Living the Lifestyle during the Holidays

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's that time of year again. Staying on track during the holidays is challenging, but it can be done.  I’m entering my fifth holiday season as a SparkPeople member, and I’m looking forward to conquering it! There will be many articles coming out in the next few weeks about avoiding holiday weight gain.  
Instead of concentrating on avoiding holiday weight gain, my goal is to maintain consistency with my diet and exercise program throughout the holiday season.  I do plan to splurge on special occasions.  The problem with maintaining consistency is that there are so many special occasions between now and New Year's Day!
Why is weight gain during the holidays a yearly topic? Weight gain during the holidays is an important contributor to the weight gain "creep"--that is, the extra pounds you gradually and slowly add without noticing. Just about everyone thinks that you have a license to indulge during this time of the year!
When I started my lifestyle change in 2007, I started out sprinting.  I was tired of being morbidly obese and I breezed through the 2007 holiday season with ease. There were no false starts.
I was on a mission and my mission was to reach my goal weight. That’s not to say I didn't hit a few bumps: I binged on Halloween candy that year, declaring it to be a "cheat day," and I pretty much did the same on Thanksgiving.  Otherwise, it was smooth sailing. 
I started out at 292 pounds on July 23, 2007, and by Thanksgiving 2007 I was in the 230s.  But, I was motivated and nothing was going to stand in the way of my goal. 
Unfortunately, the new penny feeling of a "diet" wears off.  I knew that I was trying to change my life, but I had started to tire of trying to be perfect.  Fortunately, I had already become very attached to SparkPeople and its principles and was attempting to focus on the long haul, not the quick fix. 
My weight loss was pretty steady during that phase.  By the 2008 holiday season, I was a sleek 158 pounds, but I was already a little battered and bruised.  I had faced and beaten burnout a few times already.  I had conquered many hard questions about my motivations and I had felt the pain of defeat. Still, I got back up and dusted off my knees after every fall.   Despite those battle wounds, I held steady through the holidays and got down to 150 pounds in early January. 
The next holiday seasons didn’t go as well as the first two.  I fought hard battles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  I gained for the first time during the 2009 season and had to go back to the basics after New Year's to get back to my maintenance weight.  I pretty much did the same during the 2010 holiday season.  So, is this a pattern?  Am I destined to be a yearly victim of the holiday weight-gain tradition?
My holiday season starts with Halloween and ends at the New Year.  That is when I have traditionally face the greatest struggle, and there are pretty good reasons for that struggle.  Treats on every corner, parties, days off, schedule changes, vacations, mass media telling you that you have to try this new holiday drink, etc.  Let’s not forget the cold weather and the fact that you get to hide some of your extra pounds behind sweaters and other winter fashions. 
As you can see I’m not an expert at getting through the holidays, but I have rode them out and made it to the other side.  I’m at a bit of a disadvantage this year because I’m going into the holiday season a little on my higher side, but I’m planning on success this year! Here’s my plan:
  1. Keep exercise consistent.  This is extremely important.  If you’ve been burning a couple of thousand calories per week through exercise and you drop it down to a couple of hundred during the holiday months, you are going to gain weight from that change alone! Throw some extra treat calories on top and you have a recipe for weight gain.  The workout endorphins are helpful for dealing with holiday stress as well.  So, I’m exercising consistently this holiday season! Are you?
  2. Just say no.  The candy in the dishes on the desk, the newest holiday coffee drink, the extra samples in the grocery store.  Just say no to it all.  I vote for attending the holiday office parties but not partaking in any of the treats. There are way too many special occasions during this time of year to spend your calorie bucks at occasions that are not all that special for you.  Pick the events that you want to splurge on a little and keep to the plan.  For me, it’s all about family.

    They own my splurges and I’m not wasting them on anything else! Remember there is no such thing as free dessert.  You will pay for it in the form of extra pounds and ill-fitting clothes.  Save it up for your special occasions!
  3. Tighten the reins.  Make sure you track even more diligently during the holidays.  You are going to need the extra wiggle room to absorb the special treats! Be honest--you don’t have a lot of room to play with when you're adding in extra sweets.
  4. Pick yourself up after every fall.  The all-or-none trap is especially deep during this time of year.  It is not all over if you slip.  Get back up quickly, I promise you will minimize some of your post-New Year's pain!
  5. Get support. Find like-minded people who are ready to brave the holidays with you. You will need a support system to help you get through the lure of joining in on the holiday mindless eating. Join a SparkTeam today!
Are you ready to stay consistent through the holiday season? To those who are staying strict and on a mission this season, kudos to you. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain throughout the next few months stay consistent and you will reach your goal. Let’s have a great holiday season. Good luck and keep sparking!
Do you aim to lose or maintain during the holiday season? Traditionally, do you give up or stay strong during the winter holidays?