My Small Step Philosophy: A fit life is attained by making small, realistic and sustainable changes in food consumption and exercise over time. This allows a person time to create and hone new, fit habits that then become adopted and integrated into her everyday life. The result is a person who is living a fit lifestyle each and every day, making her healthy and strong for a lifetime. I have used this philosophy to create my One Small Step blog series. Each month, I give you one healthy change to work on for that entire month. Sometimes it’s a diet change, sometimes an exercise change and sometimes one of each. The idea is to concentrate only on that one change for a month so that it becomes ingrained into your daily meals or weekly exercise routines, making you able to take on another small change at the beginning of the next month. Just discovering the series now? No worries, the Small Step changes don’t need to be done in any particular order and are independent of one another. You can begin this month, follow along the rest of the year and incorporate what you’ve missed next year.
If you’ve followed my Small Steps to a fit life program in 2014, this is what you’ve accomplished:
- January’s portion control: taken control of your daily calorie intake
- February’s plan ahead: strategized to minimize high calorie meals & maximize opportunities for exercise
- March’s accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives: learned to manipulate your environment to avoid falling back into unhealthy habits
- April’s substitutions: improved the quality of your food choices & quantity of daily activity
- May’s go old school: revisited healthy habits of the past when we were slimmer & healthier
- June’s +1: added strength training & more fresh produce to your bag of tricks
- July & August: used the mid-way point to reflect upon, revamp & renew your commitment to fitness
- September’s embrace technology: harnessed the power of technology in your fitness quest
- October’s be flexible: incorporated flexibility training to balance out your fitness routine
Congratulations! But, as my last post points out, we’re headed for the two most difficult months of the year to stay focused on our fitness goals. Be ready for the onslaught…
Halloween may be in the rearview mirror but the candy still lurks – beckoning, tempting, luring. And, even as the pile of empty calories shrinks, the onslaught awaits: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years, oh my! It’s time to institute a strategy to get through the hectic, calorie-filled holidays with dignity, fitness goals and waistlines intact.
I like to think of my daily calorie allotment as if they are dollars. I’m not suggesting that you keep a literal running count of calories consumed throughout the day. (Heavens no!) Instead, when faced with a possible indulgence, ask yourself how much that indulgence is worth to you. Would you spend your last couple of bucks to have it?
Halloween is a great example. I’m sure you’ve seen the annual newspaper and magazine stories telling us which candies have the least amount of calories and fat, suggesting one should have a couple of those and avoid the more calorie and fat-laden candy. Well, I’m sorry, those sugary-no-chocolate candies do absolutely nothing for me. I’m not spending my last few calorie dollars on Twizzlers or Skittles. This is what would happen if I did: I would feel completely unsatisfied and then end up also eating what I really want – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Mounds bars. So, I spend my last few calorie dollars on Halloween night on 1 or 2 each of the mini PB cups and Mounds bars. This way, I’ve satisfied my craving for those things but I’ve only had a small amount and, therefore, haven’t left myself deep in the guilt-ridden, calorie hole.
Similarly, my kids sort through their loot and only keep their very favorites, which are portioned out one at a time after a meal for dessert. The rest gets donated or tossed. Even though we significantly pare down, my kids’ Halloween candy usually ends up lasting quite a long time because it’s consumed very slowly. This teaches them that treats are fine in small amounts after a nutritious meal. But even more importantly, it steers them away from binging.
Adopt a Balance Sheet Mentality
This takes the idea of thinking about food in terms of a budget to the next level. As you go through the holiday season, try to think about ending each day in the black (as opposed to in the red) in terms of calories.
Plan ahead. I practice this year round. When you have a party or dinner out on the calendar, plan to eat differently that day. Have several small low-calorie, low-fat, nutritious snacks – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy – every few hours throughout the day. This approach guards against consuming a lot of calories before your night out while keeping you from becoming famished. Then you can give yourself permission to enjoy yourself knowing, even if you over-indulge a little, it won’t break the calorie bank.
Don’t be greedy. This goes back to the principle of imagining you have limited calories to “spend.” Yes, indulge but don’t indulge everything. At one party you may want to sample the cheese board, at another gathering you could be more in a cocktail mood, and at a restaurant you may want to end the meal with dessert. In all these cases, you’re choosing one indulgence and keeping the rest of the meal light. Enjoy and savor your treats so that a modest amount will be enough to satisfy your craving.
Make time for exercise. This can be very difficult this time of year because time seems especially evasive with so many additional demands on it. But that is precisely why it needs to be a priority. In the context of the holiday season, exercise serves three purposes: it relieves stress, gives you energy and boosts immunity, and provides insurance against weight gain. What do I mean by insurance? There will be days when too many calories are consumed, exercise burns off some of those extra calories giving you a fighting chance of ending the day in the black.
The basic principle at work here is to replace binging with mindfulness. This may be an overused, trendy word these days but it works. Gorging on high-calorie foods when they are suddenly in abundance is mindless eating. Instead, be smart about how you consume your treats. There will be days you’ll end in the red with your calorie dollars, and that’s okay. If you keep those days to a minimum, you can most certainly say you’ve ended each week of November and December in the black. Wouldn’t that feel great? It can be done without feeling deprived by practicing these simple rules. So, bring on the onslaught! You’re ready to celebrate being fit and happier.