With Thanksgiving in a week and Christmas and New Year’s in a month, we have officially stepped into the holiday season. While this is the best time to relax with your loved ones, take a few days off work and just enjoy the winter, it’s definitely the worst time for your fitness routine. All the food, drinks and lazy days in front of the TV will mess up your fitness goals if you don’t have a clear plan in place. Luckily, you don’t have to ditch your diet or your gym sessions until next year. Here are a few tips on how you can have your cake and eat it too (quite literary).
Try counting calories
While eating healthy for the rest of the year isn’t that hard, holidays are full of temptations, so counting calories might be necessary. This will actually give you plenty of freedom during parties and family dinners, because the closer to your caloric goal you stay during normal days, the more you can enjoy those food-filled events and parties. If you need some help to get into calorie counting, check out apps like MyFitnessPal and take notes of everything you consume during the day. On the days that you don’t have anything going on, hit your goals and your indulgences will leave a much smaller impact on your diet.
Make your goals realistic
If you’re planning to stick to your healthy diet and exercise routine, you need to be realistic, especially during the holidays. A person with a plan doesn’t need any luck—they always win at the end. So, if you want to come out of the holiday season as a winner, make sure to come up with a simple plan, commit to it and stay strong. Here are some good rules to keep in mind: avoid anything fried—you will probably have so many other choices to munch on that you won’t even miss fried food. You can ditch unhealthy snacks and watch Netflix with some veggies and low-fat yogurt dips in your lap. At parties, move around the room to get your digestion going and you’ll probably decide to skip a second serving of that delicious meal.
Your exercise regimen also needs to be simple and realistic. If you want to continue losing weight and building muscle, you need to combine a good diet with regular exercise. While you probably can’t hit the gym as much as you’d like to, make sure to get plenty of activity at home (walk your family pet, play catch with kids at home). After your run, don’t come home and dive into that left-over cake. What you can do is treat yourself with some healthy yet yummy post-run snacks that will allow you to satisfy your taste buds and give your body plenty of recovery fuel. All of these little tweaks to your routine will add up and make up for your shorter runs and gym sessions.
Hit the weights
Even if your goal is not to get buff, it’s still smart to hit weights during the holiday season. Why? Well, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn regardless of your diet. So, if you’re scared of the holiday season, your muscles will allow you to eat more food without ruining your physique.
Keep your stomach full with protein and water
Before an especially food-centric event, eat a healthy protein meal and drink plenty of water. This will keep you full for longer, keep you hydrated and reduce your need for high-calorie foods and beverages. Drinks like eggnog, punch and hot chocolate are heavy with calories while water has none.
Keep temptations minimal
Stick to your ground rules no matter the situation. For instance, if the kitchen is full of treats, say in the living room or if your break room at work has various holiday sweets, take more desk breaks and keep a fruit bowl at hand. At parties, you can grab a smaller plate and limit your servings. Eat slowly and avoid going for seconds. Making healthier choices is also a great rule to stick to. This will allow you to keep temptations at the minimum and finish the year without any negative effects on your fitness.
Don’t avoid your faves
Your family gatherings will probably contain plenty of your favorite foods—don’t avoid them altogether. If you limit yourself too much, you’re risking binge-eating which will definitely ruin your progress. So, keep your portions smaller, savor your faves and enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.
Ask for help
If you’re serious about your fitness goals, now is the perfect time to hire a coach and start a professionally-made fitness plan. Or you can share your goals with friends and family and ask them to help you stick with your workout schedule and diet. Creating accountability and investing your own money into your new lifestyle will help you persevere and follow through.
With weeks of parties, gatherings, dessert exchange, and endless meals, even the most dedicated fitness-freaks get tempter do break their healthy habits. However, now that you have a few tricks up your sleeve, you will stay true to your commitment to fitness and still have so much fun during the holidays.
Fallon Chan is a food and lifestyle photographer and blogger.