What do the winter holidays mean for you? Joy and celebration? Indulgence and comfort? Family gatherings and home cooking? For some, the holiday season tests their self-control and delivers temptation at every turn. Many people overeat, drink excessively and spend more than their budget allows, all in the name of celebration. It adds up. Americans gain an average of 1.3 lbs over the winter holidays and many don’t lose the extra weight before the next holiday. One pound isn’t a lot, but a few extra pounds can be hard to lose. To stay on track and avoid temptation, follow the CDC’s tips on healthy holiday eating.
Is Holiday “Hygge” Hugging Your Hips?
If the holidays have caught up to your waistline, January might mean resolutions and restrictions. But don’t think the New Year has to be all about “no pain, no gain.” A slight change of perspective can help get you back on track. Read on to find out how you can keep the celebration going into the new year to help you meet your goals.
What Doesn’t Work
Experts agree that trying to change everything at once doesn’t work. For example, a plan to cut out all “bad” foods, stop smoking and start going to the gym every day is likely to fail. It’s too much and too extreme. Likewise, a plan to “get in shape” or to “eat healthy” is too vague to succeed long term. For lasting change, take small, specific steps toward new habits and a healthier lifestyle.
How to Plan for Success
Eating too much is easy; battling pound creep takes a focused effort and some clear, SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Before you start, review the basics of a healthy diet, how much you should eat and how much exercise you need. The USDA’s Choose MyPlate website has lots of information about dietary and fitness needs. In general, you should:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods.
- Balance your calorie intake with your physical activities.
- Engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least three days per week.
Document your starting point with a photo showing your body composition or by recording your weight and body fat percentage, your typical food and alcohol consumption or your usual workout. It’s a good idea to check in with a doctor, physical trainer or nutritionist at this point to assess your current situation and create an exercise plan and a meal plan. What changes do you want to make? You probably have many goals, but start with one. Be specific and make sure your goal is measurable. For example, you may want to lose 20 pounds. Break your goal into milestones and then into achievable and realistic steps. If you plan to lose one pound each week (a realistic amount), you could lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. Ten weeks can seem like a long time when you’re working towards a goal. To make it timely, break your goal into smaller steps, perhaps to lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks.
Celebrate with a Goal Bash – a Party for a New, Healthy You!
If your goals were a party, how would you prepare? Have the right foods and drinks on hand. If it isn’t available you can’t eat it – and that goes for both junk food and healthy options. Dump the junk and stock the good stuff. Set the mood. You’d prepare for a party with decorations and the right lighting; to host a goal, do the same thing. Use your environment to put you in the right frame of mind for your goal: surround yourself with inspiring images and motivational sayings or dim your screens in the evening to help you sleep better. Invite the right people. Get supportive friends and family on board or invite them to join you. Turn your goal into an opportunity to socialize: take a cooking class, get a workout buddy or challenge a friend to match your progress. Create a great playlist. Music is powerful. Use a soundtrack to bolster your motivation and help you achieve your goal. For example, play energizing music for cardio workouts, relaxing music for evenings, happy positive lyrics you can sing along to. Plan activities and games. When your motivation starts to lag, jolt your routine with something new and fun. Try a new workout or a different sport, take it outdoors, go to a group class, learn to cook a new dish or try a different cuisine. Set the right pace. You can’t run a marathon at the pace of a sprint, and it’s the same for reaching your goals. If you try to do too much too fast, you’ll burn out, but if you go too slowly, you won’t see a change. Aim for sustainable and vary your intensity and speed occasionally. Go ahead, make some noise! Celebrations are filled with music, song, cheers, laughter, applause and lots and lots of people talking. Be loud about your goals and your successes. Build momentum by talking about what you’re doing, congratulating yourself, cheering yourself on – and you’ll find others will too. For more information about wellness and health, check out these QuickSeries guides: Whole Living: Your Personal Wellness Guide and Weight Management: Ready for Change.