“It’s the most wonderful time….of the year”, are the lyrics to a Bing Crosby song my mother played every December. And it is a wonderful time of year! A celebratory time of love and new beginnings and hope.
Along with this joy and hope, however, is a tendency toward excess on consumerism – shopping, partying and eating. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t result in excessiveness when it comes to workouts and exercise. And as you may know, this equation most often leads to expansion…..of our girth, and in most cases this is definitely NOT so wonderful at any time of year!
So how can you enjoy the holiday season without emerging in the New Year looking like Santa’s first cousin? Here are some timely tips!
A popular question I get asked is, “When is the best time to exercise?” The answer to that is the time you most enjoy doing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s morning, afternoon or evening, when you work out at a time you enjoy, you are more likely to stick to it. You don’t burn significantly more calories in the morning verses the afternoon, despite some grassroots advice. However, this is the time of year when I take exception to this general advice.
Because the days are even more full at this time of year, you will be best served to switch your workouts to first thing in the morning. Why? Because once the day gets going, the probability of you running out of time for everything you want to get done is high and the first thing that will get cut from your to-do list will be your exercise. So, set your alarm earlier (I know, I know, but when you are done with your workout for the day, the sense of personal accomplishment will outweigh the initial experience of dragging yourself out of bed!) and start your day feeling accomplished, energized, awake and inspired!
That said, this is also the time of year when your typical routine that takes 60-90 minutes to complete may need to be edited – just for right now! I have found that many of my clients suffer from the “all or nothing syndrome” when it comes to exercise. If they can’t do their entire workout due to time, they equate that to feeling like a failure, so they just skip their workout altogether (even though they could have fit in 30 minutes). The latest in exercise psychology demonstrates that the solution to this enigma is to retrain your brain to think that the only failure is not doing anything at all!
Editing your workout
First thing in the morning, do a “brief” workout to keep your metabolism fired up and get your energy flowing at a higher level for the day. Steve Preston, president of Fast Fitness, advocates for 12 minutes a day as a method of weight control throughout the entire year. While I don’t necessarily agree with this as a daily approach to fitness and weight control, the philosophy definitely can aid in the avoidance of holiday weight gain.
By doing 12 minutes on your treadmill, elliptical, an outside invigorating walk, or a home-designed body toning routine involving pushups, squats, lunges, crunches, etc., is enough to work up a sweat, burn between 100-200 calories and will help to wake you up for your day. (*Note: This needs to be done at home as you probably won’t go to the gym for 12 minutes!)
Some people are extremely disciplined when it comes to food. It doesn’t matter if it is the holidays or any other time of year; they have eating guidelines that they follow and they don’t allow for exceptions, even during the holidays. If you are in this category, stay with it! If you aren’t, you may want to use this as a new behavioral strategy for this holiday season.
Most other people are triggered by emotions, and when combined with the two-month long food festival of tempting holiday specialties, this can result in tens of thousands of extra calories by year’s end! Research from Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center has led researchers to the conclusion that, “when it comes to successful weight loss, our research showed that emotions and our thoughts seem to actually play a bigger role than environmental cues. We eat in response to feelings – and for many people the holidays can drum up a whole treasure chest of feelings, both good and bad.”
Some tips on how to manage yourself if you are an emotionally triggered eater are:
Eat something before you go to a party or event. A cup of soup or a piece of fruit and a stick of low fat cheese may be just the thing to take the edge off of your appetite and help you curb your intake during the party.
Plan ahead what you will eat at the party. Limit yourself to eating three things you love the most and limit the portion of each. And, don’t say you will eat everything that looks good, but only have a bite of each.
If someone is pushing food on you, use the broken record strategy: “No thank you, I’m full.”
If this strategy isn’t working then accept the extra food from “the pusher”, thank them, walk into another room and dump it in the garbage or leave it on a table and then walk away with your head held high!
Plan ahead for emotional eating by recognizing thoughts that lead to negative emotions.
Write down a list of “replacement thoughts” and pull out the list in the bathroom at the party to help you avoid getting triggered into emotional eating. For instance, if you recognize that you tend to go to parties and compare your body to other guests, the replacement thought can be, “compare unique personal qualities in place of comparing bodies” and have a few of your unique qualities you feel good about written down to remind you that you are a great person!
The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year and you can simultaneously enjoy them while sticking to a modified exercise program and having a plan for enjoying holiday foods without over-indulging or losing control. Happy holidays!
Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. Her office is located in Planet Fitness, Loudonville. She can be reached at 469.0815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.