We have all probably faced some guilt around health and exercise through the holidays. We ate way too much pumpkin pie, we feel like crap, but more than anything, we feel bad because we feel like we've just set back all of our weight loss progress that we made the last two months. Or, Christmas rolls around, we have a vacation planned, we don't know when or how we're going to work out, so we don't and then we can't even be present with our family because we are thinking about the workouts we are missing.
The holidays can be a stressful time to go through. They can be especially hard if we have health and fitness related goals that we want to hit. Maybe even harder if we've hit our goals, because we don't want to lose our progress. It might actually be less stressful for people with no progress on their goals because going backwards wouldn't mean that much. However, that is all beside the point. The question is two-fold: how do we not lose all of the progress we have made, and how do we not go insane and still enjoy the holidays at the same time?
It is important to remember that what we call "the holidays" is a very small amount of time out of the whole year. Two weeks, maybe three weeks at most. Thats 3-5% out of the entire year. Even if you did the worst possible things to your body during that time, which I'm sure you won't, that's not enough time to completely screw up all of your gains. I just had a few really good friends that I grew up with come visit me. We drank entirely way too much this Saturday. I live like that maybe once a year. This one day isn't going to effect my health long-term at all, and even this year. Now, if I started turning it into an every weekend thing, that would change things.
So, during the holidays this season, zoom out on your perspective and realize 3-5% of the entire year isn't enough to throw your health and fitness goals into turmoil. Only unless you let the 3-5% turn into 50%. Then, you may have a problem.
Win Where You Can
Nobody is perfect. And nobody is especially perfect during the holidays. You are probably going to eat a cookie or two, have a few days where you don't exercise, and spend a bit more time on the couch than you usually would. If this doesn't sound like you and you are that disciplined through the holidays then this post isn't for you.
If this does sound a bit like your life, no sweat, there are still ways you can "win" during this time of the year. Find small ways where you can potentially eat a bit healthier or exercise when you wouldn't. On the same mentality above, don't let two cookies turn into 5 and don't let one day of exercise turn into two weeks of not exercising. Your environment may look a lot different during the holidays so don't let the change in pace effect what you can and cannot do. Go for a 30 minute walk when you get bored. Just because you're not in the gym doesn't mean you can't find other ways to stay active. Rather than snacking a lot try replacing the snacks with water or something that is lower calorie. Find active ways to hang out with your family. We love being with family this time of the year, but that doesn't mean we have to sit on the couch and watch movies. There are plenty of ways where you and your family can be together that isn't sedentary. Reminder, walking for long periods of time is one of the most underrated forms of exercise.
Rather than let the holidays be one huge loss, pick up some small wins where you can. It might be less than you are accustomed too, but it is better than a major setback.
Don't Try To Make It All Back Up
This might perhaps be the biggest point in this entire post. Your body is constantly adapting to fit it's needs in response to the environment. If you exercise every day with roughly the same amount of training volume your body adapts accordingly. If you take some time off or do a lot less training your body will adapt accordingly. So, don't try to pick back up where you left off if your body hasn't been exposed to that same amount of stress for a couple weeks. Bad things are likely to happen. You don't want to make a small step backwards or a neutral step a HUGE step backwards.
Gradually work back into where your current training volume was. This might mean you start with just a 45 minute workout instead of an hour. Or, you slightly reduce the weight you were training with before. You can even just take one set off of each exercise and gradually work back into the sets you were training at. The jist of it is to start a little bit lower of your previous training volume and slowly add it back into where you were previously. Just make sure your "easing back into it" doesn't last a full month. It doesn't take that long for your body to get back into it.
If your training doesn't take a hit during this time then this section wouldn't apply to you.
I really hope this article doesn't sound like I'm expecting people to fail during this time. I just want to give the most realistic and practical advice that I can. Some people won't miss a beat during the holidays, and that means this post probably won't resonate with them. However, some people struggle through the holidays or even just have anxiety about their decision making. The holidays are really just a snapshot in time. A very brief snapshot compared to the entire year and especially your entire life. Don't let a few bad choices you may make during this time discourage you from getting back on the wagon. The only thing worse than one bad day is two bad days, and three bad days.
Consistency always win. Don't let yourself lose twice in a row.