It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…To Gain Weight!
Well, it's that time of year again. The holidays. While this season is arguably one of the most wonderful times of the year, it can also wreak havoc on our weight and our waistlines. No matter how many articles and nightly television news segments are devoted each year to avoiding this seemingly senseless seasonal weight gain, the trend continues.
It's the most wonderful time of the year … to eat.
Every year we hear the same old warnings about how much weight the average American gains from Thanksgiving up until New Year's Day. While the relative figures may vary, one thing holds true: our figures tend to "vary" when we are around our relatives. No matter how loud or frequent the messages, the vast majority of people tend to pack on the pounds during the months of November and December, then spend January and February torturously trying to undo the damage done by implementing the inevitable health-related New Year's Resolutions.
Why are the holidays so horrific when it comes to weight-management? The answers are pretty simple:
Stress: Let's face it. As wonderful as they may be the holidays come loaded with stress. Heaps of it. Holiday shopping, holiday events and yes, spending more time with family, all combine to increase our stress levels up to Defcon 1.
Holiday Get-togethers: This season is packed full of parties which are packed full of calories. More alcohol, more sweets, more empty calories.
Less Physical Activity: As the days grow shorter and the temperature begins to drop, people tend to expend less energy on a daily basis. This fact packs a powerful double-whammy when it comes to gaining weight: If we are less active we have more time to eat. So not only do we expend less energy, we consume more energy in the form of calories.
So what are we to do? Is this annual weight gain inevitable? Should we simply give in and admit defeat? Not a chance. Here are the ways in which my clients and I avoid gaining weight over the holidays as well as increase the likelihood of hitting those New Year's Resolution goals:
Start Your New Year's Fitness Goals NOW: We all know how difficult it can be to stick to the goals we start on New Year's Day. We have all seen how packed the gyms are in January and how empty they are by Valentine's Day. One of the secrets to success is to start implementing your fitness goals gradually during the holiday season. This will not only help curtail the weight gain, but will also allow you to start the New Year way ahead of the game, with healthy habits already in place.
Pick a CHALLENGING Fitness Event for 2014: Proper goal-setting is everything, and most people fail to set the right type. If your goals don't scare you a little, they are not big enough. I have clients right now training for events that happen in January, February and beyond, fitness goals that challenge them, motivate them, and give them a specific plan for exercising each week. Pick a specific fitness event in 2014 that is a little outside your comfort zone and start training for it right away.
Eat BEFORE You Party: Fill up with a healthy meal before you attend all the holiday festivities. It's such a common sense solution, yet so few people actually do it. Simply drinking a protein shake before you walk out the door to your company Christmas party can go a long way to saving you from snacking unnecessarily at these holiday get-togethers.
Save Your Cheat Calories: It's all about calories in and calories out, so if you know you are going to be eating more at one specific meal like a holiday family dinner, be sure to eat as healthy as possible beforehand. One cheat meal won't make a huge difference over the course of a day as long as the other meals aren't packed with empty calories. And the healthier these "pre-event" meals are, the less hungry you will be for that bigger feeding as well!
Use Cardio to De-stress: Cardiovascular exercise is one of the most potent ways in which to combat stress and the associated overeating that can serve as a coping mechanism. Use cardio workouts, even short sessions like a15-minute power walk, to help decrease your stress levels and elevate your mood during this silly season!