Staying Fit Over the Holidays: The secret to less stress and keeping the weight off


You have undoubtedly heard the saying, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” The fitness equivalent to that statement is one of my favorite quotes by Jane Caminos; “A waist is a terrible thing to mind.” That is never truer than during the holiday season.

A new study suggests that on average, Americans probably gain about a pound during the winter holiday season. This finding runs contrary to the popular belief that most people gain from five to  10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. New study or old, around our house, I guarantee the numbers on the scale move higher than one pound!

Today everyone’s talking about the fact this holiday season will most assuredly be leaner − as it relates to  personal spending − because of the downturned economy. But I’ll guarantee you that a “leaner holiday season” will not apply to the opportunities we’ll all have to overeat. And that’s fine by me, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Yes, you heard that right, yours truly − America’s Fitness Coach − is looking forward to eating big-time during the holidays.

“If that’s the case”, you ask, “how on earth are you going to avoid putting on extra pounds?” Well, actually, I will put on a few pounds. It’s practically unavoidable. However, the whole situation is quite manageable if you know what you’re doing.

Now, I realize that my method runs contrary to most of the tips and techniques you’ll be reading over the next few months. The advice of most experts runs along these lines; avoid over-eating treats at parties…if you can’t have just one, don’t have any at all; avoid processed carbs…hit the veggie tray, the protein offerings, and the calorie free beverages at parties, etc.

But hear me out because my holiday-eating-fitness-management-principles were painstakingly developed over many years of trial and error. If you’re really interested in my priceless secrets to success regarding how you can stress-less over holiday eating, and come out on the other side without needing to buy larger clothes in January − listen carefully.

My winter season fitness survival theory stems from my holiday hypothesis:

    The more you increase family, friends, fun and parties (the holidays),
    the more you will increase your calorie intake and gain weight!

Fran Lebowitz said, “I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.” In my opinion, the same holds true for “holiday dieting.” Chances are, you’re going to put on a pound or two during the holidays regardless of how careful you are − it just stands to reason. That being the case; if your goal is to weigh the same on January 10 as you do now, you have two choices: (A) Don’t go to any of the extra-eating opportunity parties (or if you do go, just suck on ice cubes), and try like crazy to actually eat less than you normally would for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. To which I say, “Good luck with that!” Or, (B) begin now to adjust both your eating and your exercise to compensate for the inevitable.

The key to surviving the holidays without putting on weight is to gradually start eating less and exercising more in anticipation of what you know is coming − then relax and enjoy your holiday eating without making everyone else feel uncomfortable because you refuse to eat the desert that’s to die for − then after it’s all over return to eating less and exercising more until everything’s back to normal.

Here are the keys to success:

  1. Estimate how much weight you typically gain between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and write that number down. (let’s say it’s 3 lbs)
  2. Make it your goal to lose 3 lbs between now and Thanksgiving
  3. Begin now to increase either the intensity of your workout, the time you spend exercising, or both, and continue this throughout the holiday season.
  4. Stay motivated by thinking about how wonderful it will be to relax and enjoy holiday eating without stressing over weight-gain
  5. Enjoy the holidays!

Here’s the best part of this plan: Because you disciplined yourself to eat less in anticipation of “the big meal”, your stomach will have actually shrunk. You will eat less than you normally would have and feel fuller! Plus, when it comes to resetting your exercise goals for the New Year, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you lost a few pounds and are exercising more you can overeat during the holidays. In other words, be smart, using the same common sense you normally do about what and how much you eat. After all, as someone said, “Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells are forever.” And that’s why the waist is a terrible thing to mind! the end

(This conclusion was reached by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The results of their study appear in the March 23, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine.)

Image credit: Rositsa Maslarska

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