Hard to believe it was just a month ago that I was writing November’s Small Step: Neutralize the Onslaught offering tips on how to get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years without completely abandoning fitness goals. Now that December’s upon us and we’re only half-way through the onslaught, it’s time to either double down on your strategy or (if you strayed from the plan somewhere between the turkey and pumpkin pie) pick yourself up and get back on the horse. This is no time to be throwing new habits your way. So, December’s Small Step is really just a recap of November’s.
This time of year throws us off our usual habits, be it eating in moderation or exercising regularly. Foods that we would normally need to seek out are suddenly everywhere and in abundance – desserts, alcohol and low nutrient snacks. Simultaneously, all the holiday chores and responsibilities fill up our days and nights, squeezing out workout time.
For many, the strategy is to white-knuckle it through from October 31st to January 2nd. They resolve to avoid all temptations. But those two months can be mighty long. How many times will you actually substitute carrot sticks for pie, egg nog and toffee covered popcorn? Once? Twice? If you manage to do it three times, you’re a more disciplined person than I.
Eventually, we all give in. And, if our strategy is all or nothing – or, in this case, nothing or everything – when we finally do give in, we binge and give up the strategy altogether until the new year. It’s human nature.
My strategy isn’t avoidance. It’s indulge but only under certain conditions:
Condition #1: Don’t eat something just because it’s there. You love apple crumble but aren’t a fan of pumpkin pie? Have a serving of crumble and skip the pie. The pie isn’t worth the calories for you. Love both but can’t choose? Take a sliver of each. If you only eat what you really love, you can take a small amount to satisfy your craving and it will be easier for you to turn down other things that don’t get your digestive juices flowing.
Condition #2: Don’t indulge everything. At each event, choose one or two things as your treats and keep everything else nutritious and in portion control.
Condition #3: Plan ahead. Got a big holiday party on Saturday night? Keep your meals and snacks small, low calorie and nutrient dense throughout the day Saturday – fruits, vegetables and small amounts of whole grains and proteins. But don’t avoid food altogether. You’ll arrive at the party famished, making it much harder to avoid binging.
Condition #4: Make time for exercise and schedule it. Everything about this time of year that makes finding time for exercise difficult are exactly the things that make exercise necessary. Even when we approach this season with joyfulness, it’s still stressful and that will make us feel run-down, sluggish and lower our immunities. Exercise counters all of that. And it burns off some of those extra calories we’re likely consuming. It’s a win-win.
Be prudent and mindful while you are eating, drinking and being merry. Enjoy!
If you’re new to the Small Steps series, you can read about the philosophy and strategies of the series here. Know the Small Steps strategies don’t need to be done in any particular order and are independent of one another. So, you can begin the series with this post, continue throughout the rest of the year and pick up what you missed next year.
Previous Small Steps posts: January’s Portion Control; February’s Plan Ahead; March’s Accentuate the Positives, Eliminate the Negatives; April’s Substitutions; May’s Go Old School; June’s +1; July’s Reflect, Revamp & Renew; August’s Reflect, Revamp & Renew Revisited; September’s Embrace Technology; October’s Be Flexible