We are in full swing of the holiday season which means family gatherings, festive parties and celebrating all we are thankful for. As much joy as this time of year brings, it also brings a lot of opportunity to over-indulge in things we normally don’t get to enjoy year-round (I’m looking at you, Christmas cookies and specialty whiskey cocktails). However, the more consistent you are with a healthy lifestyle, the more wiggle room you have to treat yourself this time of year. What is most important is your ability to get right back on track. So, once the merriment comes to a close and your diet is slightly derailed, ditch the guilt and get back on track by following these six guidelines:
1. Make a PLAN
Sit down, write it out, stick it on your refrigerator or plug it into your smart phone (or smart pad). Your plan can include scheduling your workouts, planning your meals for the week or simply writing down a list of goals you want to achieve. Making a plan holds you accountable to follow-through and can help you stay on track. Just be mindful of feasibility. If you’ve struggled fitting in 4-5 workouts a week in the past, scheduling 6 into your plan may not be feasible and you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. Start with a plan that doesn’t sound too daunting and one that you’re confident in your ability to execute. We’re talking small steps toward the bigger goal. A SINGLE healthy change can stop a free fall of bad habits.
2. Sweat it out
Stay committed to your exercise routine. Even if you have to scale back on the amount of time you’re exercising, make the time count. Try to incorporate at least three 10-15 minute sessions of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) per week to get your heart rate pumping and scorch those extra calories. You can perform a HIIT workout on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or take it to the pavement. Wear a watch that includes a timer and alternate between 30-45 second intervals of high intensity work followed by moderate-low intensity. Also, look into classes at your gym that offer a full-body toning workout, such as Body Pump, TRX or PiYo. If you need to take a week off for travel or what-not, just re-establish your routine as soon you’re back in the groove. One week will not throw you off track unless you let it. Always keep a positive mindset and don’t be too hard on yourself for giving your mind and body a little vacation.
3. Drink plenty of H2O
Between the excess intake of high-sodium foods and one-too-many cocktails, your body is likely to become dehydrated. Not only does dehydration affect our cognitive and physical functionality, it can also spike CRAVINGS. Strive for at least 3 liters of water per day (roughly 100 ounces) to avoid these negative side-effects. The best way for me to reach my daily goal of water intake is to carry around some sort of tumbler with a straw. For whatever reason, I always drink liquid faster (and more of it) when using a straw. Try it!
Also, if drinking plain water completely bores you, try adding some freshly squeezed citrus, sliced cucumber or mint to your water for some extra jazz.
4. Meal prep
After overeating on the holidays, the last thing you may want to think about is prepping MORE food. However, prepping meals in advance is the EASIEST way to stay on track with your goals. Focus on whole-food sources such as lean proteins, whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. Take a few hours out of your weekend to make a few nutritious crock-pot meals, bake a few chicken breasts, roast sweet potatoes and sauté your favorite vegetables. Portion your meals out in Tupperware containers and keep them in the refrigerator for quick, go-to meals and snacks. Some of my favorites:
- Light and Simple Ginger Sesame Chicken
- Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Beef Enchilada Bowls
5. Avoid “CLEANSING”
I always hear people say they are going to “cleanse” after a weekend of over-indulging or to quickly drop weight for an event. Eating a raw-foods diet is one thing, but going to the extreme of only drinking freshly squeezed juices or cayenne-infused lemon water for days on end will only put your body in a nutrient and caloric deficit.
Here is the reality: Your metabolism is like a log fire. If you don’t put anything “on” it, it’s going to be a measly flame burning very little calories during the day, not to mention the energy lulls that will resort in cravings for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.
Here is the other reality: Your liver works 24-7 to filter and detoxify what you put into your body. That is its main role in the body.
You do NOT need to go to the extreme of cutting out multiple food groups in hopes of more optimal functioning. The exception, of course, is if you have a medical reason to eliminate certain food groups. Otherwise, these cleanses are quite bogus. Your body is a machine and it runs on fuel… EAT REAL FOOD 🙂
6. Date Night… with your pillow…
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night to reset your system and recharge your energy levels. Find a good way to unwind before bed… read a book, practice yoga poses, stretch or take a leisurely stroll with your family or friends. Stray away from the TV or electronic devices. This time is about slowing down your mind and body and giving yourself the ultimate gift of relaxation.
Happy Holidays, friends!