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The Secret to Not Letting the Holidays Overwhelm You? Have a Plan!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We're in the thick of the holiday season, and for many women it can be a time when the mainstays of our healthy habits take a back seat to preparations for seasonal celebrations.   For those who struggle with weight issues, the holidays can be a minefield of cookies, festive meals and lots and lots of favorite treats.  In addition, stressful pace of this season can derail the most faithful of exercisers, and add snow, ice and cold to the mix and you have even more fitness dropouts.

So what's a gal to do?  The first and most important step is to start now with a contingency plan for keeping your diet healthy and your fitness routine alive by proactively having positive alternatives to the usual things that sideline your good habits this time of year.  

Most people have several holiday parties that provide a tempting array of fatty appetizers and desserts.  You can take part in those events, enjoy the food and not overindulge if you just think ahead and make a plan for negotiating the holiday fare.  I've found the following tips can make a big difference in how well your maneuver through the holiday eating season. 

Alcohol is the bane of diet control.  Keep your holiday imbibing to a minimum, especially when you're at a party where treats are abundant and drinking can inhibit your ability to keep eating in control.   Never go to a party on an empty stomach.  The risk is two-fold; any alcohol you drink will have more of an effect, and you'll have little control at the buffet table.  A small snack of crisp vegetables, and apple with a piece of cheese or low fat yogurt thirty minutes before you hit the party will help dull your appetite.

Make a plan of how much you will eat at the party, and keep track!  Appetizers may be small, but their caloric content is high.  Keep your selection at three small choices, and heap your plate with lower calorie fruit, vegetables and lean meats.  Make a pact with yourself that you'll make only one trip to the buffet table and stick with it.  Have a glass of sparkling water with a dash of cranberry or lime juice for a festive, healthy drink.

Do the math.  This simply means portion control and calorie counting will help you keep your eating from going overboard.  You know how many daily calories you need to maintain your weight, so think before you eat.  I'm all for enjoying a favorite treat, but remember that those few seconds of taste enjoyment can leave you with an excess of calories.  Slow down and enjoy the treat and cut your portion by half.  Don't let yourself mindlessly eat just because it's there.

Some people find that cutting back on their caloric intake the day before and after a big meal helps them negate the excess of the day.  I prefer to add more exercise the day before and after to burn off the excess, and a combination of the two is even more effective. 

Don't starve yourself the day of a big holiday meal--have a light breakfast and mid-morning snack so you aren't ravenous by mealtime. If you're the cook, keep a supply of fresh vegetables to snack on so you avoid dipping into more caloric dishes you're preparing. 

There are many wonderful recipes for making great tasting meals that don't provide an overload of fat and calories ("The SparkPeople Cookbook" is a great resource), so think about including some healthy new dishes in the usual holiday fare.  It's helpful to have several offerings that allow you to dish up without feeling deprived.

Keeping active during the holidays is even more of a challenge than maintaining your diet.  Most women are the driving force behind the meals, parties, and family get-togethers, so the stresses of this time of year can derail a fitness routine.  The irony of this is that exercise is needed even more when the pace of life gets frenetic, and women in the menopausal years had the added stress of dealing with children as well as aging parents who may need more care. 

Although you may feel that there's just no time for exercise, stop and think about little windows of time in your calendar where you can fit in a walk, part of an exercise DVD, resistance band strength training or a quick trip to the gym. I've listed reasons that we all have for not exercising during the holidays and corresponding fixes.  Not all of the fixes may work in your life, but see if you can find a few that'll help you keep exercising.

Can't walk outside in cold, snowy conditions.
  • Try mall walking or join a gym. 
  • Invest in a pair of snowshoes and head out on a local golf course.
  • Take up cross-country skiing.  It's a sport that is great for any age, and the bonus is that you'll stay warm even when temperatures are low.
  • Check out some exercise DVDs from your local library and see which ones you enjoy.
  • Set up Wii Fit on your TV and make it a family fun activity.
  • Fit your shoes with “crampons” so you can walk on icy sidewalks safely.
There's not enough time in the day for a workout.
  • Everyone has at least 20 minutes in each day where they could fit in a couple of bouts of exercise.  You can do a ten-minute portion of an exercise DVD in the morning before work, and add another 10 minutes of walking, stair stepping or DVD later in the day. 
  • If you have stairs at your workplace, do five minutes of stair climbing during your lunch time and five minutes of resistance band exercises at your desk. 
  • Throw out your expectations of getting in the usual duration of exercise and think more in terms of little bouts that add up.  Even five minutes of stair stepping go a long way towards boosting your heart rate and metabolism.
  • Pen in your exercise time on your calendar with the same resolve you give every other thing listed on it. 
  • Make it a family affair.  Start a tradition of a family walk in the snow after a holiday dinner, or other outdoor activity.  It's a fun way to work off the meal and interact with your family.
How do you stay on track during the holidays?

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METAFUKARI 12/13/2019
I cut down on crackers and cheese since I am not much for sweets! Report
Absolutely great Report
Interesting Report
Interesting Report
thanks Report
thanks Report
ha! This would have been a great article for me to read a month ago! I did fairly well over the holidays this year and am back on track this month. Report
I usually don't eat much, if at all, at holiday parties - I remind myself that most of it is just deli trays that don't taste nearly as good as they look and that it's easier to converse without a mouthful of munchies!

I've also chosen to up my target number of steps per day from 10K to 11K for 2012 - starting this month. This should help stave off seasonal blues as well as helping maintain my target weight. Report
I've stopped going over the top for the holidays, and it is so much more enjoyable. I don't decorate-except for a wreath on the front door. I don't buy many gifts-one for DH, one for DS 21, and one for my Mom. I don't go to our office party (politics), and I try not to have to shop for anything but groceries from Thanksgiving until the New Year. I've done away with my expectations of that perfect Currier & Ives scene on Christmas day. Even though it makes me look like "Scrooge" I'm enjoying the holiday much more than I did before.
Martha Report
It's summer here in Oz, and I find it so hard to function in anything other than mild temperatures.
I love cold weather - snow, sleet, rain get me energised!
One day I hope to share a White Christmas with my family until then my plan is to be active with my dog in the early part of the day and swim as much as I can everyday over the break.
Great advice! Report
Merry Christmas Report
I hope to snow shoe and x-country ski (come on snow!) as well as walk and exercise with equipment I have at home. Just gotta get moving! Report
I like the suggestion "do the math" along with pre/post exercise. Report
I can barely walk from the door to the car in cold, wet weather without getting sick. But I am blessed with exercise facilities in the building I live in AND the building I work in - plus the office workout video I found right here on SparkPeople! I won't miss a day - but outdoors in the winter can never happen.
Even mall walking involves that long cold walk in the parking lot. No. Short and long indoor workouts will keep me ready for summer - and THAT is my season. Report
I am making it about the people the birth of a baby Jesus and not about the food. I am keeping up on my workouts. I do know if I choose to eat it I choose to work it off. Report
I've never tried snow shoeing! Report
Thanks for the great ideas Report
I'm enrolled in a couple of different challenges for the holidays (one through SP; one online at work).

The constant reminders are helping me to stay focused.

I also started a few years ago with trying to be more active/watch my food intake BEFORE January 1, instead of being like the rest of the world and making a "New Year's Resolution" to get fit. I like to enter the new year ALREADY taking care of business! Report
Lots of great tips, especially at this time of year, thanks for the ideas! Report
Walking Guide