Tuesday, December 16, 2014

10 Ways to Keep Off the Holiday Pounds (While Still Having Fun!)

It's that time of year again!  Those days between our Thanksgiving feasting and our New Year's binging that are full of delicious holiday treats, perhaps alcohol-laden beverages and holiday parties with lots of snacks.  This is the time of year when most of us put on a nice layer of padding that, while it may keep us warmer in the winter months ahead, none of us are too happy to see.  Who wants to give up our holiday fun and festivities when it really comes down to it, right?  So many of us rationalize our way into a bigger pants size every year.  Well, not this year!  Here's your guide to make it through this holiday season in the same pants size, while still having fun!

10.Plan Christmas Activities That Don't Revolve Around Eating

Cookie-making is an obvious and fun activity for Christmas, but the temptation is there to eat as many as you possibly can, especially during busy days where it's hard to find the time to cook healthy meals. Instead of spending days baking all kinds of calorie-heavy treats, consider doing some holiday crafts instead!  A hand-made ornament for the tree or hand-made Christmas cards are lovely holiday gifts that can be made in place of the traditional cookie plates.  Pinterest is a great resource for all kinds of holiday craft ideas and many are very simple and fun to do! Here are some craft ideas for your family to try together:

9.  Take Advantage of the Snowy Weather

Despite the groans and complaints when the snow starts to fly, those of us living in areas that are lucky enough to get snow have the advantage of variety in our outdoor environment. Since variety is the spice of life, let's take advantage of it!  Whether it's going downhill or cross country skiing, winter hiking or snowshoeing, making a snowman or just taking a walk out there in our winter wonderland, getting out there in the snow to be active will not only burn calories from the act of doing whatever activity you've chosen, but just being out in the cold can burn calories simply by way of the body needing to heat itself.  Beyond that, being cold can increase your metabolism overall!  So go ahead, get out there and take advantage of the natural metabolism boost that you can gain from cold climates. 

8.  Go Caroling!

Taking a walk with a group of friends and singing Christmas carols is a quintessential Christmas activity that has mostly been lost in this day and age.  It not only gets you outside, which as we've already discussed is great for burning calories and boosting your metabolism, but walking is a great calorie burner, as well.  According to About Health

"A rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile are burned for a 180-pound person and 65 calories per mile for a 120-pound person"  

They also have a handy calculator for figuring out exactly how many calories you could be burning on your walk.  Most of all, you're creating fun holiday memories with your family and friends.

7.  Take a Walk (or Run) to Enjoy the Christmas Lights Instead of Driving

During this time of year, most of us venture out at least once to take a look at the Christmas light displays our neighbors have provided.  Why not take the opportunity to walk or run to see the Christmas lights instead?  In the Binghamton area, we have a group run planned to go enjoy Christmas lights as a group, but there's no reason you have to wait for someone else to plan this.  Don't forget that you'll want to dress in bright colors and reflective gear so that you're visible to drivers at night.

6.  Start Your New Year's Resolutions Early

There's no reason to wait that extra couple weeks to start in on your New Year's resolutions.  In fact, starting them immediately and then boosting your resolve when they New Year rolls around will encourage you to have at least a month of consistency with your resolution and more likelihood of keeping it up, long term.  It takes about a month of consistency to make a lifestyle change become a normal part of your life, but make sure to set reasonable goals.  Instead of broad or vague resolutions like "stop eating sugar" or "lose 10 lbs", try creating positive and smaller goal steps like "eat 5 kinds of vegetables per day".  It can also help to have a progressive plan where you add additional small goals over time to progress to your goal instead of trying to dive in headfirst.

Most areas also have a "Resolution Run": a 5k race planned on New Year's day (or sometimes New Year's Eve).  Starting a couple weeks ahead can give you a head start on being able to complete or compete in such an event.  Why not sign up now to keep you motivated to keep the calories down and the exercise up through the coming weeks?

5.  Sign up for That Event NOW, Not Later

I know, I know, most of us are a little short on cash this time of year.  Despite that fact, signing up for a spring event, whether it be your first 5k or half marathon, a triathlon, or a relay with your friends, it can be enough to motivate you to be mindful of your eating and exercise over the coming weeks and bring you through the New Year without a lot of weight gain. Remaining healthy is always an excellent use of your money.

4.  Think "Less" not "None"

It's a huge bummer to get to a holiday party and think "I'm not allowed to eat any of this."  Holiday willpower is hard enough, but add in an alcoholic drink or two and and suddenly it's completely out the window.  Instead, at that Christmas party buffet, consider just taking half a spoonful of the things you would normally want to eat and then mindfully savor every bite.  According to Mireille Guillano, author of the book French Women Don't Get Fat, the key is not to avoid the delights that life brings along, but to take a small amount and savor it slowly and fully.  Where we Americans tend to just shovel delicious things into our mouths faster, Guillano suggests taking tiny spoonfuls and focusing on really enjoying the flavor while it's in your mouth instead of immediately swallowing it in order to shovel in the next mouthful.  Mindfulness in eating can really slow you down and keep your calorie intake lower while still enjoying all your favorites this season.

3.  Eat a Healthy Snack Before Heading to That Holiday Party

This is really standard but great advice that we all need to remember during the holidays.  Arriving to a holiday party hungry is just inviting overindulgence.  The best way to combat this is to fill your stomach with some healthy alternatives before you go.  It doesn't need to consist of a full meal, but a healthy snack before you go can go a long way to help you wait a while before starting in on the buffet, while also making you more capable of serving yourself smaller portions. 

2.  Alternate Calorie-laden Drinks with Water

Most of us forget that calories taken in liquid form are still calories, but they can really pack a "punch".  Alcohol, itself, has 7 calories per gram.  That's more than carbohydrate or protein have, and nearly as many calories per gram as fat!  Most favorite holiday beverages, like egg nog or punch, include fat AND sugar in them, as well as alcohol.  Instead of continuously enjoying your favorite beverages at the holiday party, start with a tall glass of water, and then alternate a glass of your favorite calorie-laden drink with a glass of water.  Not only will this help you cut back on your calorie-intake, but it'll stave off the holiday-hangover, while still allowing you to enjoy your Christmas favorites.

1.  Use Exercise to Reduce Holiday Stress 

We all have it, this time of year: Holiday Stress!  With so many holiday preparations and parties, many of us become stressed out and exhausted by what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  We forget that we need to take time for ourselves.  It's important to carve out time in your busy schedules to de-stress.  Whether it be a scheduled yoga class, a consistent group run, or just some time by yourself out in nature, it's important to think of yourself so that you can be relaxed and present for everyone else this time of year.

Your turn to share: What are your tips and tricks for keeping off the holiday pounds?

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