Trying to stay fit during the holidays can feel like running an obstacle course. You neatly sidestep Aunt Jane’s artichoke dip, only to face Cousin Joe’s “special” eggnog. You summon the will power not to eat brie, then find yourself seated at a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy. You’re away from your gym, your running buddies, your Saturday morning pickup basketball game.
One group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that Americans put on almost a pound each year at the holidays and never lose it.
Plenty of articles out there will tell you how to resist holiday temptations — in theory. But I wanted to hear from folks who actually succeed. So I polled some of my fellow fitness pros, people who pretty much can’t make a living unless they stay fit. How do their thin waists survive the winter? Their strategies boiled down to these four points:
1. Make a plan.
“Schedule workouts into your day as if they’re an engagement that you can’t break unless you absolutely have to,” says Nicole Crane who has written about healthy choices at parties. Many pros set aside the first hour of the morning before the partying starts. “I don’t change anything, really,” says Linda Melone of LindaMelone.com. “I work out at 5 am, so not much is happening then!”
What if your routine is disrupted by travel? “I usually travel during the holidays,” says Greg Niro of Vicore Fitness. “I find this is a great time to visit a new gym, see what’s in the market place and of course make it easier to stay in shape.” The main point is to stay consistent, says Pam Hernandez of ThrivePersonalFitness.com. “If you can only do 10 minutes of activity, then make the most of those 10 minutes. It’s our habits that make or break us for better or worse.”
2. Organize the activities.
“Go for walks with family and friends,” says Beth Alexander of BethAlexanderFitness.com. “It’s an easy and fun exercise everyone can do together.” Christie Miller of EatTrainWin runs a special Healthy Holidays program. “The accountability and support of the group helps me, too,” she says.
3. Control the menu.
“Don’t buy or cook anything you are unwilling to eat yourself,” says Nigro. “If you have family over don’t feel obligated to provide crap food just because Aunt Jenny and your young nephew only like to eat cookies. Just in case you are not in charge of the menu as listed above, give yourself the holiday only to indulge, for example, the day of Thanksgiving… and the day only. Usually, there is plenty of food left over and people want to give you plates of food. Only take what is good and sensible for your personal diet needs.”
4. Limit holiday drinks.
Dieters tend to focus on food, but alcohol contains a lot of empty calories, and so do sweet beverages. That doesn’t mean the pros abstain completely. “For every coffee, tea, cocoa, cider or spiked beverage, drink an extra cup of water,” says Christiana R.S. Greene of SpillingCoffeEnDroppingThings.com. “If ice is too cold, drink room temp or warm water with lemon.”
Stay Fit During the Holidays
If you truly want to stay fit during the holidays, these pros say, you have to think ahead. It takes organization to have a party — you have to create a menu, invite guests, prepare the space. To survive the party with your waistline intact requires carrying that organization just four steps further.
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Featured image by Laird Harrison. All rights reserved.