What are your general, obvious challenges?
This is a short yet typically very busy work week for many people. We're trying to put 5 days of work into 3. We're excited about the long weekend, time with family and friends and maybe even a little anxious about all that needs to be done. It's hard to stay focused! Some of you will be hosting Thanksgiving, which means cooking, house preparations and a substantial to-do list of everything that needs to turn out timely and just right. Others will be traveling, some with children, some long distances. Then how about the all-day shopping extravaganza on Friday? All of this can add up to healthy eating and training being thrown out the window. Think through your particular challenges.
What are your personal, possibly unspoken, challenges?
This is very personal and it requires some reflection. It will impact how you approach your holiday events. Maybe Grandma's cherry pie is your favorite and you get it once a year, so you're going to indulge without guilt and look forward to it. Perhaps you have a family that is not necessarily part of your support system with your healthy eating endeavors and you're facing an entire weekend of sabotage. What if deep down you just want to throw in the towel and eat comfort food until the new year? Figure out your personal challenges and decide now how you will deal with them. Be ready to accept the consequences of good and bad choices.
Okay, let's talk about some specific strategies.
Fitness for the week
Don't let your schedule get out of control as you spiral toward Thursday. Prioritize. Get your workouts in. Better yet, add some additional work at the end of your strength training workout or on your off-days from strength training. Examples are kettlebell swings, snatches, cleans, presses. Bodyweight intervals with push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, squats. Hill sprints. It doesn't have to add up to hours, but it can add up to lots of calories burned and a metabolic blast. This sets you up better for the extra calories you'll consume on Thursday.
Eating for the week
Keep your eating tight all the way up until the Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. Eat smaller portions frequently for fuel. Keep your eating clean, be prepared so you're not driving through for fast food. Drink plenty of water. Don't get caught without a healthy snack. Don't just eat haphazard during the craziness of the week. Pass on the office pot-luck or extra goodies.
Concentrate on the people, the activities, and relaxing. Don't skip breakfast. Don't save up your eating for the big meal at dinner. Eat small meals frequently for fuel throughout the day. That way you will not be ravenous when the big dinner is ready. Enjoy your meal and the occasion without guilt. Choose your favorite foods. Don't waste bites and calories on the things that you don't love! Remember tasting at random adds up. Really savor the things you love. Ask yourself if you really need a second serving of anything. Keep alcohol in check. If you eat early enough in the day and weather/surroundings allow, go for a walk after dinner. Enjoy a day of rest and relaxation, but just don't slump out on the couch all day.
The rest of the weekend
Decide before the weekend hits exactly how you will eat. Tell the people you're with and stick to it. It's not about depriving yourself of things you love in a happy situation, it's just a matter of staying under control. Watch out for leftovers, unplanned fancy coffee drinks, handfuls of snacks, that extra cookie, mindless eating.
Get back on it
Don't wait until the new year to get back on track. Don't wait until after Christmas, or the office party, etc. Don't even wait all the way until Monday. Enjoy yourself in moderation and get back on it the very next meal that you can.
Another point worth mentioning
You may be surrounded by people who want to know all about your holiday strategy, your new eating habits or how you got in shape. If so, that's great! You will know when questions are sincere and you can genuinely and freely talk about it. That said, it's worth remembering that you may be around people who just don't want to hear it for whatever reason. Don't be disappointed by this. Stick to what is good for you. What you do is going to get noticed, probably much more than what you say anyway. Be prepared for people to tease you when you say no to seconds, and be prepared for someone to question you if they see you indulge in that cherry pie. Hopefully you'll have someone say, wow, you're an inspiration to me! How are you doing this? You can enjoy yourself, keep it under control and be a real world example of sustainable eating habits!
I'd love to hear about any specific strategies you have for dealing with your eating, your exercise and the people around you (both positive and naysayers) during the holidays!