How to Stay Healthy During the 6 Days of Twixtmas

How to Stay Healthy During the 6 Days of Twixtmas

Brandi Newell
by Brandi Newell
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How to Stay Healthy During the 6 Days of Twixtmas

The week between Christmas and New Year’s—let’s call it Twixtmas–can be a difficult time to keep up your healthy habits. There are leftover holiday treats everywhere, many people have some time off of work, and the siren call of the sofa is particularly strong when it’s cold outside. I began reflecting on my own habits during Twixtmas, which are uncannily close to this guy’s:

cookie-monster

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/cookie-monster-gif

I dug into our MyFitnessPal database to see if I could learn anything from our users. As per usual, the answer was YES. Instead of mirroring my pattern (calories consumed: up, calories burned: down), MyFitnessPal members showed a decidedly different pattern. Let’s take a look:

twixtmas graph

Z-scored averages of calories burned and consumed by active MyFitnessPal members from December 2013 to January 2014.

Three things really stand out:

1. MyFitnessPal members are NOT bingeing on leftover treats between holidays. The solid grey line represents how many calories people eat on any given day—for example, you can see the huge spike on Christmas Eve showing an uptick from all of the festive foods. What’s interesting, though, is that it is a spike: it doesn’t rocket up and then stay high throughout Twixtmas. Rather, it plummets right back down to normal. In fact, there is no difference between the average number of calories consumed during Twixtmas and the other weeks of December and January. Well done, MyFitnessPal members!

For advice on how I could be sure not to pack on post-Christmas pounds, I asked our coaching expert, Glennis Coursey, and our in-house dietician, Elle Penner, R.D. for advice. Here’s what they said:

  • Cut back on booze between the two holidays–save the calories for an extra glass of champagne when the clock strikes midnight.
  • Clear your house of cookies, candies, egg nog, and other holiday treats ASAP. Instead, head to the grocery store and stock up on healthy snacks to have around the house.
  • Be sure to get right back into tracking on MyFitnessPal if you fell out of the habit during the holidays.
  • Assess and manage the damage: get back in the habit of stepping on the scale and recording your weight in MyFitnessPal. Hiding from the truth never did anyone any good, friends.

2. MyFitnessPal members are using the time off to stay active. Take a look at the solid red line in the graph above–it represents the average number of calories burned from exercise per day. See where it’s the highest? The day after Christmas! You virtuous souls were combating extra holiday food with additional exercise. That is some masterful maintenance work. Now check out the dotted red line–this shows a seven day average of calories burned. You’ll notice that it’s flatter than the solid line because it gets rid of all of the jagged peaks and valleys from weekends and holidays. This makes it easier to see week-level trends, and you can see that it’s actually the highest during Twixtmas–15% higher than the rest of December and January, to be exact. MyFitnessPal users aren’t just sludging around the house between holidays, they’re putting the extra time to productive use.

To keep yourself moving during Twixtmas, our experts recommend:

  • Get the whole family involved in a fun outdoor activity like skating, sledding, building a snowman, or going on a hike or walk in warmer climates.
  • For every holiday party, plan an extra active outing such as a bike ride, run, or fast walk around the neighborhood.
  • Start using the new wearable devices (i.e., Fitbits) and exercise equipment you received as holiday gifts.

3. MyFitnessPal members are not making unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. Counter to my expectations that calories burned would go up after NYE (who isn’t vowing to lose weight and hit the gym?), exercise calories actually dip a little (5%) on Jan 1-7, as compared to the other non-holiday days of December and January. People are probably busy digging themselves out of the holiday chaos and resuming their normal lives instead. Though of course we never like to see decreases in activity, it’s heartening to see that people aren’t jumping head-first into any crazy, workout fads, either.

For a sustainable approach to making your lifestyle healthier this year:

  • Don’t set unrealistic goals on January 1. Instead, take a moderate, long-term approach by taking small steps to change your habits one at a time (e.g., drink more water, make it to the gym twice this week, cut out added sugars).

About the Author

Brandi Newell
Brandi Newell

Brandi Newell is the Manager of Research and Insights at MyFitnessPal. She uses qualitative and quantitative methods to help understand what people want and need to live healthier lives. Her background includes a master’s degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Harvard University and unseemly amounts of cooking, hiking, and yoga.

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