By Live Well 360 Contributor Neghar Fonooni
The music, lights and smell of pine and pumpkin-it’s all very magical, even for grown ups like us.
But somehow, when it comes to fitness and physique concerns, we find ourselves dreading this magical time of year and doing one of two things:
1. Feeling miserable because we “can’t” consume the things we’d like.
2. Consuming everything we want. And then feeling miserable later.
During a season that places so much emphasis on love, gratitude and peace, it stands to reason that rather than go to extremes, we should be able to find a way to maintain balance. We can enjoy the magic of the season, while still loving our bodies and preserving our sanity.
Following just a few of these 10 tips will help you enjoy the holidays without undue stress, feelings of deprivation, or unwanted pounds that usually come with over-consumption.
1. Experiment with Fasting
Intermittent Fasting has gained quite a bit of buzz lately on the web. The reviews are mixed and are typically zealous pontifications for or against this style of eating.
But the truth is, the concept of “not eating” for a short period of time is nothing new. Learning to go more than a few hours without food is a powerful tool for understanding true hunger.
Often at holiday parties we eat and eat simply because we want to-not because we are actually experiencing hunger. Practicing a long fast (16-24 hours) here or there will help reset your hunger levels and bring your body back to neutral.
There is a reason why fasting is often present in various religions and spiritual practices. It restores balance and cleanses the body. Fasting itself should not be feared; a hard stance on whether or not to fast is what you’ll want to avoid.
Although practicing a few fasts throughout the holidays might not be the best option for everyone, it is a great strategy for some.
2. Practice Yoga
The benefits of yoga during the hectic holiday season are twofold: stress relief and movement. You get to burn extra calories and stimulate your metabolism, while simultaneously being reminded to BREATHE.
3. Schedule “active interaction”
So much of our social interaction is based around consumption. We meet for drinks, dinner, and even coffee.
Why not meet for a walk, a yoga class or even a training session? Active interaction allows you to catch up with your loved ones while still encouraging movement and discouraging consumption.
4. Bring an alternative dish
This is my secret strategy. I always bring a dish or two to a party that is completely clean and equally delicious.
I don’t usually tell anyone in attendance how healthy it is, and watch them gush over how amazing it is. Some of my favorites are cauliflower curry couscous, parmesan butternut squash and sausage jalapeno bites.
By bringing a few of my own dishes I can be sure to fill up on food that I know fits into my nutritional regimen and I get to share healthy recipes with my friends.
5. Eat clean at home
Delectable holiday treats are everywhere. You can’t go to the market without being assaulted by pecan pie and cookies of all persuasions. But do you really need to bring home that giant tub of caramel popcorn?
Save the splurges for the social events you don’t want to miss, and have confidence that treating yourself to a few holiday pastries isn’t going to sabotage your waistline. By keeping all treats out of your home, you will be less likely to indulge.
6. Limit alcohol consumption
A little bit of wine with friends is a wonderful way to enjoy the season. But taking in too many drinks will leave you dehydrated and often bloated.
Not to mention the excess empty calories and the tendency to over eat while drinking. Keep your libations to a minimum-typically 5 drinks a week is the maximum before you begin to see detrimental results.
To be extra careful, cut out that nightly glass of wine on the sofa, and save it for the party.
7. Don’t wear spandex!
Listen, I am a repeat offender in the spandex department. I opt for leggings over denim 99% of the time.
But when attending a party, I typically don an outfit that won’t allow me to stuff myself. When you wear spandex or loose clothing, you tend to not feel the discomfort of a full belly, which could result in over-consumption.
8. Burn scented candles
This might sound silly, but hear me out. When we think of the holidays we think of pumpkin spice, apple pie and cookies baking in the oven.
It’s not so much the food that we want as it is the total experience-and your sense of smell is part of that. Try burning some holiday themed scented candles around the house and you’ll get that cozy feeling without the extra calories.
9. Ramp up your workouts
This is a time of year when we might be tempted to take a break. We’ve got travel, out of town guests, shopping and so many social engagements.
But workouts don’t have to be long to be effective. You can get a great workout in just 30 minutes by ramping up the intensity and taking shorter breaks.
Great examples of this are metabolic circuits and complexes. One of my favorite quick and effective workouts is this barbell complex:
1. Reverse lunge x 8 each side
2. Push Press x 8
3. Bent over row x 8
4. Back squat x8
I’ll usually do 5 rounds with a minute or two in between. That’s a total body workout that will build strength and stimulate your metabolism in just 30 minutes.
10. Give yourself a break
Above all else, try to relax. You don’t have to do everything perfectly all the time.
If you find yourself stressing out about the holidays, just take a few minutes to breathe. Do your best not to completely disregard your exercise and nutrition regimen, but give yourself a little grace and focus on celebrating life with the people you love most.
About Live Well 360 Contributor Neghar Fonooni
She is the founder of Eat, Lift and be Happy-a blog and online business that educates and inspires readers to find their best possible nutrition, fitness and lifestyle strategies.