December’s Small Step: Get Back on the Horse

Hard to believe it was just a month ago that I was supplying November’s Small Step: Be Ready for the Onslaught offering tips on how to get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years without completely abandoning fitness goals.  Now that we’re at the first week of December and only half-way through the onslaught, it’s time to either double down on your strategy or get back on the horse if you’ve fallen off.  So, December’s Small Step is really just a recap of November’s Small Step:

Be Miserly

I like to think of my daily calorie allotment as if they are dollars.  I’m not suggesting that you keep a literal running count of calories consumed throughout the day.  (Heavens no!)  Instead, when faced with a possible indulgence, ask yourself how much that indulgence is worth to you.  Would you spend your last couple of bucks to have it?  Think about it, if you’ve recently stepped on the scale and were pleasantly surprised at the number staring back at you or if you survived a killer workout this morning, why erase that accomplishment consuming something that doesn’t really excite or satisfy you?  For example, I wouldn’t spend my precious calorie budget on donuts, sugary flavorings or whipped cream in my coffee, any ice cream that has mint in it, candy that doesn’t have chocolate in it, cocktails or domestic mass-produced beer.  These items may be pleasurable indulgences to others but they aren’t things I really enjoy.  To consume them would truly be consuming empty calories for me – not only are they overloaded with calories of no nutritional value but I get no pleasure from eating them.  I will, however, indulge in small quantities of dark chocolate, croissants, bread and real butter, good quality cheese, homemade chocolate chip cookies, port wine and micro-brewed beers.  What’s on your “worth it” and “not worth it” lists?

Adopt a Balance Sheet Mentality

This takes the idea of thinking about food in terms of a budget to the next level.  As you go through the holiday season, try to think about ending each day in the black (as opposed to in the red) in terms of calories.

Plan ahead. I practice this year round.  When you have a party or dinner out on the calendar, plan to eat differently that day.  Have several small low-calorie, low-fat, nutritious snacks – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy – every few hours throughout the day.  This approach guards against consuming a lot of calories before your night out while keeping you from becoming famished.  Then you can give yourself permission to enjoy yourself knowing, even if you over-indulge a little, it won’t break the calorie bank.

Don’t be greedy. This goes back to the principle of imagining you have limited calories to “spend.”  Yes, indulge but don’t indulge everything.  At one party you may want to sample the cheese board, at another gathering you could be more in a cocktail mood, and at a restaurant you may want to end the meal with dessert.  In all these cases, you’re choosing one indulgence and keeping the rest of the meal light.  Enjoy and savor your treats so that a small amount will be enough to satisfy your craving.

Make time for exercise.  This can be very difficult this time of year because time seems especially evasive with so many additional demands on it.  But that is precisely why it needs to be a priority.  In the context of the holiday season, exercise serves three purposes: it relieves stress, gives you energy and boosts immunity, and provides insurance against weight gain.  What do I mean by insurance?  There will be days when too many calories are consumed, exercise burns off some of those extra calories giving you a fighting chance of ending the day in the black.

We’ve only one month of the onslaught remaining.  We can get through this.  Play hard-to-get with your calories.  I promise you will enjoy what you eat so much more that way and still have a real chance at starting the new year fit & happier.

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