As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I am constantly answering health and fitness questions from my clients, on social media and in our Start TODAY Facebook group. In this column, I address some of the most common questions and roadblocks that trip people up on their journey to establish a health and fitness routine.
I'm traveling for the holidays. How can I maintain a healthy routine?
You wouldn’t believe how often I hear this question! Every year when the holidays roll around, this becomes a main concern for many of my clients and followers on social media. And it’s understandable: When your environment and schedule get thrown off, it can be a challenge to maintain the healthy routine you worked so hard to implement. Not to mention all of the added variables and distractions during the holidays — from social obligations to decadent meals.
If you’re traveling and staying with family and friends over the holiday season, you’re now out of the comfort zone of your regular environment, which makes it even more difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan and keep up with workouts.
Whether you’re concerned about gaining weight, losing momentum working toward your health goals, or maintaining your mental health, know that it is possible to stay on track (while loosening the reigns a bit). It’s all about your mindset as we enter into the holiday season. Here are some of my mental tricks for keeping your health a priority during the holidays:
Determine your reason why.
Why is your diet and fitness routine so important to you? Do you want to be healthy and happy for your kids? Is it essential for your mental health? If you understand the reasoning behind your health goals, it will take less mental effort to stick with it when you are out of your element. Instead of focusing on the sacrifice — losing an hour lounging on the couch to go out for a jog or missing out on comfort foods by opting for a large helping of veggies at dinner — the focus becomes prioritizing yourself. Goals keep us focused on the future, and when we keep them in mind, sticking to a plan feels worth it. With this mindset, stepping away from family time for a 30-minute workout feels like a gift to yourself, instead of a punishment.
Make workouts a part of your holiday itinerary.
We all plan trips — flights, excursions, dinner reservations. So what is stopping you from including workouts in the itinerary? Schedule a walk first thing in the morning before joining your family for breakfast or sneak away for a quick HIIT workout before dinner when everyone is lounging around. If finding time for exercise feels overwhelming, keep your workouts short. Any form of movement is better than nothing, and there’s always time in the day for a few minutes of exercise — even if it’s just a five-minute stretch or a quick core routine.
Focus on adding in healthy foods, not cutting out unhealthy ones.
No one likes to feel deprived — and if you focus on all the foods you can't eat at the holiday buffet, that's exactly what you'll feel. Flip your mindset by seeking out all of the healthy foods offered at holiday meals and making it a goal to add more of them to your plate. You will naturally have less room for unhealthy choices, without feeling restricted. You'll also find that you make more mindful choices about your splurges. You will definitely leave room for your mom's famous apple pie, but may skip the tray of cookies that you munch mindlessly but don't really enjoy.
Get exercise through fun movement instead of workouts.
The holidays can be stressful, which means that focusing on fun fitness is important not only physically, but mentally. Treat working out as a break from the holiday stress and a way to spend quality time with loved ones by choosing something that’s fun, like a family hike in a local park, an outing to the ice skating rink, or a shopping trip walking around holiday shops and carrying bags! In this way, using the holiday season as a divergence from your typical routine can actually work to your advantage. You will work different muscles, keep your body guessing, and burn calories without it feeling like a chore.
Practice saying no.
While saying no can be hard, you can make it easier by preparing and practicing your responses ahead of time. I find it especially helpful to have responses ready to deflect food pushers at the holiday table. If you’d prefer to not overdo it on dessert, but always feel pressured, try: “No thank you, I am stuffed from dinner!” or “I am going to let my dinner digest a bit before having dessert.” This doesn’t mean that you should say no to every unhealthy food that is offered to you. If you want to indulge, allow yourself to! But if you’re satisfied with one piece of pie and grandma insists on serving you another, having a polite, but firm, decline ready to go can make it easier to listen to your body.