In previous years, I’ve asked my clients why it is so hard to stay in shape over the holidays and here is what they said:
“I’m too busy over the holidays to work out as often as usual.”
“I’m more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there, so I eat more.”
“I have at least three parties to attend and then there’s Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s impossible to stay on a diet” “No one can tell me not to enjoy myself over the holidays so I’m just going to eat whatever I want.”
These answers all have a few things in common:
1. “Either/Or” Thinking
First, they assume that you can EITHER get in better shape OR enjoy yourself, but not both. The truth is, “either/or thinking” is inaccurate but it’s a great killer of fitness programs.
2. Rationalizing / Excuse-Making
Furthermore, these are all excuses or rationalizations. “I’m too busy” for example, is always an excuse, because everyone can make time for his or her highest life priorities. Words mean little. Actions reveal our true priorities.
3. “Reverse Goal Setting”
Finally, none of these are the real reasons most people gain weight over the holidays to begin with. The real reason is because an intention was never set out to get in better shape over the holidays.
Most people by default end up with a "goal" or at least an intent to get in worse shape over the holidays. It’s not consciously set, of course, as few people would intentionally set out to get fatter. However, in their minds, they accept that it must be just about impossible to stay in shape with everything going on over the holiday season, so why bother?
Once the decision has been made, then the rationalizing continues:
“Why should I deprive myself?”
“Family is more important”
“Worrying about diet and exercise during the holidays is neurotic”
“I don’t care if I gain a few pounds, I’m going to enjoy myself anyway”
“It’s only these two or three weeks that I let myself go wild”
“I’ll start the first week in January and lose the weight then.”
As a result of this “negative goal-setting,” they expect to work out less, eat more and gain a few pounds, and they don’t seem to even consider alternatives.
But what would happen if you…
SET A GOAL TO GET IN BETTER shape over the holidays?
What would happen if you decided that it was not an all or nothing proposition and that you could set a goal to enjoy the holidays and all it has to offer while getting in better shape at the same time?
And what if you decided that your health and your body were the highest priorities in your life, because you realized that can’t enjoy anything else in life, including family or holidays, if you don’t have your health?
Here’s what would happen: YOU’D GET IN BETTER SHAPE!
It's OK to eat like a king over the holidays. The catch? You can't eat like that very often. You might be able to get away with it for a few meals, but not more meals than you can count on one hand.
Every other meal needs to stays right on schedule and workouts need to be consistent over the holidays; don’t let everything else fall apart.
The other thing you can do is maximize workout timing. Always perform a workout, even if it's just going for a walk, either before OR after a big meal. Try to perform a harder workout like weight lifting or a hard run the day BEFORE your big meal. This primes your body to use the extra calories effectively. It also gets you in the right mindset to not go totally crazy when it’s time to eat.
The idea that you can EITHER enjoy the holidays OR stay in shape - but not both - is wrong, it’s damaging and it’s limiting. Life is not an either or proposition; it’s a matter of balance.
Success does not mean going to extremes. Success can be a simple matter of re-examining your beliefs, rearranging your priorities, setting goals, changing the questions you ask yourself and re-evaluating your expectations. Your expectations will become your reality. What are you expecting?
There are still several weeks left until the end of the year. Why not see how much you can improve your physique over the holidays, without depriving yourself of any holiday enjoyments or festivities? Just step up your expectations, your standards, your training, and your action. Step up your belief that a better you is just weeks away and that this year can be different.
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Angela Harrington is our in home personal trainer in Brentwood, Stratham, and North Hampton NH and surrounding communities.