When it comes to staying in shape, Christmas can be scarier than a Steven King novel. Sure, there’s a good side to the festive season…it’s a time of giving, being with loved ones and reflecting on the year.
But it’s also a time when we can overindulge and bring undone 12 months of dedicated training and discipline.
Each year, I observe with interest, the behaviour of our gym members and PT clients. I watch the priorities change and the focus shift, understandably, from ‘getting in shape for the beach’ to ‘sorry, I have to get to the next Christmas function’…all at a time of year when people are aiming to look great for their summer holiday.
But I have some good news!
It doesn’t have to be this way. This pattern can be easily broken with some simple planning, awareness and—dare I say it—self-control.
8 ways to beat the bulge this Christmas
Here’s my 8-step guide to staying in shape during December, so when the New Year arrives, you’ll be strutting around like an Instagram fitness girl (or boy)…
- Start the day the healthy way
Sure, it’s one of the biggest clichés in the industry that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but not just for the reason our parents believed. Yes it’s your first ‘re-fuel’ after a night of sleep, but we now understand that it’s also much more. In a recent study, scientists discovered that what you eat for breakfast actually programs your fuel selection for the entire day. For example, eating a breakfast that’s high in sugar and carbohydrates triggers a hormonal chain reaction that has your body looking for carbohydrates in the form of sugar as energy. On the flipside, if you eat a breakfast that’s high in protein and good fats, your body will go looking for fats as fuel, therefore burning stored body fat.
Tip: Start the day with a healthy green smoothie (for example, with coconut water, green leafy vegetables and nuts) for a hit of all the micronutrients you’ll need for the day, without the calories.
- Limit alcohol
I understand it’s Christmas, but I’m here to limit the damage! So here are the facts: there is more to the relationship between alcohol consumption and weight gain than just drinking ‘empty’ calories. When you drink alcohol, your body needs to burn it off straight away. On top of that, to burn fat effectively, we need our liver (a key player in fat emulsification) to be in tip-top shape. So, if your liver is working overtime to process alcohol, it’s going to be harder for your body to break down fats. Sorry, but it you want to limit your weight gain this silly season, you’ll need to limit your alcohol intake.
- Eat real food and snack smart
So many of the calories we consume over Christmas come from snacking. Swap your processed snacks with fresh fruit and veggies (and small quantities of nuts), and you’ll go a long way towards winning the battle of calories-in/calories out.
- Daily exercise (including Christmas day)
With exercise, momentum and routine is king. Given the surplus of calories most of us consume at this time of year, it’s even more important to KEEP TRAINING! I love to train every day during the Christmas and New Year period, even if it’s something light, like a walk. Personally I love my Christmas-day run. It’s an awesome opportunity to get the endorphins going, clear the head and start the day burning calories, instead of storing them! It’s also a unique opportunity to get the kids out to give that new bike or skateboard a maiden run.
- Use a calorie and activity tracker
There’s nothing more humbling (or frightening) than tracking your calories during a Christmas ‘diet blowout’. It’s not uncommon to consume nearly a week’s calories in one day. This is where knowledge is key. Once you know what calories you’re putting in, you’ll have the knowledge you need to burn them off. There are lots of excellent activity and diet trackers on the market, but for me, you can’t go past the ‘My Fitness Pal’ app.
- Don’t let yourself get too hungry
We all know what happens when we arrive at a function feeling ravenous…it’s uncontrollable. Remember rule No. 3, snack smart. Keeping your hunger under control through healthy snacking will ensure you don’t arrive at a function feeling super hungry and ready to eat the entire festive buffet.
- Work it so that Christmas Day is your ‘cheat’ day
Most of us have one ‘cheat’ meal a week, some have a ‘cheat’ day, and some even have a have a ‘cheat’ life (but that’s another story!). Work your ‘cheat’ day (the day when you break your normal healthy eating regimen) so it falls on Christmas Day. That way, even with the extra drinks and food, you’ll still be complying with your overall training program.
- Adjust your short-term (monthly) goal…and live a little!
Remember Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself, so be realistic. For some, it’s a month-long affair, chock full of work and family get-togethers, while for others it’s simply a one-day celebration. Either way, it’s a good idea to adjust your eating and fitness goals a little so they’re commensurate with your social commitments. Life is to be enjoyed, and what better time to celebrate life…enjoy!
Dave Owen is the founder of One Fitness in Melbourne, and a partner in pre-prepared healthy-meal provider Lean by Design. He has 22 years of industry experience, and a keen interest in the behavioural science of health and fitness.
Need a pre-prepared meal solution that can help your clients and members get real results? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the website www.leanxdesign.com Currently servicing Hong Kong and bayside Melbourne.