You Can Beat The Battle of the Bulge This Holiday Season

The season of eating is here.  If you have been trying to lose a few pounds, or trying not gain back what you’ve already lost, this time of year can be a real challenge.

From carry-in dinners at work, to holiday parties, and long shopping days where your only option is food-court fare, at this time of year the focus is on eating.  The good news is there is a way to enjoy the holidays without greeting the New Year with five or six extra pounds to lose.

By implementing these basic strategies you can breeze through the holiday season without going up a pant size.

Beat the Battle of the Bulge

(Flickr photo by Bahrain Personal Training)

1.  Set A Goal – Millions of Americans gain a couple of pounds over the holidays.  While a weight gain of two, three or even five pounds doesn’t seem like a big deal, the problem is many don’t lose it after the holidays which means the pounds stay with them throughout the next year. And the next.

Over the course of several years these extra pounds become a real problem and lead to health risks.  Research by the National Center for Biotechnology has determined that holiday weight gain may be an important contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity.

Even if a weight gain of a few pounds won’t put you in the ‘at risk’ category, you don’t need to strategize so that you you ring in the New Year at the same weight.  Step one is to set a goal to maintain, not gain weight this holiday season.  Write your goal weight down and keep it in a visible place.

2.  Weigh-In Each Week – I’m not a big fan of weekly weigh-ins except in this situation where you can pretty much count on gaining weight if you don’t keep a close eye on it.

Schedule a time each week to weigh in.  To be consistent, make sure you weigh in on the same day of the week, at the same time of day, on the same scale. Track your weight by writing it down in a note book or on an index card.

3.  Create A Weekly Game Plan – On Sunday evening or Monday morning look at your calendar for the upcoming week so you can plan ahead for parties, office food fests, or shopping blitzes that provide too many – or too few – food choices.

Each year at work I offer an annual maintain, don’t gain holiday program and ask employees what their biggest challenges are going to be for the upcoming week.  One employee told me that this week is her husband’s company party, her birthday and her son’s birthday.

My response:  What’s your plan?   We talked through how she was going to navigate all of these special events by exercising portion control, drinking more water, walking more, and filling up on low-calorie fruits and vegetables.

If you take a look at what you’re up against, you’ll be better prepared to meet the challenge.

4.  Use Holiday Make-Over Recipes – Delicious and special holiday foods don’t have to be loaded with calories, sodium, and fat.  I’ve tried many make-over recipes that I find I like more than the original.

There are some excellent resources for healthy holiday recipes and they are no more than a mouse click away.  Two of my favorites are:

  • Skinny Kitchen.com – Skinny Kitchen has tons of healthy recipes that do not sacrifice flavor at all.  It also has a section dedicated to the holidays.
  • Live Better America – Live Better specializes in make-over favorites like green bean casserole and stuffing. There are so many recipes to choose from here, you’ll need to get started early selecting which ones you want to try.

Several months ago I wrote an article that highlighted the top ten websites for healthy recipes.  You will find tons of holiday recipes at any and all of these.  Check out the article here:  Top Ten Websites for Healthy Recipes.

5.  Keep Moving – I know this one seems like a no brainer, but it is harder to find time for physical activity during the holidays. You may find you don’t have an hour every day to go to the gym, or out for a walk or run.  But you do have time to take a couple of walking breaks every day, and squeeze in two or three 10 minute workouts during the week.

Any physical activity you can get in will help keep those extras pounds at bay.  Dust off the pedometer, put it on and set a goal to walk 10,000 steps everyday even if you have to walk in place at your desk at home or at work.  Little things add up.

6.  Have Realistic Expectations – Your life isn’t a page from Pinterest.  At least mine isn’t. All of the beautiful and glamorous images we’re inundated with from web sites and television commercials make us yearn for the picture perfect holiday.  This quest for perfection can set you up for a stressful holiday season and the side effects of stress are over eating and over drinking.

Find at least one thing to be grateful for each day. If you do find yourself wishing your life could replicate of one of the top Pinterest boards, get out of there and opt for web sites that will keep your sense of humor in tact but won’t leave you feeling like an epic fail.

What Else?

Remember that although we call the time from Halloween to New Years Day ‘the holidays’ it really isn’t one big event. It is a series of mini-events that come close enough together that they seem they like one.  If you separate them out and have a strategy in place to deal with them one by one you’ll get the best results.

What tips do you have for staying healthy this holiday season?  Be Social! Share! 

Surrounded By Cookies? A Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Strategy Requires A BHAG

What’s Your Holiday Game Plan?

Thanksgiving is next week. If you haven’t had a chance to think about your game plan now that the season of eating has begun, it’s probably time to give it some thought.  We have a holiday strategy for everything else:  what gifts we’re going to buy for whom, who we’re sending cards to, what special dishes we want to prepare.  Why not spend at least some time strategizing how to get from Thanksgiving Eve to January 3 without gaining the average, and very dreaded, five to eight pounds?

What’s Your BHAG?

Set aside a few minutes now, before the holidays are in full swing, to figure out what your BHAG (your workplace needs) is.  Maybe your BHAG is to get through the holidays without your waistline expanding by two inches like it did last year.  That’s a good goal!  But big goals can easily become similar to New Year’s Resolutions if you don’t put a strategy in place to make sure you reach it.

The first step is to invest a couple of dollars in a colorful hardback journal that can be purchased at the local dollar store or CVS.  This journal will be your Holiday BHAG Book where you’ll write down your goals and track your progress (good or bad) each week.

On the first page write down your great big goal:  Example: My goal is to NOT increase my waist circumference by two inches this holiday season.  Now come up with three and four smaller strategy goals that you will do this week that will help you achieve your big goal.

SMART Goals

Make sure that your strategy goals are SMART and that they are reasonably attainable.  Remember that success breeds success, so don’t set yourself up for failure.  If you typically go to the gym three times a week, setting a goal to go seven times isn’t a good idea.

The first SMART weekly goal will look something like this:  I will to go the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. and do a combination of cardio and strength training exercises for one hour.

SMART goals are specific and measurable.  At the end of the week it will be very clear whether goal completion was at 100%, 75%, 25% or 0%.  Write the goal completion percentage in the journal at the end of each week.

Come up with two or three more goals that will help you get to the great big one.  These goals are very individual. The following are only examples that may or may not apply to your situation but they will give you an idea of what a SMART weekly goal looks like:

  • I will bring my lunch to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week.  The lunch will consist of healthy food items that I purchase at the grocery.  I will shop for the food to pack on Saturday afternoon and pack the lunch the night before so I don’t run out of time in the morning.  On Friday I will go out to lunch with my co-workers like I always do and I will use my Smartphone Fast Food Calorie Look Up app to help me make a healthier choice when eating out.
  • I will take two 10 minutes walking breaks everyday next week at work.
  • I will take 15 minutes to sit quietly in the chair by the picture window and listen to relaxation music before I go to bed on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings.
  • I will eat a light snack consisting of four whole wheat crackers, peanut butter, a half of banana and a glass of water before going to the holiday party on Saturday night so I won’t be so hungry that I overindulge when I get there.
  • On Sunday evening after dinner I will write in my journal how I did with my goals and write new goals for next week.

Each week, as the holidays creep up, the goals will no doubt change and become more specific to the challenges we’re facing.  Goals that address portion control on Thanksgiving Day, food court fare when we’re shopping at the mall, or alcohol consumption on New Year’s Eve might help keep us on target for achieving the BHAG.

In summary, the holiday survival plan of action is:

  • Purchase an inexpensive hardback journal at the dollar store.
  • Set a big hairy audacious healthy holiday goal and write it down.
  • Set three or four more weekly SMART goals that will help you achieve the Big Goal. Write them in the journal.
  • Track the completion rate of goal achievement each week.
  • Reset the goals weekly.

By the way, if you love, love, love Smartphone apps that track food, exercise, calories, etc. feel free to use them along with the journal.

Are There Too Many Cookies At Work?

Once the holidays begin there seems to be no end to the junk that people bring into the office to ‘share’. Put Down The Cookie! was the name of the Maintain, Don’t Gain holiday program I launched last year at my workplace.  When we kicked it off we had one of our wellness committee members dress up like the Cookie Monster and come to the all-staff meeting to confess to his co-workers that he has a cookie problem.   Another committee member offered him Kale along with a recipe for Kale Chips in an effort to help.

Put Down The Cookie participants received holiday makeover recipes, weekly motivational tips and articles, games and quizzes and received a prize if they didn’t gain weight over the holidays. I’ll be launching the program again next week.  A holiday maintain, don’t gain program might be just what your workplace needs this holiday season.  We all know Cookie Monster’s not the only one with a problem!

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