The holidays can be one of the most difficult times of the year to stay on track when it comes to diet and fitness. From family dinners to yuletide desserts to egg nog and end-of-the-year parties, it’s easy to pack on a few pounds at this time of year. But after several weeks of overindulging, there comes a point when we all have to get back to reality, not least of which means a return to healthy eating and regular exercise. If you’re like me and are looking for some much needed inspiration, these tips are sure to get you back to your old self again – and fitting into that favourite pair of skinny jeans in no time!
#1 Assess the damage: First thing’s first: get on the scale. It may be painful to see that you’ve gained a few pounds, but it’s important to know exactly how much weight you’re dealing with. Weighing yourself allows you to be realistic about where your body is at and where you want it to be – and, on the plus side, you might realize that you didn’t do as much damage after all.
#2 Make a plan: When trying to start (or re-start) a healthy lifestyle, building a fitness and diet plan is critical to meeting your desired weight loss goals. Rather than telling yourself that you’ll “get to it later”, use a fitness app like My Fitness Pal to track your progress, set weekly objectives or milestones for yourself, and treat yourself once you’ve reached them.
#3 Take it slow: Losing weight at a slower pace makes it more likely that you’ll keep it off long-term. One or two pounds per week is realistic, so wean yourself gradually from your unhealthy eating habits by reducing portion sizes and avoiding sugary snacks and pop. Lowering your caloric intake by approximately 500 calories a day will result in one pound of weight loss per week. After the first 10 pounds, you may want to consider taking a break and maintaining that loss for 4 to 6 months before trying to lose any more.
#4 Eat better: Pass on any processed or refined products, instead opting for natural, high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables and nuts to give your body the necessary fuel to function at its best. Not only will these foods make you feel fuller, but the extra fiber will help keep you regular and cleanse any unwanted impurities from your system. One of my favourite recipes is a red-lentil soup using left-over ham bones that’s chock full of protein, veggies and hearty goodness. Yum!
#5 Eat smarter: Start the day off right with a nutritious breakfast within an hour of waking up; then eat well-balanced meals every 3 to 5 hours while your body re-adjusts to having a regular eating schedule. While it may be tempting to crash diet, starving yourself completely can actually cause metabolic slow down as your body forces itself into “conservation mode” and breaks down muscle mass for fuel. By consuming evenly spaced meals, you’ll help regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels, maximize your metabolism, and smooth out your appetite.
#6 Count to 10: Several studies suggest that the average craving lasts about 10 minutes. So before you cave in and break open that box of chocolate biscuits, set your mental timer for a time-out. Take ten minutes to respond to emails, tackle an item on your to-do list, or go for a walk. Whatever you do, just make sure to get out of the kitchen and stay away from those holiday treats.
#7 Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water not only rehydrates your body, but also flushes out sodium and other toxic substances, releases bloat and helps you feel full. An easy trick to remember is to drink half your body weight in ounces, so if you weigh 140 pounds drink 70 ounces (or 2 liters) of water a day. Next time you’re reaching for a slice of grandma’s pound cake, try one of these flavour-packed infused water recipes instead: from lavender lemonade, to strawberry mint, to watermelon basil, to ginger peach – the possibilities are endless!
#8 Go easy on the alcohol: One of the simplest ways to boost weight loss is to reduce alcohol intake. Not only do beer, wine and cocktails contain tons of calories, they also tend to increase your appetite and reduce your will-power. DrinkAware’s alcohol tracking app helps you record what you drink and calculates the caloric content of common alcoholic drinks. A glass of red wine, for example, is roughly equivalent to an ice-cream cone, while a pint of cider contains the same amount of calories as a sugar donut. The bottom line: if you’re trying to lose weight, stay away from alcohol.
#9 Listen to your body: Unless you maintained your regular exercise schedule over the holidays, chances are you’re probably a little out of shape… You may be surprised by how quickly your body can lose flexibility and muscle memory! Pay attention to how your body responds to exercise, respect your limits and start slow – perhaps by using lighter weights, doing fewer reps, or cutting your regular routines in half for the first few days.
#10 Get more sleep: And last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the power of sleep. More likely than not, your sleep pattern has been disrupted by the holidays, whether it’s due to visiting family in another time zone or staying up late on New Year’s Eve. Studies suggest that when your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess” which affects your body’s ability to properly digest insulin, results in an accumulation of fat cells, and makes you crave more food than normal. So take time to re-establish your regular sleep schedule and, if need be, catch-up on missed sleep.
Written by Danuta Whetton