Perhaps it’s more symptomatic in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world – we do up the sugar-fueled trick-or-treating for Halloween in October, binge-eat like patriots on Thanksgiving (and days after) in November, and ramp up a December so full of holiday parties and celebrations that, come January, we can barely drag our bloated carcasses onto the scale, much less face the gym.
Ugh. It’s a vicious cycle, peeps – but a predictable one, and one you can break.
An #AskAmanda fan (and real-life kickass client!) of mine inquired last week about how to stay on track when the holiday season threatens to break our wills, and I thought long and hard about whether to reveal the following fact (deep breath):
Nearly every winter, I lose weight.
Yes, you read that right. I decrease in mass during the holiday season. I tend to start off January at my year-long lowest weight, typically peaking somewhere around my birthday (June, don’t ask me why, maybe because I hate summer?), and then downhilling past the October/November hump and ending up at a nice clean and lean place come December.
So how does this happen?
First of all, I am a big rules person. Those of you who know me IRL know that I am a giant fan of deadlines, limits, boundaries, and accountability (especially when it comes to fitness and health). When the holidays start pushing into my world with their nonstop flow of parties, happy hours, and general disruption of schedules, I push back – with a consistent plan that keeps me centered and focused. Some examples:
- At the risk of beating a dead horse, I only allow myself to eat within an 8-hour window, then I fast the remaining 16. Got a holiday party at 9pm? Either push your eating window (2-10pm, for example) or finish up your eating well before, and toast a glass of champagne – but skip the canapes. Easy peasy.
- Not so ready for the strict window? Try this: set a carbs deadline instead (I suggest either 2pm or 4pm, depending on how strict you wanna play it). Rather than confining all your food to a specific time limit, simply give yourself an end game for the white stuff (refined sugar, flour, bread, pasta and rice) and hold yourself to it. Egg rolls after 4p? Pass. But let the good times roll on that chicken satay!
- You can also focus on playing the swap game – pick and choose your battles, so to speak. Got a company holiday party catered by your favorite restaurant? Plan for it by “trading” your dinner for a spin around the appetizer buffet instead. Got a boozy cookie-baking party with the gals? Choose one – the sugar or the swill – and allow yourself a little indulgence without going overboard. Life is all about choices, and when you feel in control of your own, you’re less likely to make the wrong ones.
Second, I make my own workouts even more of a priority – and a stress reliever! – when the end-of-year schedules start to pack up. I experience so many client cancellations in the month of December I want to tear my hair out – and most of them are for reasons like last-minute shopping, back-to-back events at school or work, or prepping for holiday travel. As I say so often to clients and classes alike – “when you want to do something, you’ll find time – when you don’t, you’ll find excuses.” So just cut the crap and:
- Schedule your workouts into your calendar. Make your most important meetings the ones that maintain your personal health, energy, and spirit – what could be more crucial when the holiday rush threatens to drain you of all of that? If you want to get super real about it, assess yourself a strict “cancellation fee” if you do skip – making a contribution to a worthy political cause (cough, cough) or putting five bucks in a gift fund for your mother-in-law. Money talks, and eventually, you’ll listen.
- Seek out exercise classes that you want to go to. GuavaPass and other services like this are great for this time of year because they allow you to break up the monotony without (financial) commitment – and who wouldn’t feel less stressed doing a workout like trampoline gymnastics, boxing, or aerial yoga? When the workout is exciting, new, and fun, you can view it as pleasure – rather than the boring ol’ routine of picking up dumbbells in a sweaty gym.
- Make working out together a social engagement. One of my favorite memories in my entire exercise history was when a bunch of girlfriends and I “sweated to the Oldies” at Richard Simmons’ SLIMMONS studio in Beverly Hills. He wore a sequined tank top and a tiny Santa hat; we wore neon 1980s workout gear and danced like no one was watching. Afterward we got dinner and drinks and it was an absolutely perfect holiday get-together – better than any parties I’d been to that year.
My final tip is this: drop the guilt. It’s the holiday season, a time to celebrate what makes you happy, be with friends and family, and enjoy the decorations, festivity, and magic that truly only comes once a year. Focus on what’s really important this time of year – gratitude, compassion, and kindness – and no matter what, you’ll lose the “weight” of negativity and frustration that tends to build up during a long, hard year.
What are your favorite stay-healthy holiday tips?