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by Marty Copeland
Between marathon shopping and holiday parties, it's hard to keep focus on health and fitness goals during the holidays. Check out these helpful tips to avoid temptation and pitfalls. You can make good decisions that ensure a guilt-free celebration that you're sure to enjoy.
It can sometimes be a challenge to balance the demands of the holiday season and stay focused on the things that really matter. Things like celebrating the birth of Jesus, recognizing His love and presence in our lives, and having memorable times with family and friends. So, I want to help you find a way to do those things, as well as maintain your health and fitness goals, and have some fun while you’re at it!
When temptation abounds, it takes determination to steer clear of calorie-rich goodies and not trade exercise time for other things—like shopping and parties. But, you can have a terrific time this season without piling on the pounds, or the extra weight and guilt that come with it. These few tips have helped me over the years, and I trust they will do the same for you.
It’s All About People
I’ve learned that reminding myself of what’s really important, helps me stay focused on my health and fitness goals, even when attending Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas parties. My purpose for attending these events is interaction with people—not with food.
If you decide before you go to an event that your reason for attending is to celebrate Jesus and love on people rather than eat ’til you pop—it’ll make all the difference! One way to do this is to pray and ask the Lord to give you opportunities to encourage others. Expect the Holy Spirit to draw you to the people who may be struggling in their lives, so you can speak words of life to them. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (The Amplified Bible). There is nothing more satisfying than being able to bless someone. What a great gift to give during Christmas! It’s true that “in giving you receive.” Helping others is much more fulfilling than a slice of three-layer chocolate cake loaded with calories that could possibly make you feel regretful moments later.
Holiday gatherings are such a perfect time to nurture relationships. Take the time to really listen to people and interact with them; reconnect with old friends, make new friends and help them feel valued and loved. As you focus on people, you won’t even notice you are not eating all that much. You’ll be having too much fun to be concerned about food! And, at the end of the day, you will feel guilt free and experience the joy that comes from having self-control, and the ultimate joy that comes from loving others.
I realize that part of the fun of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas is having those once-a-year family favorite foods. Rather than deny yourself completely, set boundaries. Decide what indulgences you do not want to go without. Then, have a plan in place to compensate for those extra calories. For instance, plan an extra workout day before a big meal. If possible, take a walk in the park after the Christmas meal is over, and invite others to join you.
Usually, I determine that Christmas Eve is my “treat” time because it is a big celebration for our family. To offset the extra calories I know I’ll consume, I exercise a little harder and eat a little lighter the day before.
On Christmas Day, I do enjoy some treats. I savor a piece of my mom’s homemade fudge! I’ve loved it since I was a kid, so I look forward to it—the memory of her making it, as well as the fudge itself. But what do I say when she asks me if I want to take some home? “No, no and no!” The day after Christmas, I’m committed to a long workout to compensate for the extra calories and give my metabolism the boost it needs.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
We’ve already touched on the subject of “deciding before you go.” This is such an important step and a very real deterrent to gaining weight during the holidays. So, before attending any social event, ask yourself this question: Which is more important, eating the tempting, fattening foods or maintaining my weight?
Once you have made your decision, write down your goals. State when you plan to exercise, how much you plan to eat and how you will follow through with that plan. Writing it down indicates a sincere intention of reaching your goals, and it will help you stick to the plan! Also, enlist the Lord’s help! “Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5, The Amplified Bible). God can and will help you reach your goals!
Now, on the practical side of things, here are a few ways to avoid common pitfalls to gaining weight when it comes to holiday eating:
If you have decided not to eat at the party, then eat a healthy meal before you arrive. If you feel you will offend your host by not eating, then eat a small, high-fiber meal beforehand that will fill you up, and leave a little room to munch on raw veggies. Or, if you are attending a sit-down dinner, put extremely small portions on your plate and eat only larger portions of vegetables.
If you have a sweet tooth, take only a few bites of a low carb/low fat protein bar before the party to help curb your appetite for sweets.
Lunchtime parties at work can be a challenge. I recommend taking a healthy sandwich to eat prior to the party. You’ll be full enough to steer clear of calorie-rich foods, and choose a dinner salad instead.
If asked to bring a dish, offer to bring drinks, plates or napkins. Then you won’t be tempted to eat some of the goodies you might bring.
Slack Now—Pay Later
During the holidays it’s important not to slack off on workouts! Find creative ways to get the exercise you need. For instance: Squeeze in shorter workouts with greater intensity levels. Take the stairs, park in the back lot and walk farther to your destination. Burn calories by walking faster while shopping, carrying your own packages and taking stairs rather than escalators. And, never go to the mall hungry! Take a snack and a bottle of water with you.
Enjoy the Day!
Now, I want to take this opportunity to wish you a very blessed and happy Christmas! I hope you are able to fully enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. And, I pray you experience the peace and joy of our Lord during this special time of year. And…savor each day!