Staying Fit Through the Holidays
By Rebecca Mueller, MS, RD
As the year comes to a close, we begin to eagerly anticipate what the new year will bring. Starting the New Year off with a positive attitude and a rejuvenating lifestyle goal is what many healthcare professionals will be touting from now until the January 1st. During this time many of us are forced to break the mold of our regular routines, so practical, healthy living information around the holidays is always well received. Since it can be difficult to balance the lingering holiday treats with the treadmill, here are some tips on how to stay fit throughout the busy holiday season…and beyond.
Take an honest inventory of your schedule.
Instead of trying to fit exercise into your already busy calendar, plan for exercise time. The goal is not to attend as many Christmas parties as possible; the goal is to spend quality time with your friends and family. One of the best ways to spend quality time with your loved ones is to be less stressed and fully present in every situation – prioritizing exercise will help with this. As one health expert says, “There is nothing like having an entry in your iPhone for exercise.”
Create a home workout routine.
Let’s face it, you can’t always make it to the gym or go outside for your morning walk. Crunches, push-ups, jumping jacks, lunges, squats, light free weights, and stretching (including Pilates and yoga) are all easy at-home exercises.
Give the gift of health.
Help your loved ones prioritize a fitness routine by giving them a gift card to the local health club or prepaying a month of a gym membership. You could also help them add variety to their workouts by gifting a personal training session. Investing in a “lifestyle-themed” gift may give your loved ones just the burst of motivation they need to take the next step in their health and wellness goals.
Mentally prepare yourself.
Research shows that, for most Americans, the drive to over- indulge and under exercise is governed more by emotions than by environmental factors. Since we often eat in response to feelings, the holiday season stirs up a whole pot of emotions for many of us. Certain foods can themselves be an emotional trigger. Much like music can evoke memories, so can foods or meal time. Thrown on top of that, the olfactory sense is a direct pathway to the brain, says Warren Huberman, a clinical psychologist specializing in weight control at the New York University Medical Center. Combinations like this can send you back to the kitchen time and time again without a real hunger for more food. It’s okay to have positive food associations with holiday meals. It’s a good thing to gather with friends and family to celebrate over an elaborate meal. However, strive to focus on those positive memories, not covering them up with the foods you associate with those feelings, says Katherine Muller, Psy. D. director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
A recent poll taken in the USA Today revealed that one routine people cannot live without, even on vacation, is prayer. This is encouraging news! It says that Christians and non-Christians both recognize the power of prayer. You can pray out loud. There is power in the spoken word. God delights in every form of prayer to Him. Therefore, if you know your lifestyle choices will be a burden during the holidays, by all means, lift those concerns to Him. Pray honestly and fervently (1 Thess. 5:17).
Of course, it’s a good idea to limit sweets and eat more vegetables. When you’re tempted to reach for the holiday treats, ask yourself, “When you’re busy and stressed, does eating junk food and skipping your workout really help?” Most people would admit that it temporarily soothes the anxiety, but in the long run it starts to contribute to the stress.
Enjoy your holiday treats in moderation, rejuvenate your days with activity and, most importantly, give thanks to your Father for sending His Son. The true reason for the season (Jn.1:14).