Most of us are in the crazy Christmas mode. There’s parties to attend to, a lot of food in offer and a way too much alcohol lying around that is begging to be drank. Oh, that devil’s sweet elixir ruining all your hard work in the gym and asking you to commit unthinkable things at the office Christmas party. All in the name of a baby Jesus.
This is how 99.5% of the fitness blog posts start this time of the year. With clickbait headlines like “How to beat the Christmas calorie explosion”, “How to navigate through the vast temptations of holiday eating”, “5 ways to say “no” to your mum’s casserole so you can still see your veins on January 1st”. And my personal favorite “10 gain-, and microwave-friendly Christmas recipes using only chicken, egg whites and broccoli (number 7 will surprise you)”.
Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that bad, but it’s not far off. It’s easy to prey on people’s insecurities. But this doesn’t help anyone in any way.
There are the exceptions who are training for a competition or what not, but that’s not my readership. My readership are people like you who enjoy good times, want more out of life and want to live a healthy life without restrictive plans.
So let me explain my thoughts on what might be the best possible action you can take this holiday season.
Learn to let go without being out of control
Learning to let go is hard. If you have been working on your eating and training habits this past year you’ve undoubtedly created some rules for yourself. Maybe you’ve learned what type of eating works the best for your body. Maybe you’ve got some amazing results and you are afraid that the holiday season is going to reverse all of that. You will revert back to your old self.
To know how to let go at right times and still stay in control is a form of art. And the only way to get better at it is to practice it. If you want to get better at something there comes a time when you can’t rely on the training wheels anymore. You can’t rely on someone holding you upright. You’ll have to try to balance on your own.
You will probably fall couple of times in the beginning. And all you can do is learn from it, get back on the bike, master all your determination and have another go. You can hum some Whitney Houston if that helps.
By “letting go” I mean that it is ok not to be on your a-game all the time. It’s ok to eat a fruit mince pie or two and not feel like you’ve failed at life. It’s ok to have a fifth beer. It’s ok to eat mum’s casserole, even if it has triple cheese crust.
The “secret”, if there ever was one, is to be in the moment, enjoy every bite you take (and every breath you take and every move you make) and just have some old-fashioned, good-times without worrying about how many calories this meal or drink has. As I’ve said in the past, if your eating and training habits are “there” 80-90% of the time, that 10-20% doesn’t make any difference.
There’s a time for “on” and there’s a time for “off”. But if you are always somewhere in between, you’ll never appreciate the moment.
I am such a big fan of mindful eating because it allows you to let go and you can still be in control. Food is meant to make you feel good and it is meant to be shared with friends and family through important times in life. When you are mindful you can do both at the same time. And it doesn’t have to feel like you are juggling chainsaws.
But if you turn each meal into a binge fest and a competition of who can last the longest in the tower of power, you’re not going to feel great. Not during nor after. No, you are going to feel bloated, greasy stuffing dripping out of your ears. A bit like the remains of the roast turkey sitting on the table.
You don’t have to do “damage control”
It’s not about how hard you can hit the gym next week and undo all the “damage” that you’ve done. You don’t have to restrict your calories. You don’t have to go on a “juice cleanse” (which is bullshit anyway, that’s why we have this thing called “liver”).
Having the mindset that you’ll have to earn your food by doing more exercise is a doomed plan. All it does is create negative thoughts around training. Training and movement becomes a punishment instead of something that you should be grateful for.
No, the very next day is a clean slate. Just go back to your healthy eating habits. And if the next day brings few more mince pies and couple of beers, so be it. You just make a conscious choice about it.
I hope you get the point I am trying to make here. I am not saying eat seven cheese casseroles and drink two cases of beer every day for a month. Because it won’t make you feel good (unless that’s the sort of thing you’re into).
I am not saying throw out all the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard for. No, sprinkle them in your holiday. Keep the fire burning. They are flexible, remember. They change as you and your circumstances change.
What I am saying is: enjoy food and drinks mindfully and guilt-free and have good times with the people that you care about. If you can’t get to the gym for a month because of various reasons, it’s ok. There’s million of other things you can do outside and still stay active. And none of them have to feel like exercise.
Allowing yourself to have a break doesn’t mean that you’ve failed the human race. And it doesn’t have to mean that you will have to start from scratch come January 1st.
Hope you’ll enjoy every minute of it. I know I will.
While you’re at it, you might also like:
The Trick for Long-Term Results