Here it comes… Christmas. The holidays.
I call it ‘the silly season’. And for good reason. This 2-3 period every year is a time filled with over-indulgence, over-spending and over-committing to parties and events.
What that means is that even more discipline is required in order for you to continue to reach your health goals.
Here are a 7 strategies to help you make it just a little bit easier this holiday season.
1. Schedule the tough stuff, to make room for the easy stuff.
One of my key recommendations is to schedule, as much as you can (Note: NOT “schedule as much as you can”).
A common myth is that if you have a rigid scheduling system then it takes away from your ability to improvise and have fun, when in fact, exactly the opposite is true. By scheduling the things that are most important to do, and sticking to that plan rigidly, you create time and freedom to do other things.
2. Double down on the good stuff.
In the next few weeks, there’s likely going to be a lot more food, a lot more alcohol, a lot more late nights and a lot less sleep. So given that you know that you’re probably going to fall off track, double down now on all the things you do that help your body build, heal, recover.
If you knew your castle was about to be attacked, wouldn’t you sure up your defences?
3. Practice the art of saying NO.
The more you say no, the easier it becomes to continue to say no.
Save yeses for rewards and experiences you truly value.
Also, keep in mind it is often much easier to say no to a cheat in its entirety (for example, saying no to a doughnut, full stop, end discussion) than to try to say yes to a little bit (“just one bite”) and then pull it back to a no.
Stick to your guns, practice saying no to the little things.
4. Take advantage of the snow and the cold.
Winter can be such a long, dreary season… if you let it. Or it can be an opportunity for unique outdoor fun.
With winter comes snow, ice and time off work, which allows for tonnes of outdoor activity you won’t be able to do come spring. For a list of 48 ways to stay active during winter, check out this article I wrote last year.
5. Plan for the off-track episodes.
We already acknowledged that you are probably going to drift from ‘your healthy plan’ over the holidays… So the question now becomes, how much freedom to drift off track should you allow, and how will you mitigate the downside… because there is always going to be downside.
What’s most important is that you be conscious of your choices and the resulting consequences.
Given that eating low quality food, not getting enough sleep, etc will at best, make you feel worse the next day, and at worst will shave some time off the end of your life, analyze each party/treat/cheat scrupulously and decide which ones are most important to you.
6. Earn your calories.
On days you know you’re going to over indulge, plan to exercise before hand.
Exercise depletes your muscle glycogen stores, and increases your metabolism a factor of three, allowing your body to more easily tolerate the extra calories instead of immediately turning them into fat.
7. Practice gratitude.
The holidays are the perfect opportunity to practice gratitude.
The practice of gratitude has been shown to have a tonne of benefits, both physically and mentally.
Practicing gratitude is as simple as taking a few minutes to actively think of things you’re happy to have in your life.
Multiple studies have shown this simple exercise improves patience, mood, quickens thinking and problem solving, and decreases feelings of anxiety. What’s more, the effects last long beyond the time where you’re actively performing a gratitude exercise.