Fun fact: It can take up to five months to lose the extra pounds you put on between Halloween and New Year’s, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, many of us dive into the holiday season thinking we’ll just enjoy ourselves joyfully for a few months and then magically get back on track come January 1.
Instead of ditching your healthy habits over the holidays, actively adopt a mindset to maintain your weight over the holidays — as this might be the key to keeping the pounds off in the long run. If you continue working on the better version of you all holiday season and still get to enjoy yourself, then you won’t have to spend all of January (or maybe January through May) “getting back on track.”
The holidays aren’t a realistic time to deprive yourself, start a strict diet or aim to lose weight as all of those intentions might backfire. Instead, try to set a new, more realistic, goal for yourself — one that involves not getting too far off track — and instead taking on a direct focus to be more proactive with your healthy habits this time of year.
Here’s how to win this holiday season:
SPLURGE ON YOURSELF WITH FITNESS IN MIND
Whether you love yoga, barre or a different group fitness class, consider splurging on a class package (or even the unlimited option). Or treat yourself to a couple sessions with a personal trainer and some new workout outfits. Having a type of exercise you look forward to doing (and being comfortable in your new high-performance clothing) will help encourage you to remain active during the holiday season.
BEFORE YOU DRINK ALCOHOL, HAVE SOMETHING SATIATING TO EAT
Alcohol can throw you off your game more than any other factor during the holidays. Not only does it lower your inhibitions (leading to mindless snacking) but it can also impair your sleep and make you more likely to skip your workout and reach for something sugary the next day. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and have something filling to eat beforehand so you can make smart decisions.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Staying hydrated is crucial since it curbs hunger, promotes satiety, keeps your mind sharp and fuels those pre-party workouts. Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage and in between every small plate at a holiday party. You can also level-up your water by adding fruit or bubbles to keep things interesting.
EAT HEALTHY 80% OF THE TIME
While the holiday season is full of parties, most of your eating and other activities should continue to be part of your normal routine. For example, keep certain healthy habits like your morning workout, eating a protein-rich breakfast and making your lunch, rather than eating out midday. That way, when you have an evening holiday party you can choose your indulgences wisely and will be more likely to maintain, rather than gain, weight.
This is often the most repeated tip during the holiday season and for good reason. When your plan is to not gain weight, you’ll focus more on what is actually worth splurging on. Choose which events you absolutely want to attend and schedule your workouts around them so you can be sure to fit everything in. It’s also important to know when to politely pass on things, like lunch out with your co-worker when you’re planning on attending happy hour later that night. Having a plan makes it easier to stick to your mission.
If you overdo it a few nights in a row with festive cookies and eggnog, that’s OK. Instead of feeling guilty, try to look at what strategies you can employ next time. For instance, maybe you didn’t have enough to eat during the day and arrived at the holiday party ravenous. Next time, you’ll make a note to have a protein-packed snack beforehand. People who maintain weight (and lose weight) all have slip-ups, but it’s how they handle them — by getting back to healthy eating and workout routines as soon as possible — that makes them successful.