By Jeremy Ray, Fitness Center Coordinator, Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock
‘Tis the season of navigating through work and social parties, family gatherings, and leftovers with the goal to stay lean or at least not gain so much that you’re a size larger the first week of January.
Here are five strategies to help you during the holidays:
Manage Your Stress
I have it listed first because I believe it is the foundation of what everything else is built on. There’s good stress and bad stress and many forms of both. For example, bad stress could result from financial stress, toxic relationships, lack of sleep, exercise (too much), and poor nutrition (high sugar or alcohol).
Good stress can come from being well-rested, maintaining the appropriate exercise prescription, and positive thinking, to name a few. Your body does not distinguish between good and bad – it just absorbs and responds. As the stress in your life goes up, so too will your coritisol levels, and high cortisol levels can lead to fat storage around the mid-section and muscle breakdown.
Last minute shopping, overspending, hustling from place to place, and party foods and drinks definitely qualify as stress to your body. Try some yoga, deep breathing, a nice walk outside, and a fun activity with friends to manage the chaos of this time of year.
Our body is made up of more than 60-percent water, so to say drinking water is important is an understatement. Energy levels, nutrient distribution, digestion, and more all depend on water.
I suggest starting off with trying to get 64 ounces of water per day. First thing after awakening, drink 8 ounces of water to start the hydration process. Keep your water bottle close to you throughout the day so it is always available.
If the taste of water is disgusting to you, try adding a flavored Crystal Light. Staying hydrated will help keep your energy levels up and give you a since of fullness when high-sugar food and drinks are tempting. Like my son’s kindergarten teacher says, “Try it –– you might like it.”
Normal routines seem not so normal this time of year. Exercise sessions may need to be shortened or the frequency during the week may need to be lessened. But it doesn’t mean your exercise plan is torn to shambles. Maybe you get three days in a week and not your normal five, or maybe it’s a 20-minute total-body short-break workout versus your normal 45 to one-hour workout. It’s all good. Something is always better than nothing.
Those three-days-a-week 20-minute workouts will keep your furnace burning and keep those calories in check. It will also keep you from feeling like a slug and mentally beating yourself to death when you have some of grandma’s pecan pie.
The moral of the story is just to refrain from going dormant. Lastly, if you can sneak one of those 20-minute blast sessions (or even a walk depending on the person) before everyone arrives, you won’t regret it.
Shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep if possible. Like I mentioned in the first tip, we want to prevent coritisol levels from rising. Lack of sleep will have you making poor diet choices looking for stimulants and leave you with a short fuse on an already hectic day.
For someone on a typical workday schedule, aim to have your head on the pillow at 10 p.m. with lights and phones off at 10:30. Being rested and feeling good will give you the motivation and attitude to keep your workouts going and make you a lot more pleasant to be around.
Indulge Smartly and Be Prepared
It is the holidays, so enjoy with everyone else. Choose low-sugar and low-calorie options when faced with a choice. If not, go with a smaller portion of the real thing. Key word is smaller and portion (being one portion). That way you’ll get your fix.
Prepare for the unexpected by having a protein shake or bar available if you’re going shopping or traveling. You don’t want to get caught starving in holiday traffic or handcuffed with only Pop-Tarts or cookies at uncle Chris’s house.