Everyone knows this is the busiest time of year. The month of December is filled with cocktail parties, dinners, lunches, and of course holiday celebrations. Plus, there’s work to be tied up before the end of the year and, for some, family vacations (or vacations from the family!).
All of this tempts us to throw our good eating and training habits out the window for a month while we focus on everything else. Bad idea. I’ve tried it and I’m sure most people have. What I’ve found is that the “recovery” is far worse than the time off is indulgent. As we get older and older, it becomes increasingly more difficult to shred the extra weight we put on during the holidays. Last year, at 28 years old, was the first year this really hit me. This year, I have an entirely new approach – it’s based on common sense and balance, just like the other 11 months of my year are. No different.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips to survive the month of December. These are all things that I practice and recommend…
1. Exercise in the morning. The benefits of this are twofold. First, you burn off some stored calories, rather than working out at night and burning off breakfast and lunch that you ate that day. Second, you ensure that your workout gets done. First thing in the morning is your time. Make sure you carve out some time for your workout and you can relax the rest of the day, knowing that you already put in the hard work.
2. Drink water. Drink more water than you think you have to. Personally, I drink about a gallon a day. That’s what I’m used to and that’s what my body likes. Make a conscious effort to always have a bottle of water with you. There are three main benefits to drinking plenty of water. – Water makes you feel full, so you’ll eat less – Water flushes out your system of impurities – Water keeps you hydrated, which is especially important during this month when you tend to eat saltier foods and drink more alcohol, which dehydrates you.
3. Indulge, in moderation. I am all about enjoying these holiday meals and treats. It helps that I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I automatically avoid desserts. But for all foods, once you realize that the extra serving of dinner or the second (or third) piece of pie doesn’t taste nearly as good as the first, you’re ahead of the game. Slow down, realize when you’re full, and you can indulge without gorging yourself.
4. Avoid high-calorie alcoholic beverages. Simple. The darker, creamier, more complex the drink, the higher it is in calories. So avoid the second glass of eggnog or other fruity cocktail and stick to lighter beers if you’re going to drink several. Personally, I stick to wine during the holidays, as it doesn’t make me feel as bloated as beer.
5. Say “NO” to Starbucks. Ever go to Starbucks for a coffee and you have to wait behind someone who is ordering a Double Mocha Gingerbread Peppermint Latte with Caramel and 2 Splendas? What the hell is that, a milkshake? Some of these bombs pack over 500 calories. Check out the calorie counts here. Problem is, the people who order these behemoths seldom realize the calorie counts. Or how about ordering a simple coffee and the “barista” asks you if you’d like any muffins or scones. No Thanks – if I wanted a 600 calorie muffin, I’d ask for one. Just the coffee will do.
6. Train with a training buddy. Run or workout with a training partner during the holidays (I recommend it year round too). You will hold each other accountable for showing up to your scheduled runs and you’ll be less inclined to skip a workout if your buddy is waiting for you.
7. Plan a warm-weather vacation for January. This year, I’m heading south on December 29. I’ll be on the beach and by the pool for a week, so this year, I’m extra-motivated to stay trim so I can look and feel my best in my new boardies.
8. Sign up for a race. Check your local calendar on Active.com. There are races and events all year long. Sign up for a race in January or February and you will be more likely to train and stay on track during the winter.
9. Sleep. Get however much sleep you need. You need this sleep to digest your food and to repair your muscles from your workouts. Nothing new here. We just need to focus on getting our proper sleep because this is such a busy time of year.
10. Relax and limit stress. This is a fun time of year, not a stressful one. Remember to relax, take it slow, and really enjoy yourself. Stress is no good for the body. If you have to, schedule time for yourself so you’re guaranteed to get it.
So there you go – 10 tips for surviving the holidays with your body intact. What are your favorite tips?