Thursday, November 19, 2015

Planning for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is in one week! Can you believe it? Christmas and all its festivities are nearly upon us. How do you handle the holiday madness and stay on track with your fitness goals? Most people say, "I'll start on New Years." Others just throw in the towel completely. Some get through the crazy season without too much difficulty.  Let's face it. It is a tough time of year. The daylight hours are at a minimum. Shopping for food and gifts keeps us extremely busy. Holiday gatherings are nearly weekly. And we eat and drink more in the next five weeks than we do all year. I  used to tell everyone that my favorite day of the year is December 26 because it's all over! 

Santa's baking cookies!
Truth:  stress can become unmanageable if you allow it.  When your life seems unmanageable, it's easy to lose focus on your fitness goals.  And if you want to start a fitness plan or restart a better diet, most people wait until New Years.  In this post I will share some strategies for surviving the holidays and even lose weight if you want.  Last year I lost 8 lbs from my weigh-in in November through January 1. Not a lot, but it was better than gaining!

A New Years Eve selfie (2014)
For this to happen, you must decide that you are a priority during this time of year.  

First:  plan to work out at least four days a week from now through New Years. On your "rest days", make sure you walk as much as you can. If you are out shopping, park far away from the entrance so you can get in extra steps.  At work, plan a stretch and walk break at least once per hour.  Think about ways to move your body.
New Years Day (2015) I went out for a hike with Koby.  It was cold, but exhilarating!
Second:  stick to your nutritional plan as much as you possibly can. Don't let an evening holiday party be an excuse to go off your diet all day.  Eat clean and healthy the rest of the week.  Do NOT skip meals and starve yourself because you have a party to attend. Make vegetable soup and eat that for lunch. Eat low fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt for a little protein.  Have a handful of almonds as a snack.  For lunch on Christmas Eve last year, I had a bowl of steam fresh vegetables and a glass of Cabernet. Should have had some protein, but hey, it was better than eating like crazy or skipping a meal entirely.

Third:  Be smart.  Plan healthy sides and low fat desserts for the big holidays. Consider substituting chicken broth for butter in your mashed potatoes and other casseroles that call for it.  Use coconut oil to sauté vegetables (onions, garlic, celery) for those recipes that you would normally use vegetable oil or meat drippings.  Substitute half apple sauce for the oil in desserts. (For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of oil, use 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup oil.). Use a little less sugar than the recipe calls for. If it calls for one cup, cut back to 3/4 cup.  Your guests won't even notice the substitutions.  I started using oats instead of white flour. You can't do that for everything, but it works well with many recipes. I put the oats in the food processor to make oat flour. It takes a few seconds and viola.  I don't think I would do that with every recipe, but it works well with some.

Chicken broth (or stock) is a great substitute for butter in mashed potatoes and casseroles.  It adds flavor without the fat.
Fourth: Drink lots of water! The holidays lend to consuming more alcohol than normal, which is full of nutrient poor calories.  If you enjoy a cocktail or two, make yourself drink one 8 oz. glass of water in between every cocktail.  If you have a hard time drinking enough water on a normal day, make a point to drink one glass of water when you get up and with every meal and snack.  Staying properly hydrated will help your energy levels and will help you to ward off hunger. Often we misinterpret thirst for hunger.

My Wonder Woman Tervis cup.  Don't leave home without it.
Coming Soon:  My Favorite Holiday Recipes.

Make sure to check out my series:  What Matters Most and Part Two Here!

Questions for you: (Answer in the comment section below.)
What's your favorite holiday meal?  What's your biggest challenge during the holidays?

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