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Break the Holiday Weight Gain Cycle

Perhaps it’s more obvious in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world – Americans kickstart the sugar-fueled trick-or-treating for Halloween in October, binge-eat like patriots on Thanksgiving (and many days after) in November, and ramp up a December so full of holiday parties and celebrations that, come January, many folks can barely drag their bloated carcasses onto the scale, much less face the gym.

It’s a vicious cycle – but a predictable one, and one you can break. But how?

First of all, consider setting some loving boundaries. Those of you who know me IRL know that I am a giant fan of deadlines, limits, rules, and accountability (especially when it comes to fitness and health).

When the holidays start pushing into your world with their nonstop flow of parties, happy hours, and general disruption of schedules, figure out how to push back – with a consistent strategy plan that can keep you focused and on track. Some examples of strategies:

  • Consider setting a time-restricted eating window for your day. Got a holiday party at 9pm? Create an 8-hour eating window (2-10pm, for example) that puts a little more time before your first meal, allows you to enjoy a full dinner before the event, and still have a glass of champagne once you arrive - no need to Scrooge!

  • Not so ready for such a strict window on your celebrations? Try this: set a carbs/sugar deadline instead (I suggest either 2pm or 4pm, depending on how strict you wanna play it). Rather than confining all your food to a specific time window, simply give yourself an "expiry time" for consuming the white stuff (refined sugar, flour, bread, pasta and rice) and hold yourself to it. Egg rolls after 4p? Pass. But let the good times roll on that chicken skewer!

  • You can also consider playing the swap game – pick and choose your indulgences, so to speak. Got a company holiday party catered by your fave restaurant? Plan for it by “trading” the multi-course dinner for a spin around the appetizer buffet instead (smaller portions). Got a boozy cookie-baking party with the gals? Choose one – the sugar or the swill – and allow yourself to feel festive without going overboard on two toxins. Life is all about choices, and when you feel fully in control of your own, you’re less likely to make the wrong ones.

Aside from the nutrition boundaries, try to make your workouts even more of a priority during the festive season. Don't forget that exercise is not just a calorie burner - it's a stress reliever! When your to-do list is a mile long, instead of of letting exercise drop off the bottom, move it to the top - and I can almost guarantee the rest of your tasks will feel more manageable, doable, and stress-free (mainly because you'll have the mental relief of having gotten your exercise done first!).

As I say so often to my coaching clients – “when you want to do something, you’ll find time – when you don’t, you’ll find excuses.” So just cut the crap and:

  • Schedule your workouts into your calendar. Make your most important "meetings" the ones that maintain your personal health, energy, and spirit – what could be more crucial when the holiday rush threatens to drain you of all that? If you want to get super real about it, assess yourself a strict “cancellation fee” if you do skip – making a contribution to a worthy political cause (cough, cough) or putting five bucks in a gift fund for your mother-in-law. Money talks, and eventually, you’ll make yourself listen.

  • Seek out exercise classes that you want to go to. ClassPass and other drop-in fitness services are great for this time of year because they allow you to break up the monotony of your workouts without (a big financial) commitment – and who wouldn’t feel less stressed doing a workout like trampoline gymnastics, boxing, or aerial yoga? When the workout is exciting, new, and fun, you can view it as pleasure – rather than the boring ol’ routine of picking up dumbbells in a sweaty gym (though, hey, I'm not dissuading you from THAT, either!).

  • Make working out with friends/family a social engagement. One of my fave memories of my entire exercise life was when a bunch of girlfriends and I “sweated to the Oldies” at Richard Simmons’ SLIMMONS studio in Beverly Hills. He wore a sequined tank top and a tiny Santa hat; we wore neon 1980s workout gear and danced like no one was watching. Afterward we got dinner and drinks and it was an absolutely perfect holiday get-together – better than any parties I’d been to that year by far.

My final tip is this: Drop. The. Guilt. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!

It’s the holiday season, a time to celebrate what makes you happy, be with friends and family, and enjoy the decorations, festivity, and magic that truly only comes once a year. Focus on what’s really important this time of year – gratitude, compassion, and kindness – and no matter what, you’ll lose the “weight” of negativity and frustration that tends to build up during a long, hard year.

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