Finding Answers 33 The holidays are upon us. Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is nearly here. Soon, Christmas, and then, BOOM – next year will be here before we know it. The choice to put off physical activity and healthy eating seems like an easy one. The New Year seems like a “light at the end of the tunnel” and provides a mentally safe distance between yourself and actually making a change. (It is, after all, next year – and a year is a long time, right?) You may find yourself struggling to maintain healthy routines around the holidays. With family events and parties in abundance, eating right and exercising tend to fall by the wayside. Let’s make this year different! Plan Ahead No matter what the holidays hold for you, it’s important to observe potential obstacles first from afar. Most of us follow the same general holiday plans from year to year – it doesn’t change much. The office party on the 11th, your cousin’s piano recital on the 14th, Grandma’s on the 23rd, etc. Avoid skipping out on physical activity by planning it into your weeks. Whether you decide to get out and go for a walk, head to the gym, do yoga, or something else, plan ahead! Family events and parties are planned in advance. Make time for activity around these events to stay on top of your routine. Grab a Friend and Get the Family Involved Enlisting the help of a fitness and nutrition coach is never a bad idea and will help increase your accountability, but finding a fitness‑minded friend or family member works well too. Challenge friends and family to stay active and adopt a common goal over the holiday season – whether it’s just to maintain a current weight, or perform a certain number of workouts per week, getting other people involved will always up the ante when it comes to staying on track. Find out who’s interested and put each other on an email or group message – check in regularly and keep each other accountable! Pick Your Poison You can eat turkey, stuffing, casserole, and even some pumpkin pie – all in one sitting if you want! Problems only arise when the “every now and then” feast becomes the norm. One favorite strategy of mine to pass along to coaching clients is “Pick your poison” or “Do your damage wisely.” The average family has two or three events over the course of a holiday season. Sometimes these are packed into a single day, or over a few days. Whatever the scenario looks like for you, pick one event to “pig out.” If you can’t resist Aunt Judy’s stuffing, enjoy everything you can while you’re at her house. If you know that your work holiday potluck always has great food, make that your one-time feast for the season. Watching football on Thanksgiving is a lot less pleasurable when you’re suffering from indigestion! Eat what you want and enjoy, but remember, these holidays are about time with the family, not just the food. Do Something Good for You Every Day Although many people wait until the new year to start making healthy changes, each day is just as good as any to start getting more active and eating better. This doesn’t mean that you have to start going to the gym five days a week or rigorously dieting over the holidays. Start simple: Walk (or push) a little further each day, or consciously downsize portions at each meal. Our results are the product of many “stacked” habits, good or bad. The number you see on the scale, your waist measurement – these didn’t happen overnight, and they certainly won’t reverse instantly either; however, consistent effort over the long haul will get results! Starting during the holiday season just means you’re going to be that much further ahead of everyone else on New Year’s Day! Balance Your Plate If you’re going to eat to your heart’s content, you might as well do yourself a favor and balance your plate appropriately. Protein should be a primary focus (unless you’ve been given specific dietary advice for medical conditions) – it’s hard to overeat on high-protein foods like turkey, chicken, roast, and the like. Get at least a palm-sized serving of protein at each meal (although if it’s the holidays, you might as well grab two!). From there, it’s all about veggies – make sure you’re getting at least a fist-sized serving on every plate. After the veggies, you’ve got carbs – stuffing, potatoes, casseroles, etc. – keep these limited to one cupped-hand-size serving. Last but not least, fats – oils, dressings, butter, and so on – you’ll want to stick with a thumb-sized serving. Staying mindful of your portion sizes is the most practical and simple way to keep overeating to a minimum and stay on track! The holidays are indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.” Family and friends gather together and warm memories are made (usually around tons of delicious food). Unfortunately, all of the holiday cheer often leads to our wellness being put off until “next year.” Stop telling yourself that “next year” story – this only postpones taking action and keeping yourself accountable to a meaningful goal that could be the greatest choice you’ve ever made – the choice to be healthy!