Well, it’s almost that time of the year again! It may be August, but fall & winter are literally right around the corner! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s usually equals FOOD, FOOD, and MORE FOOD for the average person! Did you know that the number one New Year resolution is to start a diet… right after the holidays? Why not start now?
How? Well, it’s all a matter of a mind game! You must have the willpower to tell yourself what your goals are and how you will achieve them. I have done this for the last 3 years of holidays and, as hard as it was during the process, my body thanked me once summer came rolling around. Studies show that women (sorry, girls!) can lose up to 20 percent of their cardiovascular fitness if they quit exercise between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Crazy, right?
But, sometimes, it just seems that winter SCREAMS weight gain. Here are some reasons why it happens:
- It is cold so we tend to cook dense meals and shy away from fruits and veggies. We crave something warm and filling.
- Since it is cold so we don’t get outside to exercise as often as we should. Thus, making our metabolism slow down, holding onto the fat that is already there. Think of it as survival mode almost.
- Pastas, cereals, breads and other high carb foods seem more appealing in the winter.
- The days are shorter (daylight) and thus we feel there is less time to devote to exercise.
- We wear jackets and sweaters every day and so don’t notice weight gain as much.
- Holiday meals, potlucks, and parties. Need I say more?
It is important for you to identify yourself with these common pitfalls and reasons why people slip up, so you will be aware and won’t do the same!
Here are my winter/holiday tips to set you up for success. Use this time wisely to create your new body for summer and reap the benefits!
#1: Make a plan.
Write down your goals on a sheet of paper and then write down your weaknesses, whether it be a certain food that your Aunt Mary cooks or your knack for sleeping in late. Now, write down beside the weakness how you can turn it into a strength or positive. For example, “I will just have one bite of Aunt Mary’s pumpkin pie” or “I will set my alarm at 5:30am every day for the gym.” Writing your goals down are easy, but finding motivation is key.”
#2: Find your motivation.
Whenever I made the choice to lose those 45lbs, I actually started in November! Can you imagine changing your whole entire lifestyle right before the holidays? I did it and succeeded, but I had to find my motivation to get me through. I turned to various documentaries such as Food Inc. and Food Matters to help me get started and understand clean eating. I suggest these to anyone! I also would make my desktop background a photo of what I wanted to look like or become. I always chose a photo of fitness model Jamie Eason. Looking at that photo each day, helped remind me why I was turning away the sweets and why I was doing what I was doing. Find what motivates you! Whether it be a person, your new skinny jeans, or a health condition-use it and go with it!
#3: Cut back on carbs.
During winter, our body loves to hold onto carbs, preserve them as fat, and store them until winter is over-just like in the cavemen days. I am not saying go carb-free, but stick with whole grains and unrefined carbs such as brown rice, whole grain or wheat, or quinoa. Stay away from sugar such as ice cream, doughnuts, cakes, cobblers, pastries, brownies, soft drinks, alcohol, etc. Get your sugars from fresh fruits instead! Last winter, I would bring a bag of Granny Smith apples to work with me as a snack! Apples have pectin in them which is a fiber that leaves you with the feeling of satiety.
#4: Eat in moderation.
Whether you are at a work potluck or your family’s holiday gathering, or even in just your regular days, always eat in moderation. If you want a piece of Aunt Mary’s pumpkin pie and do not have the willpower to say no, cut a small slice and have a few bites. However, I can share with you an example of what I did. I would bring either a fruit or veggie tray to every party or holiday gathering that I attended, and would simply snack from that. Or make a traditional holiday dish, but add a healthy twist so I knew exactly what I was putting into my body. Another tip when eating at a party is to always make yourself a healthy snack or dinner beforehand so you will not be as hungry. Turkey is actually great for you! I urge you to eat turkey. However, go light on dishes such as dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and desserts. Avoid punch and alcohol if you can as these are empty calories that you may want to save for something tasty!
#5: Make smart choices or swaps.
I am the biggest sweet tooth when it comes to pastries, pies, cakes, and ice cream! Over the years, I have learned that making smarter choices does not always have to be boring. If you want something sweet, make a healthier alternative to it! There are countless recipes on Pinterest and the web where you can Google substitutions for butter, sugar, and flour.
If you like fried chicken, find a recipe for oven “fried” chicken and batter it in healthier flour. If you love those high calorie Starbucks Frappuccinos, ask for a “skinny” version using soy or skim milk, sugar free syrup, and no whip. If you must eat at a fast food restaurant on a road trip, download the iPhone app called Fast Food and check the calories to see which option is healthiest or look online at the company’s nutritional information. Read the labels! This has been the one single handed tip I have received that has helped me the most. If you cannot pronounce most of the ingredients listed or know what they are, don’t eat it. Food is best in its rawest and unprocessed form!
#6: Keep moving!
During winter, we tend to stay in our beds longer. It’s warm and toasty-who wouldn’t want to get out of bed? You must push through this mindset-remember, it’s all a mind game! Set 3 alarms. One for the time you absolutely want to get up. One for 5 minutes later, then one 5 minutes later from that time. This is to set you up for success (and to wake you up!). Set out your workout gear the night before. If the weather outside is too cold for you, do your workouts at home or in the gym. I usually aim for doing mine at the gym because then I have to drive and it helps wake me up even more. When it’s early in the morning and you are still at home, you are likely to change your mind! Start off with 30 minutes of cardio, then head to the weight room for 30 minutes of strength training. My favorite forms of cardio are High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), running at the local outside track, and the elliptical machine. For weights, I love the benchpress (pre-pregnancy), free weighted squats, the leg press machine, and CrossFit style exercises using a Kettlebell. Crossfit also counts for cardio-it’s the best exercise around in my opinion because it mixes cardio and weights to work every part of your body! If I am just simply exhausted or cannot make it to the gym, I will still wake up early to do yoga in my home. Find what routine works for you and do that for 4-5 times a week. After 21 days of continuous workouts, it will become a habit and the soreness will subside. If you cannot wake up early, try to fit in the gym or run during your lunch break. If that does not work, try before dinner when you get home from work. I always wake up first thing before breakfast because if I don’t, I am not as likely to work out for the rest of the day due to life’s duties. You must make it a priority. Also, if you have kids, invest in a jogging stroller or do some at-home workouts during their naps.
The holidays can be a set back or a set up; it is ultimately up to you! You will certainly find what works best for you if you desire it!
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