It seems like only yesterday that you were worried about how'd you squeeze into last year's swimsuit. It took you almost six months to recover from the overindulgences and festivities of last November and December.
And just when you finally had things under control, summer ended and you found yourself indoors, less active, and fully clothed every day. It became easy to relax and give in to your cravings.
But the fall/winter season continues to wreak havoc past summer's end. Halloween candy and Thanksgiving dinner give way to non-stop partying and December's too-busy-for-anything-but-shopping syndrome. You can almost feel your pants getting tighter as your weight spirals out of control.
I'm not suggesting that we ignore the holiday season just to stay in shape. Enjoying the simple pleasures with friends and family is what life is all about.
So how can we celebrate the season but avoid the post-summer tendency to slip out of shape? I offer you five surefire ways to survive this holiday season and avoid the season's most common pitfalls.
Pitfall blaster #1
Bend but don't break
It's important to have a fixed plan, lofty goals and high ideals -- but during this most hectic time of year, when daylight hours and physical activity levels naturally dip, you need flexibility more than ever.
Have a plan B in every case. When your week unexpectedly calls for extra time at work or a last minute party invitation, and you still have a shopping list a mile long, getting to the gym may prove impossible. You should have an abbreviated full body circuit routine at the ready -- something that can be done just about anywhere in under 15 minutes. Plan B can substitute for your regular workout whenever you're pressed for time.
Pitfall blaster #2
Eat some stuff you love
Food plays a larger role in society than solely providing nourishment. The dinner table is where family and friends come together, especially around the holiday season. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods with the ones you love, but always in moderation. Portion control is the key to enjoying just about everything. When chowing down on our favorite foods, we have a tendency to eat past satiation. Slow down and listen to your body. Learn to push your plate away at the first sign of fullness. If you totally deprive yourself of all the foods you love, your cravings will grow and you'll succumb in a rebound fashion.
Pitfall blaster #3
Plan and prioritize your time
Suggestion number one called for a plan B in case of unavoidable circumstances getting the better of you at the last minute. However, long range planning can help avoid most short range problems. If necessary, keep your workouts short and sweet. Try and schedule exercise into a relatively quiet part of the day, such as early morning. You might also try working out at home or joining a gym right near your place of work to save travel time.
Let others know how important your exercise program is to you. Once your friends and family understand that it's an important part of your life, they'll have to respect your decision to stay in shape (and maybe even join you).
Pitfall blaster #4
Include your family and friends
As much as possible, include your loved ones in your fitness-oriented lifestyle. This isn't to say that everyone will support, let alone participate. As best you can set an example with your own behavior, but never lecture.
You could take a hike on a chilly weekend morning. Entice the family with the reward of tasty brunch right afterwards. You could also invest in some home gym equipment as a special holiday gift for the home, and turn the purchase into a family outing.
At family meals, serve all fresh vegetables, big salads and turkey instead of beef or pork. Minimize the addition of saturated fats such as cream cheese and butter and replace with smaller quantities of olive oil. Remove any sweetened drinks from the supper table, and limit all refined carbs. Become the family that knows how to eat right and stay active.
Pitfall blaster #5
Get past setbacks fast
Don't try to make up for yesterday by eating less or exercising more today. Get back on your regimen and cut your losses (or gains). Stress and depression about missed workouts, or trying to make up for yesterday with an overly intense or lengthy session, will sabotage your progress.
Your goal should be to challenge yourself in minute increments every workout -- no more, no less. To attempt to go beyond this will surely result in over training and injury. Relax, think about the big picture, and remember tomorrow is another day.
These five very practical suggestions should help you manage the year-end physical slide most of us do annually. Allow yourself some leeway when it comes to exercising a little less, and realize it's okay to give in to a few treats at the appropriate times.
Whenever possible, include your family in your plan... but don't be too hard on yourself if you fall a little short. Get up, dust yourself off, and get right back on the program.
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