It’s almost Christmas, which means you’re most likely trying to keep your healthy habits in check and hopefully reach your goal of keep it a fit holiday season. After all, you’ve worked hard in the gym (and probably harder in the kitchen) all year long and want nothing to do with totally falling off the wagon this year.
However, as the holiday parties keep rolling in and Christmas cookies have been filling the office break room, sticking to your regular fitness plan may become a bit more of a struggle.
If this sounds familiar, let the stress roll off your shoulders as lead coach and quality manager for Legion Athletics Harry Barnes lays the foundation for a stress-free, easy-to-manage approach to staying the course for a fit Christmas and holiday season.
You Have 35 Days to Maintain Your Fit Christmas Routine
First, a healthy perspective, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve, “it’s easy to view the holiday season as a string of gluttony and excess,” says Barnes.
However, should you feel overwhelmed with the fear of blowing it, remember this: “In the United States, there are 39 days from Thanksgiving to Jan. 1. And when we exclude those four-holiday dates listed above, we’re left with 35 days to stay active, eat a nourishing diet, and maintain a wholesome routine,” says Barnes, putting into perspective how much time there is to keep healthy habits going while enjoying the festivities and food of a fit Christmas.
Maintain Your Routine Without Much Interruption
Good news! No hill sprints are required during this time and when Christmas dinner is ready, according to Barnes, (unless you want to, of course). Instead, when setting his clients up for holiday success, he, “Looks at how can we maintain a client’s routine without too much interruption” says Barnes, and provides a list of tools for them to choose from, should they wish to implement any.
After all, the holidays are meant for relaxing, refueling, and unwinding. If all you’re doing is counting calories and stressing about how missed your Christmas workout, your holidays will be in the pits. This is where staying consistent with a few minor adjustments comes into play “Consistency, especially in the long-term, trumps perfection.” says Barnes.
For example, to take it a bit easier but still stay consistent, “Crank the dial a little lower—go for a long walk instead of a jog, perform a bodyweight routine instead of your usual dumbbell circuit, and get to the gym three times per week instead of your usual five—but just don’t allow it to hit zero.” Says Barnes.
Small adjustments make a huge difference when it comes to continuing your health habits. “Ultimately, we want to look at these adjustments as mild “damage control; You’re not punishing yourself for having a good time and enjoying particular foods,” says Barnes. You’re simply to keep moving and eating in ways that make you happy and nourish your body.
Simply acknowledging that you’re likely going to be eating a bit more and moving a bit less, “So, doing the inverse around these occasions—without demanding expectations or rigid programming—is a natural and gentle nudge back in a leaner direction.” Says Barnes.
Our Bodies Are Equipped to Use Excess Calories
“We don’t actually gain as much weight as we think we do from single bouts of overeating,” says Barnes. In one study conducted at the University of Colorado, researchers put participants into a daily surplus of 1,400 calories. The result? After two weeks of overeating, they gained just three pounds. That’s it.
“Of course, this is just one example and circumstances differ—food choice, activity levels, and stress all affect how much weight one gains or loses—but our bodies are equipped with tools to gently down-regulate our food intake following bouts of overeating,” says Barnes. He explains you’ll fidget more, hunger will subside, and you’ll generally train a little more intensely. In other words, you’ll put that extra energy to good use.
The end of the calendar year, then, isn’t necessarily a runway of unavoidable blowouts. “Instead, it’s a period to see loved ones, take some time to wind down, and simply acknowledge there may, at worst, be a few mild speeds along the way to your body composition goals,” Barnes explains.
Avoid an All-or-Nothing Approach for a Fit Christmas
Worrying about holiday eating can cause an all-or-nothing approach, but that actually causes more harm than good. During the holidays many tend to worry about excess calories, alcohol consumption, and missing out on training days.
“As a result, we drastically cut calories between the festivities, hoping to offset as much as of the ‘damage’ as possible.” Says Barnes.
Barnes explains this type of behavior only encourages an unfavorable yo-yo effect. “We wrongly add guilt to the holiday exorbitance (likely eating more, consequently) and grind ourselves down to compensate for the inevitable indulgence,” says Barnes. Simply put, you don’t need to “earn” any type of food, nor “make up for” time with friends and family.
As a corollary, Barnes suggests a gentle ebb and flow meaning, if you overeat by a couple of thousand calories on Christmas, “Don’t slash your calorie consumption and crank up the HIIT for a few days,” he says.
Rather, Barnes encourages you to put those calories to a productive cause. “Add another couple of sets on to your next workout, put another five pounds on the bar, or go for a relaxing after-dinner walk with your partner,” Barnes suggests.
Put simply, Barnes encourages getting back to your usual routine with, at most, some mild adjustments. “This way, you’ll avoid irrational eating behaviors, rightly enjoy your holiday festivities, and make those extra calories work for you without any extreme adjustments. Balance, after all, is essential.” He says, providing much-needed perspective into the marriage of fitness and holiday fun.
And finally, “Remember that you’re in the driver’s seat.” Says Barnes.
“One trap many people fall into is that of perpetual dieting: never quite losing weight consistently enough around the holidays and then really going overboard during the festive season, only to end up in the same position twelve months down the line.” He explains.
However, by incorporating some of the key strategies that Barnes encourages like prioritizing protein, avoiding too many overindulgences back-to-back, and giving yourself permission to relax with your progress—you’ll be able to cruise through the end of the year, gaining, at most, a couple of lbs.
Case in point, enjoy your loved ones, move your body in ways you enjoy, eat nourishing foods during the thirty-five days during the holiday season and build memories that last a lifetime.