Holiday Fitness Guide: Keep off the Pounds During Winter Holidays

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Tempting food will be everywhere during the winter holidays, in your face, tantalizing and teasing you. And you’ll have less time to work out. You need this holiday fitness guide full of tips that have helped me over the years.

Exercise ball and jump rope on tile floor

Getting exercise

It’s hard to find the time during the holidays to exercise.  But even thirty minutes a day of walking fast can help you maintain your current weight even if you’re eating a bit more than normal.

If you’re really pressed for time, consider tacking on some extra walk time to your shopping trips.  Malls are climate-controlled – very decent environments for exercise walking.  Try to go during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.

Got a 9 to 5 job that keeps you sitting down 8 hours a day?  Then you’ve got a lunch break.  Take a few minutes at home to pack a healthy lunch you can eat in half an hour.  Then use the other half hour of your lunch to speedwalk.

Weather permitting, you can do it near your office.  If that doesn’t work, there’s always somewhere you can go.  A mall, a parking lot… get creative!

Plus, you’ll be saving calories AND money with that home-made lunch!  So even if you just can’t work out the walking, you’ve taken a step toward keeping fit.

Portion Control

You’re at a party or get-together. There’s a whole buffet table of delicious stuff.  If you eat a full serving of everything, not only will you gain weight – you might collapse on the spot!

You have a couple of options here.  The first one is to take a tiny serving of everything – no more than a bite or two.  This works well if you’re the type who just can’t resist tasting everything – or the people you’re with expect to hear compliments on every single dish (you know how families can be).

Another option is: be choosy!  Allow yourself a set number of items – say, three to five items.  Don’t go back for seconds.

Surviving the “Eat More” family

Some families seem to think force-feeding is the best way to show affection. They will actually dollop more food onto your plate while you’re sitting there saying, “No, thanks, really, I’m about to puke on your shoes”.

The emotional blackmail gets intense. The puppy dog eyes when you refuse, the ever-reasonable “just a little taste” gimmick, etc. These people may love you, but you have a right to stand up for your stomach.

The best peace-keeping response will depend on your family members and their temperament. Sometimes you can affectionately grab the person’s hand and say something like, “I love you, and I know you love me, but I really don’t need this much food. I’m trying to stay healthy.”

In some families that would be too harsh, and you might have to just find a way to surreptitiously feed the dog. In other families, that’s not clear enough, and you have to just tell them no, absolutely not, you are not eating another bite, and back off.

If there’s no way to keep them happy except eating yourself into a coma, then your family is dysfunctional, and you probably already know that. Keep in mind that people who look that hard for something to get upset about are bound to find it, and don’t be afraid to upset the apple cart.

Others may chastise you and tell you you were wrong not to eat the entire pie, but they’re dysfunctional too. A lot of times, family dysfunction expresses itself through food. Just remember: if you stand up for yourself in a kind manner and people don’t take it like they should, that’s not on you.

Sorry if this sounds unpleasant, but the holiday is a time for family, and not all families are easy to get along with. Sometimes you need coping strategies!

Controlled Indulgence

If sweets are your downfall during the holidays, pick one very favorite type of sweet such as cakes, chocolate candy, hard candy, pies, etc.  “Chocolate” would be too broad a category since it involves cakes, candy and pies.

Once you’ve picked your very favorite type of sweet, go ahead and enjoy it when you encounter it!  But resist the others.

Remember, this may not work if you have a family or friends who get offended if you don’t taste every sweet they create.  If that’s your situation, you might do better looking at portion control.

Make Your Regular Meals Diet Meals

Not every meal during the holidays is a party feast. Be very conscientious about your normal breakfasts, lunches and dinners – more so than normal.  That way, your over-indulgences at holiday parties and gatherings will be at least somewhat balanced out.

Choose low calorie foods, high-fiber foods, complex carbohydrates, etc.  Avoid processed foods and fast foods as much as possible – this will free up a lot of caloric intake for holiday indulgences.

Try eating something healthy whenever you feel like you’ve been overindulging. A good chef or cobb salad is one of my “end of vacation” go-tos. And I honestly love kale and bitter greens (long before the hipsters discovered kale), so I sautee it with garlic.

One final note…

There are a lot of anti-carb trends out there nowadays.  But there are actually two kinds of carbs: complex and simple.

Simple carbs – like sugar and white breads – are too easy for your system to digest.  They go straight to fat storage.

Complex carbs, however, fuel your energy and keep you going.  Also, they help keep you producing the neurotransmitters that keep you from becoming depressed.

The holidays are stressful and sometimes depressing enough on their own: don’t make it harder on yourself by overindulging on sugars OR deleting complex carbs from your diet, thinking that’s the way to keep weight off.

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Last Updated:

July 23, 2023