety increasing social situation when needed, grab a nap when available and go for walks with friends and loved ones to catch up instead of sitting around inside.
Probably not thinking about her next workout right now
Other the calorie burning effects of exercise are often over reported, its benefits go beyond energy expenditure. Physical activity will alter the metabolism and digestion of the body for hours after completion. A vigorous workout right before a holiday party will actually decrease the impact of the snacks and drinks you consume. Exercise also is shown to have positive effects on sleep and mood. A natural stress reliever, performing low to moderate intensity physical activity in times of high stress can aid in calming yourself and the stress hormones down. In addition, high intensity sessions when feeling good will prevent stress and help swing your hormonal profile in the favor of health and weight management. Aspire for bouts of physical activity every day, whether it be a ten minute walk or a full workout.
Earning that second piece of pie
Rarely do individuals overindulge in high calorie holiday fare because they are unaware of their negative consequences. Instead, the emotions of the season and the situations we are presented with typically are the cause. The former is a bigger beast to tame, but the latter can be altered with some planning and execution throughout the festive months.
Bringing healthy dishes composed mostly of natural proteins; vegetables and fruits that are high in nutrients and taste great will ensure at least one healthy option at any gathering. Having wholesome snacks such as almonds or carrot sticks when leaving the house can prevent stops at the mall snack shops or neighborhood fast food joint on the way home. Eating a nourishing meal before going out to a party will decrease the number of snacks consumed later. Pre-planning the number of treats can also aid in overindulgence prevention.
If approached carelessly, the holiday season can derail one’s health, fitness and figure. Maintaining currently adopted habits, such as healthy eating choices and regular exercise will ensure that the consequences that extra consumption, stress and social activities bring are minimized. Being realistic, but mindful, with your expectations and taking the time the manage stress will also drastically increase your chances of coming out in January with no regrets and positivity for the new year to be even better than the last.
Guest post was contributed by the editors at Gym Junkies.
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