It happens every year. You finally get into a good self-care routine just in time to spoil it all during November and December. Overeating and neglecting exercise during these two months are now just as much of a tradition as the holidays themselves, not to mention the extra stress that tends to creep up this time of year. You hear rumors of people who manage to stick to their routines and keep from falling off the wagon, but it seems more like a myth. Well, here are some tips that people follow to stay on track during this time of year:
Don’t Go All-or-Nothing
Diets that are too restrictive fail for just that reason. They create an “all-or-nothing” mentality that is destined to fail. When you limit yourself from all foods that you consider to be “bad”, the minute that you do give in once to eating bad foods, the floodgates open. You get down on yourself and say, “to heck with the diet!”
“All-or-nothing” is a mental trap. Mental traps are harmful lines of thinking that appear out of seemingly nowhere, and nearly everyone has fallen into one at some point.
Most of the time when you’ve found a routine that works for you and you stick to it, these traps remain non-existent. However, there are certain times where your mind will see a change in routine coming and build artificial reasons why you should just throw in the towel and wait out the holiday storm of putting on the pounds.
At one point or another, we’ve all shrugged at a tray of brownies around Christmastime and said, “It’s the holidays.” You decide to put off thinking about how much you might set yourself back until after the new year. But let me tell you: two months off the wagon can ruin the last 10 months of progress. Avoid this All-or-nothing mental trap. Accept that certain days and meals aren’t going to be the healthiest. All the more reason to stick to your normal routine until those days. This brings us to the next tip:
Eat Well When You Can
The holidays themselves account for a very small portion of November and December. Start the holiday with the knowledge that you’re going to stray from your normal eating habits when you are around family and friends, and then plan from there. With this already in your mind, you know it’s best to skip your usual weekly ‘cheat meal’ or that ice cream you crave on weekends because you already have your free days set aside for the month. Keeping this in mind will help keep those cravings at bay and also give you something delicious holiday food to look forward to.
Having this mindset will also take away the guilt and stress associated with trying your best to eat healthy around family and friends. You can free your mind of all of that and just enjoy yourself and the company you keep. The bonus effect of having less stress during these times will help you to enjoy this time more, make better memories with your family, and not be the odd one out who’s avoiding all the delicious meals and desserts.
Eat Reasonably, Not Restrictively
You might ask, “Well, how can I eat well on that out-of-down trip spent with family where everything in the house is deliciously fattening?” A general rule of thumb, don’t worry about eating only salads, stress about getting your servings of fruits and veggies, or feel guilty for eating carbs when you’re on vacation or visiting relatives. That’s what those days are for! Besides, stress is a terrible thing at any time, but can be made worse by feelings of guilt if you beat yourself up over sharing a good meal with your family.
So, don’t stress or bend over backward to find keto-approved meals when you’re out of your normal routine or environment. Stress itself can make you pack on pounds of body fat because your body doesn’t understand the nuance of different kinds of stress. Any stress makes your body not only crave food, but also makes it want to hang on to those calories as body fat.
What you can do, however, is eat all those foods in moderation. While sometimes it feels that overeating has become part of the tradition, there is nothing wrong with eating within reason. No need to stuff yourself. Maybe have only one dessert rather than several. Moderation is the key to staying on track.
Drinking water also helps more than you might think. In addition to keeping you hydrated, replacing soda or beer with water is one of the best things you can do for your health. Just switching a majority of your beverages to water during the holidays will save you a lot of unnecessary calories and have you feeling great!
Don’t Forget to Stick with the Exercise
Giving up exercising during the holidays can be quite tempting but is definitely not worth it in the long run. Keep up with your routine; you’ll be glad you did when you find that you’re the only one not struggling to start a new routine after New Year’s; you’ll already be on track! The best way to keep up with your routine is to follow a few easy steps.
Track your progress: What gets measured, gets done. You don’t need to be overly thorough or detailed, just keep an open Excel sheet or a daily journal that you jot down in (Cardio – 15 minutes, lifted weights – 45 minutes, etc.) This may seem unnecessary, but it actually makes sticking to a routine so much easier because not only are you tracking the days you stayed active, but you mentally get to check off the daily exercise each time you update that log and feel good about your accomplishments. And if you do happen to miss a day, it’s right there in your mind and you will not miss two.
Have a Plan: Few things are more demotivating than going to the gym without having a workout in mind. Not having a plan makes it too easy to just half-heartedly do a few exercises and leave, or just skip the workout altogether. Know before you go to sleep at night what your exercise plan is for tomorrow and what time you will do it. This small step in planning when and how you exercise will make you much more successful in sticking to a routine.
Plan for Light Days Too: Not every day has to involve an hour-long HIIT class or a 2-hour trip to the gym. That’s a recipe for burning yourself out. A light day could just be taking the dog for an extended walk or 15-minutes of yoga. The important thing, especially during the holidays, is to stay active in some way.
Holidays tend to be a stressful time anyway— getting caught up at work so you’re not behind for the new year, battling with everyone else in the world to get the perfect gifts for the people you care about (even though you have no idea what they want!), and coordinating everyone’s travel plans, planning dinner, fighting about who’s hosting, and so much more. So, while this may sound like a joke, it is said with full sincerity — Relax. Find ways to cut your stress and find a minute to breathe. You don’t need to be super-human; don’t put so much on your plate.
Finally, Enjoy the Holidays!
Enjoy the change of scenery. Enjoy the company you’re surrounded by. Enjoy making memories. Don’t forget, holidays aren’t about food or presents, and they don’t even need to be about the traditions they were founded on. They are about family, about you, about being present and taking a pause from normal life to create beyond ordinary memories.
Everything you do will affect you physically, including your mentality. Stress releases hormones that attack muscles and store fat. These panic hormones cause you to store body fat at stressful times, catabolizing your hard-earned muscle mass. On top of that, lots of stress makes you crave the worst kinds of foods, and no one has limitless willpower. So, embrace life around you, take time to breathe, and don’t beat yourself up over things you can no longer change.
If something is stressing you out, think: Can I do something about this? If yes, focus on doing whatever you can about it instead of stressing. If the answer is no, don’t stress about it because you can’t change it.