Every year, you tell yourself it’s going to be different this year. You’re going to have willpower. You’re going to avoid eating all that junk your family, co-workers and neighbors foist on you each year. You’re going to exercise religiously through the holidays so you can get a head start on your New Years weight loss goals…
And every year, it’s the same old story. You party more than you probably should, you eat more than you probably should, and between giving thanks, having a very merry Christmas, and auld lang syne, you gain between five and ten pounds. And if you’re like many Americans, those pounds will be permanent, despite your best efforts at keeping your resolutions in the New Year.
So what can you do to avoid a replay this year, and maybe even take off some weight from last year as you pursue your New Years weight loss goals? Simple; you can follow the simple tips I’m about to share with you for avoiding those holiday pounds.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Having a plan – a real, actionable plan – is the most common weight loss secret among people who lose more than twenty pounds permanently. Regardless of which diet they follow, what workout they do, or which diet and exercise guru they follow, all successful “losers” have a plan and a routine that they stick to without fail.
We’ll discuss routine in a minute… but weight loss success starts with having a plan. And over the holidays, that means planning ahead so you don’t blow your weight loss by overdoing the holiday cheer. As you read the rest of these tips, start formulating a plan for sticking with your eating plan and workout routine through the holidays. That way, you’ll never be caught flat-footed when you get busy and are faced with the temptation to overeat or skip a workout.
Tip #2: Set a Routine and Stick With It
Following a routine is crucial to successful weight loss. Prepare your healthy meals for the week at the same time (many people choose Sunday night to do this and freeze their meals for the week). Carve out time to exercise for at least 30 minutes four times a week and make it a habit before the holidays get here. Find ways to get more exercise in each day by walking or taking the stairs at work, by parking further away from your office, and by spending part of your lunch hour walking or exercising each day. Make it a habit now, and it will make it easier to resist the temptation to slip when the holidays are here.
Tip #3: Always Have a Plan B and an Exit Strategy
If you get to a party or event and there’s nothing healthy to eat, you’re going to eat junk. So, plan ahead. Eat a healthy, filling meal before you leave the house. Do an extra half hour on the treadmill, or better yet, some heavy strength training on days when you are attending a party or have a large meal planned. And, bring something healthy to eat to the parties you attend, instead of bringing cookies, cakes, and other fattening holiday staples (my favorite is a big bowl of hummus and veggies for dipping). Finally, plan your exit strategy by having an excuse to bug out when your willpower starts to fade.
Tip #4: Get an Accountability Partner
Having an accountability partner will definitely help you stick to your goals over the holidays. This can be a workout partner, a spouse, friend or coworker who is following the same nutrition and exercise program as you, or a fitness coach or trainer. Whomever you choose, this person should be someone you trust enough to be honest with; they should also be someone who supports you and yet who holds you accountable when you cheat. Also, make sure you have to check in with them at least once a week (for example my clients have the option of weighing in and getting their body composition checked each week by my staff).
Tip #5: Find Your Reason Why
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Finding your “reason why” is crucial to achieving any personal goal that requires discipline over an extended period of time. Your reason why needs to be powerfully motivating and deeply emotional for you. In addition, you need to anchor your reason why in positive emotions by visualizing daily what it will feel like to achieve your ultimate goal. Until you have a deep-seated, emotionally powerful reason why you are losing weight and exercising regularly, your efforts will sputter out and fail time and again. Do some soul-searching and spend some time on yourself to find your reason why; you’ll be amazed at how powerful this strategy is for keeping you on track when the going gets tough.
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Michael Massie owns Fighting Fit Boot Camp, a small group fitness and weight loss studio in Wells Branch. He has been a personal trainer and fitness instructor for over 15 years.