The festive period is challenging time for exercise and making healthy food choices. This time of the year is about enjoying quality time with friends and family and more often than not a meal will be the focal point of the occasion. On Christmas day many of us eat one (or three!) too many chocolates and drink a few too many glasses of champagne. That is fine - life is about balance after all! You shouldn’t feel guilty about the extra calories you consume and unless you are a super hero, not many of us will work out much.
It is worth noting this though… studies have shown that half our average annual weight gain is attained during the holiday season (Yanovski et al., 2012)
Crikey! So, if you have big plans for a fit and healthy 2017 use this information to ensure you don’t start the year on a back foot. Instead, use the anticipated extra consumption on Christmas day as motivation to keep training and keep moving your body throughout the month of December. Christmas is only one day of the month, so all the days leading up to the 25th and the days following are a great time to stay fit and healthy.
So, let’s face it, we all know there will be extra calories consumed and less exercise done. But how can you navigate this tricky time of year to ensure you end up finishing Christmas without the extra mass!?
Here are a few effective ways of staying motivated before and after Christmas and preparing for the unexpected Christmas mince pies that end up on the dinner table.
· Make sensible food choices when you can - Opt for the healthy snacks on the table. At Christmas parties and functions have the nuts, rather than the crisps, or the fresh fruit rather than the chocolates. Fill your plate with all the green vegetables first, then serve the lean protein (ham, turkey etc). Keep the fatty foods such as roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, bread sauce and cheese to a minimum.
· Set small and achievable goals – Consider writing out an exercise program for each session during the month of December. Knowing exactly what you plan to do at the gym can increase motivation at the gym. Make sure your goals surrounding exercise and training are obtainable. The smaller and more specific they are, the more likely you are to achieve them and stay motivated. In these cold and dark months even getting to the gym is an achievement so pat yourself on the back every time you do!
· Vary your work outs – we all know the gym can get boring sometimes, especially if you are doing the same kinds of work outs over and over. Try the classes offered at the gym, get a gym buddy or take your work out outside in to the fresh air. It’s also effective to vary your music you listen to while training. Choose your favorite tracks and make an awesome playlist; this will ensure you are feeling happy and full of energy for that session you have planned.
· Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink – This will keep you hydrated and minimize the potential hangover effect. If you can, choose the lower calorie alcoholic drinks such as gin or vodka and pass on the sugary cocktails and champagne.
· Get up early and go for a walk – This can significantly increase concentration and energy for the day. For the first few mornings you will ask yourself each time, “why on earth am I up this early in the freezing cold when I could be lying in bed in the warmth”. But once you get into a routine of doing it each day, you will wonder why you never started doing it earlier. If you are feeling extra motivated you could even do this on Christmas day before everyone else is up, or even take all your friends and family with you!
These are only a few tips to stay motivated over the festive season. But you know what they say; summer bodies are made in the winter. So this year make the month of December count.
Rather than begin your 2017 with a “fresh start”, why not finish your 2016 with a strong healthy body and mind.
Author: Kristina Yorke BSc Hons Human Nutrition and Exercise Sports Science