Tis the season to be a big fat hungover mess, right?
Christmas can test the willpower of a saint. Overindulgence is everywhere and everyone has that same mantra “Oh go on, it’s Christmas.”
With everything wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate, smothered in ice cream, flooded in sauce, attacked with sprinkles, drowned in butter, sizzled in oil, dripped in gravy and stuffed with meat, is it any wonder that keeping your fitness goals can be the nightmare before (and during and immediately after) Christmas?
Self-restraint is key to keeping your health goals but it’s easier said than done.
And anyway, you’re allowed to have fun and be a little over-indulgent during the holiday season.
It’s about knowing when to stop.
What makes Christmas harder than a birthday or anniversary is that everyone is in on it. It’s the season of socialising; the build-up to it goes on FOR WEEKS. It’s hard to refuse someone else’s hospitality or to say no when it’s the office Christmas party and your belligerent prick of a boss is paying for the free bar. So how can you do it?
How can you keep your fitness goals over the Christmas period?
Keep On Keeping On Training
It’s important to keep some semblance of a training routine. It mightn’t resemble your usual schedule but that’s okay. If you’re used to hitting the gym 4 times a week, it’s better to go once or twice than not at all.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be done at home using just your body weight and a space on the floor.
Adding in brisk walks rather than taking the car on short journeys still burns calories and can help mental focus, too.
Get a skipping rope going in the garden or roll out a yoga mat or run the stairs at your town centre’s carpark on the way back from Christmas shopping.
Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Focus on maintaining your fitness rather than increasing it over the Christmas holidays and then pick the pace back up once it’s all over.
Be Flexible with Your Workouts
You can always move your workouts around.
Switching a morning run for an evening one or vice versa. Planning ahead should help allay any guilt at skipping out a session, too. Don’t schedule a 6 am run the morning after a boozy night out. Move it to the following day.
Go to bed earlier on nights where you’re staying in and then schedule an early morning workout. Be flexible but hold yourself accountable.
December tends to mean unsolicited visits from family and friends, impromptu meet-ups and social events and they can play havoc with your schedule. Fortunately, these visits are unlikely to happen at 6 am so get up and get out whenever you can.
Fell of the Wagon? Fine (but get back on)
We all slip up. We all overindulge and skip that gym session and then think – what’s the point? Suddenly we’ve done nothing but eat all the Curley Wurleys out of the selection boxes and the guilt is epic.
Allow for mishaps.
Don’t beat yourself up if you had a big night out and then spent the rest of the next day burying your face in a tin of Quality Streets and hiding under the duvet. Chalk it up to experience but then get back on the horse (or the treadmill, or the weights, or the cardio, or the yoga…)
Don’t let one thing became THE excuse that sends you off the rails entirely (the well, what’s the point now? thought pattern.) Follow the 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time and then let your hair down for the other 20%.
There can be a lot of spontaneity at Christmas but where you can, plan meals ahead. Make more of an effort to be healthier. If not for weight loss, then for nutritional reasons. We tend to skip out on the fruit and vegetables over the holidays and nobody wants to be sick in January.
Keep Healthier Snacks in the House
We’re not suggesting you survive the Christmas season on carrot sticks and seeds (unless that’s what you’re into), but not all Christmas food has to be calorific or insanely bad for you.
Look for things that still have some nutritional value: dark chocolate, hummus dips, walnuts, fruit etc. Buy things in smaller bags, too, so that when they’re gone, they’re gone. Keeping a calorie tracker and food diary can be useful when you’re succumbing to temptation more easily than you’d care to admit. It’s not about shaming yourself but rather a reminder that you wouldn’t eat like this normally.
Eating a sharer bag of Maltesers in front of a Christmas movie isn’t the end of the world but eating a sharer bag of Maltesers every night for a week washed down with a glass of wine will have ramifications for your fitness goals come January.
It’s tough when you live with friends or family, but the easiest way not to eat your way through 2 selection boxes and a multi-pack of Oreos is not to have that stuff in the house in the first place. If it isn’t there, then you can’t eat it.
Watch the Alcohol
Alcohol is a tricky one. Christmas social events are often built around it. It’s easy to get pulled into boozy sessions when you didn’t mean to. And what’s worse is that drunken people don’t make healthy food choices.
If you’re out drinking, then eat beforehand so you’re less tempted to eat crap on the way home. Spirits tend to have a lower calorie count than beer and wine but watch out for mixers. If you’re a responsible adult, then volunteering as designated driver will not only make yourself a hit with your friends but it will also stop you from drinking.
Meet Up Away From the Pubs and Restaurants
Christmas socialising is often done in pubs and restaurants but if you want to meet someone for Christmas then schedule it in the daytime and go for a walk or shopping trip. Go for coffee. Do something social. Get outside. Go somewhere for breakfast where even the most calorific start to the day should keep you full into the late afternoon (with ample chance to be burned off, too). If you have a friend who’s into working out, then schedule some classes together.
Enjoy it :)
Christmas is an excuse to socialise, over-indulge and to have a good time. You shouldn’t have to miss out just because you’ve got fitness goals.
Be prepared to fall off the wagon but be ready to say no to second servings, to set the alarm early or to put those half-eaten boxes back into the cupboard.
The temptation is going to be everywhere.
Everyone you know will be a potential saboteur.
Be accountable for what you eat and drink and for how often you’re exercising but be kind to yourself, too. Don’t wallow in guilt if you slip-up on something. Chalk any mishaps up to experience, get a good night’s sleep and start over. Don’t get caught up in a cycle of feeling guilty.
Be proactive and find the balance between a life well lived and a healthy one.