|13 Tips to Help You Get (or Stay) Fit This Holiday Season
Don’t wait for January to get in shape! Start building muscle, burning fat, and checking off resolutions right now with this short guide for beating the holiday bulge and sculpting (or keeping) the body you’ve always wanted.1. Do Some Burpees
The burpee is the quintessential total-body conditioning move,” says Andy Speer, C.S.C.S., owner of Soho Strength Lab in Manhattan. “You get an upper and lower body burn, eccentric and concentric muscle stimuli, mobility work, a core stability challenge, and a cardiovascular pump — it’s like packing an entire workout into a single exercise.”How to Do a Burpee: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Lower your body and place your hands on the floor. Kick your legs back into a push-up position, perform a push-up, and then quickly reverse the move, bringing your feet back to your hands. Jump up. Begin your next rep as soon as you land.2. Keep Each Celebration Limited to One Day
Go ahead and indulge your cravings. Take a break from working out. But return to your normal diet and exercise program the next morning.A review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the longer it takes you to re-focus on fitness, the more your enthusiasm for it will dim, and the harder it will be for you to get back on track. In short, a day off won’t hurt you, but a week or two off can derail your progress toward your goals.
3. Keep Calories in Perspective
“A few high-calorie meals during the holidays are not going to sabotage your fitness goals,” says Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., author of Look Great Naked, adding that people get too caught up in the minutia of weight loss (e.g., how many calories they burn in a single workout, or how many they consume in a single meal).
A better strategy: Focus on how many calories you burn during the course of a week, not each day. “As long as your diet is dialed in 80 percent of the time, you can cut yourself some slack during the other 20 percent,” he says.
4. Don’t Skip Your Workouts
Skipping just one workout can initiate a downward spiral, increasing your odds of skipping another one by 61 percent, according to British researchers.
The solution: Think smaller. Instead of trying to carve out time for one long workout, do two or three short ones. “In so doing, you’ll boost motivation, eliminate ‘too busy’ as an excuse, and accelerate both muscle building and fat loss,” says Chad Waterbury M.S., a Los Angeles-based exercise physiologist.
5. Eat an Apple Before Going to the Grocery Store
You already know the dangers of grocery shopping on an empty stomach. (And if you don’t, take a look at your receipt the next time you shop hungry.) But Cornell University scientists have added a new twist to the classic advice: Eat a piece of fruit before you hit the supermarket. In their research, people who ate an apple before they shopped bought 28 percent more produce than those who had a cookie. They also bought fewer unhealthy items overall. The reason: After eating a healthy snack, your subconscious continues to steer you in the same direction, say the researchers.
6. Keep a Food Log… Yes, Even During the Holidays
It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s shockingly effective at helping people eat healthier, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The researchers found that people who recorded everything they ate for a week lost six more pounds than people who didn’t. Don’t bother buying a notebook—smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, Lifesum, and Eatly make recording what you eat easy. All three also sync with third party fitness trackers, helping you gain a more holistic view of your health and daily activity.
7. Drink Water Before a Big Meal
Much like the gas tank in your car, your stomach has sensors that alert you when it’s full. But unlike your car, you can trip those sensors with anything, including water. Use that to your advantage to promote weight loss, suggest British researchers reporting in the journal Obesity. In their study, participants who knocked back 12 ounces of H₂O prior to eating lost significantly more weight after three months than those who didn’t. If that isn’t reason enough to stay hydrated, consider this: You burn two percent fewer calories per day when you aren’t, according to another study at the University of Utah.
Here are 25 ways to help you drink more water!
8. Weigh in Regularly
While it’s not healthy to obsess over your weight, it is healthy to track it. People who weigh themselves daily lose an average of five pounds more per year than those who don’t, according to a study in the Journal of Obesity. Why? Because you’re more likely to be mindful of what you eat and drink, and how much you exercise. After you step on the scale, record the result where you can’t ignore it, like your refrigerator.
9. Don’t Skip Breakfast
Breakfast sets the nutritional tone for the rest of the day, and you don’t want send your body into survival mode by prolonging your overnight fast.
The reason: You’ll consume fewer calories in subsequent meals. Doing the latter can save you 188 calories a day. And let’s be honest, it’s the caffeine you love anyway. Feel like you never have time to make breakfast? Try one of these 20 make-ahead breakfasts that let you just grab and go.
10. Drink a Glass of Water Between Drinks
By alternating cocktails with water, “you’ll literally cut your calories in half,” says Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Powerfood Nutrition Plan. “Better still, you’ll pay less of a price the next morning.”
Be especially wary of liquid calories in traditional drinks like eggnog, hot toddy, and punches. “You’re not going to feel full from them, so you can pack on a lot of extra calories and not even realize it,” says Jamie Cooper, Ph.D., an associate professor of food and nutrition at the University of Georgia. His advice: During the rounds where you do have an adult beverage, stick to low-calorie drinks such as light beer and vodka soda.
11. Run for 15 Minutes
Not only will you burn approximately 125 calories, but according to Canadian scientists, you’ll also slash stress, and as a result, curb sugar cravings. In their study, the researchers found that people who engaged in stress-busting exercise — like running on a treadmill — for 15 minutes reduced their craving for sweet, high calorie snacks by 23 percent. Those who stayed still saw no change. The reason: Stress busting exercise may reduce your need for a short-lived sugar boost.
12. Don’t Rely on Downsizing Your Plates
When it comes to controlling portions, many fitness and nutrition experts recommend using smaller plates. “But what often ends up happening is that people go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths instead of just loading up once,” says Schoenfeld. His advice: Stop downsizing your dinnerware, and start paying more attention to how you load it. “Put leafy vegetables on your plate first, then protein,” says Schoenfeld. “That way, you’ll be sure to have room for them.” Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and gravy-smothered stuffing comes last.
13. Really Think About Those Resolutions
The scope of your New Year’s resolutions is just as important as the resolutions themselves. Sure, you want to lose weight and build strength, but do your resolutions line up with where you want to be in 10 years? Research published in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine suggests that we’re more likely to meet our short-term goals if they align with our broader life goals.
One explanation has to do with what researchers call “self-determination theory”—we’re more likely to change our behavior to reach goals that are intrinsically motivated. Put another way, “you’re more likely to stick to a weight loss goal if you’re motivated by feeling healthier than fitting in a smaller clothing size,” says Brie Turner-McGrievy, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., an assistant professor of health promotion, education, and behavior at the University of South Carolina.