It’s no secret – Thanksgiving through New Year’s is the most difficult time of year for anyone trying to get or stay fit. Many of us battle a continuous cycle of putting on some poundage in December and then unsuccessfully shedding it over the next 11 months. The holiday challenges are real and attack on many fronts, however staying mindful and developing a game-plan can help you win more than you lose - which is ultimately what we’re trying to do as we move toward all of our goals. The following are life hacks that you can start using today to launch into January without that extra padding.
1. Hack Food Abundance
Keep healthy, satisfying, easy to prepare foods in your house and throw out temptations that are in your cupboards or on your desk at work.
Give unhealthy gifts away. Homeless shelters and food banks would love your Sees candy and fruit cakes.
Listen to your stomach. You decide when you've had enough to eat. When you're full - stop.
2. Hack Calorie Density
Try eating low calorie, high fiber and/or volume foods (like fruits and vegetables or vegetable soup) before and after a moderate portion of something high in calories. This should reduce cravings and still give you pleasure.
Make low calorie foods taste better with flavoring or small amounts of fat (parmesan, avocado, coconut oil, etc.)
Let yourself have one, small treat a day with no guilt. But stop at one!
Don't eat treats alone. This is a good way to avoid the little bites here and there that add up at the end of the day.
3. Hack Cravings
Substitute a healthy, familiar taste for an unhealthy one (baked sweet potato chips vs mashed potatoes; almond flour cookies vs triple chocolate chunk cookies; etc. Check the internet for recipes and get creative!)
Eat healthy foods when you're hungry. Do this enough and pretty soon you will be craving those healthy things.
Create new holiday eating routines and build new pathways in your brain. You may crave pecan pie at Christmas because that's what you always have. Substitute something healthier this year (even though you won't want to), do it again next year, and then eventually this will become your new routine.
4. Hack Decreased Activity Level
Start an indoor strength training program. This is a great way to get/stay in shape as well as prepare for next season (if you have season).
Find a few classes that you enjoy at a local gym.
Reduce your caloric intake. Your brain will probably tell you to keep eating like you were during the summer, but if you are exercising less you don't need as much food. This can be as simple as making your portions smaller.
Try out a new winter sport. There are plenty of ways to have fun, get stronger, and burn calories in the cold! Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snow running, etc. Whatever it is have a good time with it and don’t put pressure on yourself - this is the ideal time to rejuvenate your body and brain.
So go ahead and enjoy yourself this holiday season - you've worked hard this year and you deserve it. Just keep these tips in mind while you're having fun and you'll be miles ahead come January!
** Special note for off-season athletes: Reduce/remove grains for now. This is the time of year to start teaching your body to use its fat stores more effectively; so that when the season starts you will be more metabolically efficient. The majority of your calories should come from fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and good fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, cold water fatty fish, grass fed & organic animal products, etc.)