I will admit that I am just as guilty about indulging during the holidays and the winter season: creamy soups with warm bread, rich hot cocoa with whipped cream, and delicious candies with rich truffle fillings and candy coatings are just a few of my guilty pleasures. Although, those ten pounds we give ourselves to gain in the winter isn’t as easy to fall off for those summer bikinis, making each year a repetition of failure and further gaining. Break the cycle and implement a plan to help yourself stay on track using a few of my favorite rules of life to live by when it comes to surviving the chilly months.
Find a fitness routine that you can actually stick to.
I was so spoiled in the summer because running and walking outside was a more convenient work out than going to the gym, but I can’t let winter ruin my routine. With the brutal Chicago winter rolling in, and being forced to take my fitness indoors, it’s important to find a routine, location and schedule that works with your life. After a day of working, it’s easy to bypass the gym, especially when it’s already dark outside after leaving work, but set yourself responsible for spending certain days and times at the gym. I love going to a gym that offers fitness classes – make friends with class members (or coordinate to go with a friend) and hold yourself responsible for going the same time every week. Those friends will make sure you go and call you out if you don’t.
My favorite tip: join a gym with flexible for 24/7 gym hours to give yourself a wider window for work outs. Plus, you can squeeze in a quick on the morning before your holiday parties to help with those few extra calories burnt before dinner divergence.
Aim to maintain, not change.
Winter is not the right time to push yourself to engage more fitness than you did before. Winter is a season for maintaining because the natural cycle of the day and the frigid temperatures make days feel longer and more exhausting. Setting yourself a goal of losing significant weight during this period just makes you feel significantly defeated when you realize that it’s a lot harder during these months, which is one of the reasons that many New Year’s fitness goals fail. Maintaining your current status should be revelled as an achievement because it’s one of the hardest things to do during this period of time and hit the ground hard for fitness come spring.
Now, this is not me saying that you should stop trying for progress. You can maintain and still make progress. Personally, I work to maintain weight and muscle mass, but always aim to improve on your fitness goals, such as achieving more flexibility or increasing my cycling distance during one hour classes. Never discontinue to challenge yourself.
If you’re cooking holiday dinner, include healthier food options.
Adding a few extra small portions, or completely swapping them all together, will help you and others who watch what they eat to maintain their fitness goals, but still indulge in delicious food. A few of my favorite food additions or swaps for the holidays include:
- Offer roasted or mashed sweet potatoes without butter or marshmallows instead of heavy mashed potatoes.
- Use a few more vegetable sides, like green beans, corn and broccoli, instead of bread or creamy casseroles.
- Create healthy starters to replace traditional platters, like cucumber cups instead of cheese displays.
- Create a dessert alternative such as a sugar free fruit tart or fruit tray to help quench the sweet tooth without the sugar indulgence.
If you’re not cooking, choose your plate wisely.
I come from a thick blooded Midwestern family who loves butter, sugar, bread and everything else on the wrong parts of the food period. We are raised around food and food to us means family. When celebrating with family at others’ homes, I had to learn to switch my mindset to know that spending time with family is what makes the holiday special and it’s not all about the food. When celebrating, make sure to consider where you’re going and the options you have to eat:
- If it’s a potluck or bring a dish event, try to bring something healthy that you love – then you know there’s something you can definitely eat. Although, ensure that others may like it too to prevent any food from going to waste.
- Asses the spread before filling your plate: It’s easy to just start stacking food you see, but knowing what options you have will help you plot your course down the buffet line or dinner table. Try to max out on vegetables as much as possible and avoid the multiple trips back to the rolls bowl.
- Be selective about desserts. Think about sugar and carbs when choosing a dessert (if it’s an ABSOLUTE must). Surprisingly, a double fudge brownie may be not be the best option next to a cupcake with the frosting removed or a small cookie.
Learn to have self control.
This is easily the number one reason why people fail to reach their fitness goals or maintain during the winter. Being surrounded by food and drinks that are delicious and only available this time of the year is a weakness we all have, but you’re in control of your own hand, mouth and mind. Only you can stop yourself from eating certain foods and make time for fitness routines.