June 5, 2009

Holiday Survival Guide: How to Keep Your Diet on Track and Stay in Shape Over the Holidays

Being focused on fitness doesn't mean you need to dread the holidays and their seemingly endless food temptations. Whether you have been building your dream body for years or have recently adopted a healthier lifestyle, the holidays can be very challenging. To make it through the festivities of November and December, you need to let go of the idea that you need to be a calorie counting Scrooge while others are decking the halls.
Accept the fact that you won't always have command over your schedule and meals and everything from travel, family obligations and potluck dinners will inevitably interfere with your usual routine. Getting into the spirit of the season does not mean bracing yourself for a diet derailment, but to recognize that food indulgence is required. You've worked hard all year long to maintain a healthy lifestyle and tasting holiday foods in the joyous company of family and friends is a well deserved reward.
The major keys to maintaining an exercise routine and healthy diet through the holidays without losing your figure or sanity are consistency and preparation. You should consistently achieve balance in eating and fitness, and you should plan ahead when traveling, partying and hosting guests.
Balanced eating means that you do allow yourself some breaks, and admit that you're going to eat things that are normally not allowed, and to commit to indulging in moderation. You should never deprive yourself of the foods that tempt you and realize that it is okay to indulge a little bit in everything, but only a little bit. You can't do harm by merely tasting things and no one has ever blown a body or diet by tasting and enjoying.
With a little planning, it is still possible to maintain a weight loss and exercise program throughout the holidays. While it may not be possible to keep the workout schedule that you keep the rest of the year, realize that it is okay to cut yourself some slack and incorporate different forms of exercise into your day which allows more time to enjoy your family and friends during the holidays.

Diet And Exercise Tips To Survive The Holiday Season

  • If you're already in the habit of taking one cheat day a week, arrange for it to fall on a holiday or on a day that you plan to attend a holiday party or gathering.

  • Choose foods to indulge in that are special to the holidays. Pass on the chips, dips, cookies etc that are always available to you the rest of the year and indulge in those that are specific to the holidays.

  • Eat a light, healthy meal or drink a protein shake before attending a holiday event where there will be a lot of high fat holiday food. It will curb your appetite, while still allowing you to enjoy small amounts of holiday food in the company of your friends and family.

  • Check with the host of a party before hand to see what foods are being served and offer to prepare and bring a dish. At least you know there will be one healthy dish for you to enjoy! Elaborate dishes arranged beautifully of bite-sized fresh fruit and vegetables are very popular with even the most unhealthiest people in the bunch.

  • Always keep lots of pre-portioned snacks in the fridge such as fresh fruit, raw veggies, cooked chicken breast, and yogurt. For those days that are busy with work, shopping, and holiday events, pack a small cooler and keep it in your car. The biggest thing is to make it convenient, because if it's convenient for you to snack on good things, it's a lot easier to do. Prevents you from binging on fast food and overindulging at holiday parties.

  • Prepare traditional holiday baking and meals by incorporating healthier alternatives into your recipes. Substitute whole wheat flour for white flour, applesauce instead of oil, splenda instead of sugar, etc.

  • Food symbolizes love and tradition for many people and you should remember that friends and family are more important than your diet and exercise program. Enjoy the holiday season for what it is and allow yourself to experience the joy that sharing food brings to yourself and to your family and friends.

  • The holidays can be a very stressful time for many people and for some, even being with family can trigger emotional eating. Anticipate the stress that the holidays will bring and plan out ways that you can de-stress that do not involve food. Be conscious of how you feel and be aware of what and why you are eating.

  • If you receive lots of homemade food gifts, don't let guilt bring on a binge. Don't feel that you have to eat everything that is given to you even if Grandma spent days baking a dozen different kinds of cookies for you. Appreciate the gesture and acknowledge it and feel free to pass along and share the treats with others. You can also donate the treats and holiday dishes to your local food bank or soup kitchen.

  • Keep ready to serve protein shakes, protein bars, nuts, and vitamins in your car, gym bag, office drawer, or travel bag.

  • Opt to go for a run in the mornings instead of going to the gym which frees up more time to spend with family and friends, especially if you are traveling.

  • Keep tension bands in your office or travel bag and do a quick 20 minute workout when time warrants it.

  • Do body weight exercises such as squats, push ups, crunches, etc whenever you can squeeze in 15 mins rather than going to the gym. A little bit of exercise it better than none!

  • Try to make exercise a part of your family holiday traditions. Incorporate a family walk after Thanksgiving dinner or plan a hike on Christmas morning.
Holiday discipline might be harder to come by if you are just beginning a new fitness program or are following a strict one for an upcoming event. Remember, however, that even the most serious athletes know that food and exercise aren't as important as family and friends. A lot of times we get so obsessed with our diets and training that we forget the more important things in life.
Look at all aspects of what the holidays represent - the smells, the sights and sounds, celebration - and develop a positive relationship with holidays. You've worked hard all year long to maintain a healthy lifestyle; tasting holiday foods in the joyous company of family and friends is a well deserved reward. The main thing is for people not to be so hard on themselves and to enjoy the holiday season for what it is. Just make sure to get back to following a sensible weight loss and exercise program when the holidays are over.

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