5 ways to stay on track over Christmas if you’re only just starting out
Everyone’s talking about how to stay on track over the Christmas period… but what if you haven’t managed to even get on the track yet?
We talk a lot about how to maintain or continue progression to health and fitness goals over the holidays. But what if you’re only just starting out and are still learning and overcoming difficult habits?
Here are 5 achievable goals to set yourself over the Christmas break:
1. Have realistic expectations
You’re not going to be able to stick to your diet and exercise every day if you haven’t been able to be consistent before the holidays.
Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Instead, make some small, realistic changes that are still going to let you enjoy yourself (in moderation) while reducing your overall calorie consumption, for example say no every second time the tub of Celebrations comes around!
2. Try to set yourself short but realistic “eating windows” throughout the day
Intermittent fasting or ‘eating windows’ can be a good way to help you reduce your calorie consumption as they limit the amount of hours in the day you allow yourself to eat.
Over the Christmas holiday, it might help you to set 3 strict eating windows per day, to allow yourself to enjoy your meals with your family and friends, but to reduce unnecessary snacking in between.
This is a really good way to help you maintain control, still enjoying sociable mealtimes while reducing your caloric intake.
3. Focus on protein and filling your plate with veggies
Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, and will help maintain any lean muscle you’ve built. It also has a higher thermic effect, which means you burn more calories digesting it than other macronutrients!
Vegetables tend to be high in volume - in other words they take up a lot of space in your stomach but aren’t high in calories.
By starting every meal eating your protein and vegetables, you will be more full when it comes to eating anything else. This will help you keep your calorie intake lower, without feeling deprived.
4. Be conscious of your NEAT
Having a couple of days off the gym is likely to positively affect your progress; rest time helps your muscles recover and grow, and you can get what is sometimes a much needed break from the frequent physical exertion.
It can also be difficult to get to the gym if you go away for the holidays, or if your gym closes more over Christmas.
Instead, be more conscious of your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is any activity you do that isn’t planned exercise, for example going for a walk instead of driving somewhere, or even as small as getting up to put the kettle on for a round of teas/coffees for your family and friends. This will increase your calorie burn without the extra effort of the gym.
5. Alcohol = empty calories
Most of us enjoy a tipple over the Christmas holidays. Whether that’s at the pub with your friends, having a couple of casual drinks at home, going all out for New Year’s Eve, or “helping Santa with his sherry and mince pie” the night before Christmas.
Alcohol is the hidden 4th macronutrient, and brings with it 7 calories per gram. Despite having this ‘energy value’, it doesn’t have any nutritional value, which means it eats into your calorie allowance without having any benefit to your body.
Not only that, but when you drink, your body will stop some of its other processes (i.e. burning fat) to concentrate on getting the alcohol out of your system. So it’s a double whammy.
If you still want to enjoy a drink over the holidays, consider which could be the lowest in calories to help you achieve your weight loss goal. Spirits like bourbon, gin, rum and vodka tend to be the lowest in calories, while drinks like Baileys and cider rack up the calories.
Setting yourself these goals will help you to build positive behaviours and will contribute to your changing behaviour and habits once the holidays are finished.