Don’t just ‘survive’ the holidays, THRIVE!

Christmas decorations are making their debut, and the smell of fresh baked gingerbread cookies is in the air. Sticking to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise routine can be a battle any day of the year. During the holidays, however, festive feasts, willpower-impairing spirits, and tempting chocolate truffles team up to challenge even the most resolute health nut. Unfortunately, the fear of putting on a few pounds, the stress of making too many ‘food choices’, or the feeling of guilt after indulging in too many shortbread cookies can overshadow holiday joy.
Fortunately, holiday weight gain is not inevitable. Follow these tips to thrive during the holidays: to fully enjoy the holiday season without ringing in the New Year looking like the jolly man himself.
1. Shift your mindset: the holidays are not that special. Holidays are special because of the time we get to spend with our friends and family; holidays are not special enough to warrant gaining weight, or feeling lethargic. If you find yourself worried about the holidays, remind yourself that the holidays are just a series of social events; and for most people, social events and family gatherings happen all year round. The November and December months are really not that different. Yes, there will be opportunities to eat foods you wouldn’t normally find in front of you, but you’re an adult. If you really want chocolate, or shortbread, or a certain type of cheese, you can likely have it anytime of the year.
2. Remind yourself WHY you want to be healthy. Do your exercises each day because you want to take good care of yourself, and you want to be energized for the rest of the day. Eat well because you want to fuel your body with life giving, nourishing foods. Take care of yourself because you are worth it. The holidays are a wonderful time of the year- would you rather spend it feeling energetic and vibrant, or sluggish, bloated and frustrated with yourself?
3. Have realistic expectations. If your goal is to lose weight, aim to maintain during the holidays. If you manage to lose a pound or two, consider it a bonus. If you bring in 2015 the same weight you are now, consider is a huge success!
4. Keep moving. . You can offset some of the extra calories by sticking to your workout routine over the holidays. If you don’t have a lot of time to workout, increase the intensity of the workout to compensate. If you can get out for a 10 minute sweat session, do it! Exercising will make you feel energized and healthy, and may make you less likely to overindulge in holiday treats. After dinner walks are another good way to fit in a little extra exercise. Remember that something is better than nothing, and everything counts.
5. Don’t save your calories. Skipping meals in order to bank calories for extra indulgences later on is a surefire way to eat way too much and overcompensate for a few missed meals. Why? Because you’re starving! Your ‘rational brain’ is no match for your ‘emotional brain’ when you are too hungry. Instead of skipping meals, eat smaller meals, rich in veggies and protein. If you’re going out, eat a small meal at home before you leave. That way you won’t arrive at a party extremely hungry, and will have an easier time making healthy choices.
6. Focus on friends, not food. The holidays are about spending time with the ones that you love, so make that the focus. Fully engage in conversations and activities with your loved ones, instead of focusing on the food. After all, it’s just food. Like I said in the first point, you can likely have meatballs, cheese, or Gingerbread cookies almost anytime you want, if you really want it. You’ve had it before, and you’ll have it again. It’s just food.
7. Be really, really picky. The buffet table can be a dream come true – or a worst nightmare. Before loading up your plate, take a look at all your options. If you try to sample all the options, you will likely eat too much. Instead, be picky! Don’t waste your calories on foods that you just ‘sort of’ like. Instead, decide what foods you love- and enjoy those foods mindfully and with gusto. Slow down, pay attention to the flavours and textures of each bite. Eat your favourite foods first when you’ll enjoy them the most.
8. Go easy on the cocktails. Alcohol is full of empty calories, and will weaken your self-control. Opt for lower calorie options: a glass of wine has about 120 calories, whereas a rum and eggnog has about 350 calories per glass. Drink a non-calorie beverage, such as water or tea, in between alcoholic drinks. You will save yourself the weight gain- and the hang over.
9. Have a “No Choice Plan”. In the morning, most people have a relatively easy time sticking to a plan. By the afternoon or evening, things are a bit different. Will power is a limited resource, and every time you make a decision in your day that requires willpower, such as deciding whether or not to have a piece or dessert at work, or a second helping at dinner, or whether you should go to the gym, your ‘willpower bank’ dwindles. The solution? Have a “No Choice Plan”. Take a few minutes to plan how your holiday celebration will go. If your mom offers you a piece of cake that you don’t want, then what will you do? Will you have three bites and stop? Will you take it home for the next day? What will you say? If your co-worker brings fresh baked cookies to the office what will you do? Is your plan to accept one small home baked treat, but say no to store-bought goods? There’s no right or wrong plan, you can determine what will work for you. The key is to make the plan ahead of time to eliminate the number of will-power draining decisions you need to make in a day.
BONUS TIP 10: If all else fails, get back on track!  We’ve got you covered at Ascend Fitness with our 30 Day Reset Challenge starting on January 14th
Enjoy the holidays!

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