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Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Golden Rules to Gain Control Over the Holidays

Merry Stressmas!
“Don’t judge,” my client said, wandering into my office 15 minutes late. I certainly felt ready to: She had blown off our last two sessions, and truthfully I didn’t expect her to show today.

As she sat down, I noticed she carried a few extra pounds, which she attempted to stealthily conceal beneath a loose-fitting sleeveless Anthropologie dress. Yet my annoyance turned to sympathy as she hurriedly told me her story.

“My mom died earlier this year,” she began. “This was two weeks after I found out my boyfriend of three years was cheating on me. Look, I’ll spare you the pity story. Holidays this year have been brutal for me, a reminder of the pain this year held, and, well, I’ve assuaged my grief with a batch of peppermint bark brownies I baked for my daughter’s school sale.”

I knew what she was going through. I’ve been there, though I chose to drown my sorrows in endless lunges rather than food or alcohol. Regardless of our different approaches, beneath the holiday’s forced cheer lie
looming end-of-year deadlines, resurfaced sorrows, maxed-out credit cards, and other stressors that can seriously dampen what should become a festive, celebratory time.

What we need, I realized talking with my client that day, is a set of ground rules to gain control over the holidays so they don’t gain control of us. The right mindset, embodied in these seven principles, can help you stay – or become – lean, toned, and healthy even if everything else is falling apart.

1. Eat clean but build in splurges. Silly proclamations like “I will piously abstain from all sugary treats this season” create a land mine for temptation, guilt, and ultimately failure. That doesn’t mean you should abandon all logic and deep-dive into the wreath macaroons. A far more logical mentality would be along the lines of “I will stick with lean protein and loads of veggies, but once a week I will allow myself to indulge mindfully in any food I desire.”

2. Don't attempt anything extreme. Skipping meals, pulling near-starvation juice fasts, and trying to do intermittent fasting for days are just a few of the ridiculous shenanigans clients have confessed to undertake during the holidays. I say “undertake” because these futile attempts at weight loss or whatever almost always inevitably end in a downward spiral of drowning themselves in eggnog and red velvet fudge. Repeat this manta: steady blood sugar is your best friend against holiday hunger, cravings, and overeating. Protein, healthy fats, and loads of veggies are your best tickets for steady energy and blood sugar levels.

3. Keep your mind on the big goal. Like it or not, January 1st is around the corner and you can either make a half-hearted resolution or you can like what you see come New Year’s Day. Taking control now becomes self-empowering, reduces regret and false promises, and allows you to confidently enter that big New Year’s Eve party wearing a little black dress or slim-fit jeans. You’re in the driver’s seat here, and every decision you make creates a satisfactory or not-so-likeable outcome. Which will you choose?

4. Amp up your workouts. Gyms are often crickets around the holidays as people have, well, other places to go. Take advantage of that absence by stepping up your own attendance. Take a new class, try a new machine, hire a coach (we’re a little slow this time of year), or just resolve to go, period.

5. Watch stress levels. ‘Tis the season for jolly and frivolity… Except when it’s not. Even if you have a Norman Rockwell family, a laidback boss, a dreamy significant other who bends to your every whim… Well, if you have those things, you’re probably living in a sitcom or a really bad Lifetime holiday movie. Seriously, even then, you’ll still encounter plenty during the holidays that can skyrocket your already-astronomical stress levels. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can become proactive about managing it. Try a yoga class, breathe deeply, express gratitude, and remember that love, joy, and celebration are the real reasons we celebrate.

6. Get enough sleep. Your office party went past midnight and you promised your bestie an early-morning brunch date. You can just cut into your sleep and make it up the following night, right? Wrong. Just one night’s crappy sleep can make you cranky, unhappy, craving seconds of your aunt’s gingerbread cake with buttercream frosting, and not such a pleasant person to be around. Resolve to get eight hours of sleep every night and watch the following day become that much better.

7. Watch your alcohol. Nothing will derail your eating plan, exercise regimen, stress levels, or sleep quota faster than one too many spiked candy cane spritzers. Holidays become practically synonymous with alcohol, whether that involves free-flowing champagne at the office holiday party or that drinking game you and your cousins still play on Christmas Eve. Drowning your sorrows in sugary holiday alcoholic concoctions will only stress your liver, your waistline, and your mental health. Develop an alcohol curfew, such as “I will have two glasses of pinot noir, double that amount of water, and then step away. Just because the party has an open bar does not mean I have to become an open lush!”

Remember, you can’t control the weather, your crazy in-laws, or really a lot of things, but you have complete control over your mindset to develop healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

Have you ever entered a holiday social function with the best of intentions, yet something – a favorite food, a spiked drink, or maybe a special someone – promptly knocked you off guard? Share your story below or on my Facebook fan page.
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2014 Jinifit, Inc.

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