If there is any time of year to fall off the health-bandwagon, its December. With cold weather, less sunlight, more parties, and holiday treats and festivities around every corner, this may be one of the toughest months to lose weight or maintain your current weight. We must stand strong, schedule time in for daily exercise, and make any small changes we can to keep our goals front of mind–and here are six tips to help you do just that.
Tip 1: Act like its June 1st.
Remember the days of pre-bikini season, when early morning runs and Sunday evening meal prep was almost second-nature? Where were our excuses then? As we sink deeper into December, it is important to remember that Christmas is only one day. You don’t have to sacrifice your eating habits all month long. Throw on a Christmas movie and prepare big salads, bake oven-roasted vegetables and make hearty stove-top soups to keep your work week filled with comfort food made the healthy way.
Tip 2: Don’t let the cold prevent you from getting sweaty.
During the winter months, I substitute my daily runs with shorter workouts on the stair-master, lift weights, and attend a variety of hot yoga and pilates classes to keep me in shape. Take advantage of your local gym and build it into your daily routine. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for just 20-30 minutes per day can boost your metabolism long after your workout, as long as you are putting in serious effort in those short working intervals. Tabata-style HIIT’s can be done without any equipment, and routines are available online for free on YouTube, Pinterest, and dozens of other websites and e-magazines.
Tip 3: Dip wisely.
Veggie trays with a giant tub of creamy ranch dressing is like putting kale around a boat of chocolate fondue. Things like artichoke dip, ceasar salad dressing, spinach dip, and sour cream can add hundreds of calories to your otherwise healthy party tray. Stick to the basics like a homemade guacamole, a simple hummus, plain cottage cheese and unsweetened greek yogurt instead.
Dijon, yellow, and hot mustard add a ton of flavor with around 10 calories per serving, and salsa goes with just about everything. Use spices like dill, basil, rosemary, garlic, sea salt and onion to give your vegetables rich flavor and you may not even need a sauce to enjoy them!
Tip 4: Plan your indulgences.
If you know you’ll be at work all day and heading straight to your office Christmas party, allocate your daily calorie budget accordingly. Eat low-carb, high protein, and low-fat foods like raw vegetables, green smoothies (sans-fruit), and lean cuts of chicken or fish throughout the day. It is important not to let yourself “starve” so you can “save” all your calories for an open-buffet–this will likely lead to over-eating and stress your body and digestive system. Opt for a higher-carb meal at the party as this will keep you more satiated and less tempted to eat two or three of those little treats off the desert trays later.
Tip 5: Drink clean.
Sugar is everywhere as it is this time of year, and adding holiday rum and eggnog and other holiday cocktails will just add insult to injury on your liver. Mix your hard alcohol with water, soda water and lemon, or add a splash of cranberry juice to liven up your drink with as little sugar as possible.
Another tip is to simply avoid alcohol all together. Volunteer to be the designated driver or make an early-morning yoga date the day after your party to keep you accountable.
Tip 6: Fast, don’t starve.
Fasting is not unhealthy if you aren’t starving. This means that if you over-eat, spending the next day drinking lemon water and herbal tea will not “put your body into starvation mode”, since you are in a caloric surplus. Fasting is a regular practice and tradition in many cultures, and is the cheapest, easiest cleanse you can give yourself. Letting your body go 12-24 hours without food will help your digestive system sort through the rich foods and alcohol and help the natural detoxification process. Sip on lemon water, digestive and herbal teas to stay hydrated and reduce cravings.
At the end of the day, love your body and give it what you know it needs. The holidays are all about spending time with those you love, and giving thanks. January is right around the corner, and the bandwagon will be there waiting for you to hop back on in 2017!