Don’t let fitness take a vacation this holiday season

You can move toward your goal weight and increase your fitness level amid the festivities, Here's how.

With some planning and dedication

Christmas decorations are making their debut, and the smell of fresh baked gingerbread cookies is in the air.  Sticking to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise routine can be a battle any day of the year.  During the holidays, however, festive feasts, willpower-impairing spirits, and tempting chocolate truffles team up to challenge even the most resolute health nut.  During the holiday frenzy, seemingly, the numbers on the bathroom scale can increase almost as fast as the bank balance dwindles.

Fortunately, holiday weight gain is not inevitable.   In fact, you can move toward your goal weight and increase your fitness level amid the festivities.  Like any other time of the year, keeping fit and achieving a healthy body weight requires planning and effort.

1. Boost your workout routine

Weight maintenance is a matter of balancing calories in and calories out.  You can offset a few calorie dense appetizers or a piece of toffee pudding by kicking your workouts into high gear.  Add high intensity bursts into your cardio sessions to scorch extra calories.  When working with weights, try circuit training to get the most out of your limited gym time.  Choose several full body exercises (think push-ups, or biceps curls in a squat position) and do them with little or no rest in between sets.  The more muscles you move, the more calories you will burn.

2. Go for an after dinner walk

The holidays are about spending time with family and friends.  A great way to spend quality time with loved ones- and get a little exercise- is to go for a walk.  Tour the neighbourhood and enjoy the display of lights.

3.  It’s not about the food!

Instead of mingling with friends over a table full of mini quiches and meatballs, plan a get-together that does not revolve around food.  Host a Christmas craft-making party, plan a games night, or a snowshoe outing.  Have healthy snacks available to your guests- but make the activity, not the food, the main event.

4. Give the gift of heart healthy food.

It seems that healthy cooking practices are often forgotten when preparing food for guests.  Keep your guests’ health in mind when preparing a meal.  If you shouldn’t eat it, they probably shouldn’t eat it either.  For an appetizer, try hummus and low fat crackers, or offer a plate of veggies and light dip.  Instead of preparing fat-laden dishes, find creative ways to cut back on calories and fat.  A low-fat cookbook is a great start to creating healthy meals.  For dessert, try baked fruit with low fat ice cream.  Your guests will thank you in January.  When going to a dinner, offer to bring an appetizer or dessert (and make it healthy) so you won’t stray too far from your diet plan.

5. Plan your attack at the buffet table.

The buffet table can be a dream come true – or a worst nightmare.  Before loading up your plate, take a look at all your options.  A little of everything adds up to a lot of unnecessary calories.  Fill most of your plate with healthful salads, vegetables and lean proteins.  To avoid overfilling your plate, leave a small gap between each type of food- so that the plate is still visible.  Eat slowly and wait at least 10 minutes with an empty plate before deciding if seconds are necessary.

6. Go easy on the cocktails.

Alcohol is full of empty calories, and will weaken your self-control.  Opt for lower calorie options: a glass of wine has about 120 calories, whereas a rum and eggnog has about 350 calories per glass.  Drink a non-calorie beverage, such as water or tea, in between alcoholic drinks.  You will save yourself the weight gain- and the hang over.

7.  Re-evaluate your goals.

If you were consistently losing two pounds per week, only losing one pound per week or maintaining your weight may be a more reasonable goal during the holidays.  You can always kick your exercise and eating plans up a notch in January.  The holidays should be enjoyed- and that may mean having a few treats that are avoided during the other eleven months.

The holiday season flaunts countless opportunities to stray from a healthy diet.  A few extra indulgences combined with missing the gym to get those last few gifts can show up on the hips.  Fortunately, with some planning and dedication, you can ring in the New Year the same size you are now.  If you do find yourself a pound or two heavier in 2013, keep in mind that what you do from January and November is more important than what you do in December.  Plan to shed the weight as soon as possible to prevent the weight from accumulating over the years.

Enjoy the holidays!


Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Coaching, a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals works to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to




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