The holidays invariably turn hardcore fitness devotees into dietary doomsday preppers. They stockpile extra cardio sessions and fat burners and recruit like-minded gym rats to help weather the storm in an anti-social bunker for the inevitable post-apocalyptic chaos that is New Year’s weight loss. But that’s a lot of pressure to shoulder over what should be enjoyable office parties and family get-togethers.
“We tend to avoid things or distract ourselves from things that are uncomfortable,” says Greg Chertok, M.Ed., CC-AASP, a sports psychology consultant with Telos Sport Psychology Coaching “But avoidance, over time, gets exhausting.”
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In other words, relax, peeps. You can get through this without going underground for the entire month of December. Here’s how:
1. Change Your Mindset
Scaling back on treats at all costs may not be the ideal approach. “Just like physical muscles, our mental muscles — the ones responsible for willpower and decision-making — fatigue over time,” Chertok says. “Adopting an attitude of embracing the challenge of health during a time of increased temptation seems less tiring than constantly exercising your willpower and avoidance muscles.
2. Limit Temptation
Don’t try to skip every social engagement on the calendar. Instead, proactively plan stuff with people who share your healthy convictions. “Reaching for that cookie is far less tempting when you’re in the company of health-conscious people eating well than when you’re around those who eat junk food by the pound,” Chertok says. <
3. Forgive Yourself
Have you ever strayed from a diet and “punished” yourself with a tub of cookies-and-cream Dreyer’s? “Allow the occasional slip-up. In fact, plan for it and remain forgiving and compassionate with yourself,” Chertok says. “Be your own best friend rather than your own worst enemy.
4. Avoid The Scale
Fitness folks who raid the cookie tray in the break room more than once a week (or once a day) tend to obsess about the scale. This is dangerous behavior, Chertok says. “The scale represents the ‘outcome’ or the ‘result’ of a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “But the control we have is over our eating habits, our physical-activity levels, our stress levels, our social relationships. Focus on those healthy lifestyle habits — and the positive feelings stemming from the successful adherence to them — rather than the scale.”
f you commit to every social event on the calendar, you risk fatigue as a result of decreased sack time. Lack of sleep leads to higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that wreaks havoc on muscle mass and convinces your body that keeping that holiday stuffing around your waistline is somehow a matter of survival. And if you need another reason to keep regular appointments with your pillow, remember that sleep is a natural stress reliever.
“Sleep allows the brain to process new memories and, essentially, to learn,” Chertok says. So if you’re trying to cut yourself some slack and enjoy your share of Yuletide cheer, hit the sheets and grab seven to nine hours of sleep every night.