Want to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain? Burn It to Earn It!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Forget about all the food for a minute. Let's talk about the fitness. Holiday weight gain is a concern for many, but it's not just because of the food. Sure, we eat more rich foods than we probably should this time of year, but we also let our workouts go by the wayside. We're stressed out and busier than ever with mile-long to do lists. The uncooperative weather doesn't help—dark mornings and evenings make you want to curl up in bed—not to biceps curls. So how is it that we can manage to do everything else but not squeeze in a workout? And what does that say about our priorities (and our commitments to ourselves)?

Let's do things differently this year, starting with Thanksgiving. The solution really is simple. We know what causes weight gain and we know how to maintain and lose weight, too. So for the next few weeks, I propose a new philosophy that will keep winter weight gain at bay: Burn it to earn it.

It's pretty simple, really. Burn it (calories, that is) to earn it (the extra holiday food).

Want to indulge this Thanksgiving? Burn it to earn it.
Going for an extra slice of pie? Burn it to earn it.
Accepting some holiday cookies from a co-worker? Burn it to earn it.

A little extra eating is common during the holidays, and there isn't anything unhealthy about that. But before you bite, I want you to think about what you'll do to make sure that food doesn't become a permanent part of your anatomy. That's where exercise comes in. Before you let your exercise excuses get the best of you this season, here are 6 of my best workouts and tips that you can use today, Thanksgiving day (hint, hint), and all December long.

1. Follow the habits of fit people. These ideas can truly help you stick to a fitness routine, no matter what life throws at you.

2. Do a short video. I've created over 30 unique workouts—from cardio to Pilates to strength training. Many of these free videos require no equipment at all, and can be done anywhere you have a computer and Internet access (at home, the office, your in-laws, or even a hotel room). These short routines (most are under 15 minutes) make it easy to squeeze in a little exercise!

3. Sign up for a race. It probably isn't too late to join your local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. Talk about burning calories before you bite!

4. Try my 30-Minute Holiday Workout! This will target all of your major muscle groups and elevate your heart rate simultaneously. Add intensity by mixing in jumping jacks, high knee jogging, squat thrusts and other simple cardio moves between each exercise.

5. Wake up early. Most gyms are open limited hours on Thanksgiving and other holidays, and if you wake up a little early, you can fit in a workout and still get dinner on the table on time.

6. Plan calorie-burning activities. Don't just lounge in front of the tube all Thanksgiving day. Plan an outdoor walk or hike after dinner; play a game of touch football; rake leaves for the little ones to play in; or volunteer at a food pantry to help those in need. Anything that gets you on your feet and moving is better than sitting, especially on a daily of overindulgence.

How will you "burn it to earn it" this Thanksgiving? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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Love this article. I am waking up at 7 am tomorrow to get in a great work out before Thanksgiving meals. I am really excited to make this a healthy holiday! Report
Nicole!! I shared your "Burn it to Earn it!" at my Weight Watcher's meeting and gave due credit. They all looked like a light bulb went on! Great tip! Thank again Report
Answer to Sheri1969:

I can't think of a single reason why it would be bad to bump up your exercise to burn off excess calories! It is a simple "in and out" equation. You burn the same as you take in and your weight stays the same. Therefore if you are eating more (during the holidays) you burn more to keep it equal. Makes perfect sense to me! Report
Great article - good ideas that people have posted as well. I plan to workout in the morning before cooking (well, OK probably AFTER the turkey goes in the oven!). After dinner we already have a family walk planned so everyone will be actively moving around. Report
What a great article! Report
Thanks for a great article. "Burn it to earn it" is going to be my new mantra through the holidays. Report
Definately! I'm bumping up my cardio time this week. Hubbie and I will hit the gym Thanksgiving morning, then have dinner early in the afternoon. I'll probably have a little larger-than-normal dinner but will stop before I'M stuffed! Report
I finally get back to running after my It-Band problem
I plan on running on Thanksgiving Report
Sounds like a good philosophy! One thing I have learned in my weight loss journey is no matter what I might have eaten that day, to never stop exercising! Report
Luckily my gym is open 24/7 so I can go workout! My family is coming to visit and my stepdad loves to workout so I will have a workout buddy! My sister will probably workout with us as well. They are staying in a hotel because I live in a small apartment and their hotel has a pool. I am sure we will be spending some time in there as well! We aren't having the traditional Thanksgiving. My mom is making prime rib. I don't think it is the healthiest thing we could have, but its a tradition now and its only one day. I am going to be sure to have some vegetables including a huge salad. I don't believe we are going to have any sweets so that shouldn't be a problem. I have also been getting more exercise in during the week to make up for it! Report
I see the point in this, but I thought this concept was not to be done? I thought it was improper to do extra exercise so a person could eat more? Perhaps I was taught wrong. But it does confuse me a little when for my entire life I believed that this was not a good way to handle special holidays. Report
We cook together as a family, and spend much time together raking! It needs to be done - is a good workout - and time of togetherness :) Report
Burn it to earn it is a great slogan! Something that will stick with me, and get me through the temptation times.

Thanks! Report
I don't have time to a race Thurs. AM since I'm the main cook for the day but I'm going to get up an hour early and get in 3-4 miles before I start cooking. Report
I changed my schedule up so that Thursday is my day of rest this week (plus my gym is closed), but will hit the weights again on Friday! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Report
Great reminder! I've been off my game this week (sick) and we usually just sleep in and slug around before going to my in-laws for dinner that day. This year, I already have an appointment the day before to work out and I just checked the calander for the day of - looks like the gym is open! Report
Great ideas! I had already planned a Thanksgiving morning work out! Report
What a great concept. Burn it to eat it. It makes me feel a little better about eating since we are going out for Thanksgiving dinner. Report
I love it - burn it to earn it - my new favorite phrase :D

I will keep that in the back of my mind during this holiday season - way too many parties/social commitments that lead to way too many temptations.

Thanks Report
I'm going to run the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving morning, then I'm gonna come home and eat all I want!

You can lose weight during the holidays, I did it last year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's I lost 15 lbs. Report
Great article, and I love the phrase Burn it to earn it! I go to a 24hour gym so I intend and getting in some good cardio and strength training in the morning before I start eating any of the goodies. We are eating around 2 so then around 5 I am going to go the to gym and do some more cardio, hopefully this will keep me on track and I will have a loss this Friday :)! Report
Burn it to Earn it.. There is my catch phrase for the next month! Im so excited that our YMCA will be open for 4 hours early thanaksgiving morning. I'm going to earn my meals this year! great article Report
my husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law, niece and nephews and i are all getting up BEFORE the crack of dawn, hiking up a mountain, and watching the sunrise. this is the first time we'll be doing it, and i hope it becomes a family tradition! i'm really exciting about being together with family, and being thankful for our beautiful environment and eachother, and that it will have absolutely nothing to do with food. it's got me thinking... what should we do for christmas? Report
This is just what i need for the holiday season....thank you Report
This is great. I even bookmarked it. Thank you very much. Report
my gym doesn't close until 2 on Thursday, so that's where I'll be. I know I'm going to indulge in what I want, so I'm definitely going to be at the gym! Report
This is a great concept! I plan to workout in the morning before heading off to dinner and then take a brisk walk after dinner. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it. Report
unfortunately b/c of our travel schedule there isn't a turkey trot that works for us this year, but dh and i definitely have plans to do a workout before we leave for my grandma's and then we're taking our gear so we can run while we're on the road through sunday. we're looking forward to it, actually, b/c it'll give us a chance to mix-up our routine and run some new routes. so we'll definitely "burn it to earn it" this year! Report
My big downfall for Thanksgiving day dinner is going for seconds.(especially sweets!) I plan on drinking lots of water before, during and after dinner to help with that problem. Portion control !!! Report
I won't be able to workout after dinner because we will be going to my parent's house first and then to my in-laws house. Normally, we don't make it back home until Friday morning around 5 a.m. Sooooo, While my ham and macaroni & cheese are in the oven, I will workout on the elliptical for at least 30 minutes and then do 15-20 minutes of strength training. I hope to have the energy and stamina to do more because I will eat at both houses. Talkin' about some good food that I just can't resist. Report
Good idea, and good blog! This is one of the ways I manage to have small treats with my diabetes.... by working out in advance! Keeps my blood sugars under control, as I can eat a little more after I've worked out, plus it energizes me and actually helps to control my appetite.

Evelyn Report
Burn it to earn it. I love that idea. I need to make sure to bring my running gear home to my parent's house so I can workout before the big meal. Thanks Nicole! Report
I will be roasting the turkey-then I can get in my 30 minute walk on the treadmill if not more. Had not planned on doing anything til I read this article! Thanks Pat Report
Since I will be at my folks' house for the holiday, I will use their treadmill before we eat and the kids and I will go for a walk after. I do plan to do my strength training in the morning like any other day. Report
I usually work out at night time, so on Thanksgiving day I plan on working out first thing in the morning before going anywhere and then my normal workout that night before I get back home. Report
Glad you put a blog online for this, my cardio day falls on Thanksgiving and I was planning a little extra working out time that day anyway! I too like the phrase "Burn it BEFORE you earn it" It holds me accountable to be able to have a little extra and feel okay with it. Just like on Tuesday's the biggest loser is on But . . if I do not get my workout in I do not allow myself to sit down and watch it ! We all have those little incentive tricks we play with ourselves to push us at times.

Hope everyone has a fabulous Thanksgiving Day! I am thankful for my spouse, my boy's, and the joy of living life. Also am thankful for SP - where there is such a wonderful group of people that come in all shapes, sizes and fitness levels so that this is truly a "safe" supportive place to be!! Thank You SparkPeople!! Report
I already plan on doing my normal workout routine. I'm not cooking dinner so I really don't have to rush around. Weather permitting, I want to walk to my brother-in-law's for dinner or walk home. Or both ways. I have to see what Thursday brings. Report
This article is just what I needed. I am going to print and put it on my bathroom mirror to read each day.
thanks Report
We are having Thanksgiving at a family member's beach house this year - 4 small blocks to the beach! I think I'll try to get everyone to take a nice walk on the beach that day. Hopefully at least some of them will join me! It will be a nice way to enjoy the beach, work off some of those calories, and keep from falling into a calorie-overload stupor in front of the TV. Thanks for the blog! Report
that was actually my plan already! im glad there was a blog to support the idea! Report
sounds good to me! I know i cant go through the holiday without having any of my favorite dishes so ill earn it! ;) fun! Report
I've bumped up cardio in general this week to help cover it! Report
Great advice - thanks! Report
I love the idea...it doesn't feel like you're depriving yourself if you look at it this way. My gym isn't open on Thanksgiving day, but I am planning on walking, then going to the gym bright and early the next day! Report
We plan on eating dinner and then taking our dogs for a long walk that day. Report
I normally run a 5k on Thanksgiving, but am going out of town and can't make it, so my running partners and I are getting up and running at 6:30 on Thanksgiving so we can burn it to earn it! Report
Thanks. This pep talk is just what I needed. I'm turning off the computer right now and going to the gym! Report
I will get in the gym early as usal, workout for 60mins on the TM and 60 mins on the ellipt, and after dinner I will do another 60 mins run on the Tm,and burn some of the calories off,and I plan to do the portion control also, Report
I will get up early like I do everyday and start my morning with a 1 hour 3 mile walk outside. Then hit the bowflex machine for 1 hour doing circuit/strength training. Report
Great slogan, I like it. This is my first major holiday since making my lifestyle changes and losing all my weight so I'm more than a little nervous and winter usually kicks my rear anyway. I've been making more than conscious efforts to get in daily activity and exercise.....having pecans to harvest helps if I can bundle up to stay warm and still move :) Report
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