Sunday, November 17, 2013

Your Holiday Survival Guide

Hello Friends in Fitness,

It's that time of year again:  The beautiful days between Halloween and The Super Bowl when consuming everything in sight becomes every red blooded American's favorite sport.

Forgive me if you're not in the US, but when it comes to holiday excess we do like to come out on top.

By the way, is it just me or does the holiday season seem to be getting longer?

 Does it end with Valentine's Day?  President's Day?  Do we all say "What the heck," and put off our New Years Resolutions until after we eat our Lucky Charms with Green Beer on St. Patrick's Day?

OK, so I've never eaten Lucky Charms with Green Beer, but some of my best friends have.

Honestly, sometime in the two weeks before Thanksgiving I know that I have to make a choice about what kind of holiday season this will be when it comes to eating and drinking.

Explore this with me, will you?

You see, somehow I have managed to keep a substantial amount of weight off for a number of years now.  I've even managed to avoid the gift of bigger thighs that I used to give myself each year by making a few plans before I do the grocery shopping on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Ah yes, plans.  Happy Holidays do take planning don't they?

If you're a Mom with a job, a daughter with parents to please, or a single girl dreaming of Winter romance, (I remember those days quite fondly thank you) a plan, or at least some important choices, can give you a better shot at coming through the season with more comfort and joy than headaches and regret.

The way I see it, you have three choices.

#1.  The Free For All.

Throw caution to the wind.  Eat, drink, be merry, and gulp away at all of the amazing goodies that are only allowed at this time of year, and that simply must be eaten because they will never ever be available again.  As a matter of fact, the food police may be coming in May of 2014 to make the consumption of all sweet and savory treats a misdemeanor under the new Universal  Food Denial Act.

I admit, this scenario, and this choice, is unlikely.  Somehow I doubt that you would be reading this post if you didn't want some genuine wisdom on how to make good choices during the holiday season, so let's move on to option 2.

#2.  The Food Fight: Epic Battle Edition

Pursue your Fitness and Nutrition Goals with all of the passion and precision of someone getting ready for their High School Reunion. Holiday Shmoliday: You want a hot lean body, and you want it now.  There is a little black dress hanging in the closet right now that is 2 sizes too small, but you will be wearing it on New Year's Eve, or else!

Actually, I've gone with  scenario #2  in the past, and it can be done.  I reached my ultimate goal weight on December 9th, 2010 by sticking faithfully to my food and exercise plan.  (Yes, I know it's weird that I know the exact date.)  Then again, I threw caution to the wind starting that Christmas day, gained at least 7 pounds  over the next few weeks, and my weight didn't stabilize until the end of February.

#3.  The Balanced Approach.

This sounds perfect at first glance, but this kind of "Balance" can seem like walking on a high wire over a pool of snapping crocodiles for 6 weeks.  What to choose?

In all honesty, the balanced  approach has worked before for me, and for my students here in Sonora.  So let's take a closer look at how we can make some choices that will help us have a beautiful, joyful holiday season.

I know that health and vitality are important to you, so the foundation of this Holiday Survival Guide is:

Your Training and Fitness Routine

The very best thing you can do in my never to be humble opinion is:  Keep Training!  Get out your calendar, and write in your training sessions right  now in ink.  The benefits of exercise become even more apparent at the holidays.

Stress reduction, feel-good endorphins, improved sleep, better glucose control, defense against depression and anxiety, are all proven benefits of your well designed exercise plan.
Let me be honest as well when I admit that my commitment to fitness isn't just about health: It's about beauty too.  This time of year the cameras come out, the parties are in full swing, love is in the air, and I want you to have that glow that comes with proper fitness.  (And no, I don't mean the sweaty glow you get in the gym either.)

Another plus is that intense exercise sessions are proven to reduce appetite!  Talk about a win, win, win, strategy.

Speaking of Appetite:

Let's face it, holiday goodies and beverages are designed to delight and tempt our appetites.  This is a time of  year for delicious and sensational food.  The cooks in our lives pull out all the stops, and their feelings can be hurt if we don't pay proper homage to their efforts.

What to do?  Personally, I am fortunate in that after more than 30 years of struggling with food, I had to face my sugar addiction and compulsive over-eating.  I have earned the wisdom to say "No"to my trigger foods no matter what.

 Certainly, if you have gluten sensitivity, high blood sugar, or any medical condition that is affected by diet, you can stand strong in your insistence on eliminating foods that can harm your heath.  But what do you do if your goal is to enjoy everything in moderation?

Here is the approach I suggest to my students:  Make some choices now about how much you will indulge in Holiday food and drink.

What are the most important celebrations to you?  What are your absolute favorite holiday treats?  Whose feeling will you really hurt if you push their offerings away?

Once again look at your calendar and have a plan for enjoying the best of the food and drink that you will encounter, while leaving out the excess that will only make you store fat.   For example, if you celebrate Christmas, which is the most important meal:  Christmas Eve dinner, or brunch on Christmas day?  In my family, we have Aunt Evie's Coffee Cake or "French Puffs" as a tradition on Christmas morning.  Now, I live a sugar free lifestyle, so my solution is to make a sugar and grain free version of these goodies, but that takes planning!

I am urging you to look ahead and create a plan for when and how much you will celebrate with food and drink.  (Speaking of drink, will you do your body this favor?  Please drink plenty of water.  Put a piece of paper on your refrigerator, and make a check on it for each glass of water you drink.  If you get six or more checks for five days in a row, give yourself a small prize like a new color of nail polish, or a new sports bra. Ok, good sports bras are expensive but they are my favorite gift to myself.  What's yours?)

Finally, and pardon the cliché, but the coming season is ideally about faith and family, music and beauty, friendship and generosity. Celebrate the coming opportunities to dress in your best, create an inviting home, give in your community, and re-connect with your friends and family.

So to re-cap:  Schedule your training, choose and plan your indulgences, drink water, and focus on non-food beauty and joy.

I wish you your most beautiful holiday ever.