Plan to Succeed
There’s a popular saying in the fitness industry: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Wanting to achieve a goal, even one as simple as making sure you stay at your goal weight during the holidays, requires planning. When you get too confident about achieving your most recent results, believing that nothing can take your success away from you, this is when you’re most likely to slip and fall off the wagon.
Whether you want to maintain your weight, lose more weight, or just avoid over doing it this holiday season, I highly recommend writing down your goals. Physically writing down your goals has been shown in studies to be more effective at producing results so make sure that you arm yourself with a notebook planner that has a weekly calendar and a pen.
Depending on how detailed you want to get, there are three levels of planning: macro, meso, and micro. At the very least, you want to have a micro plan. For the holidays, I’d recommend a meso plan. If you’re a go-getter, creating a macro plan is the way to go.
- One-week plan
- Number of workouts per week
- Weekly dietary goal and caloric intake limits
- Weekly weight loss / muscle building goals (e.g. – Losing 0.5 pounds per week)
- One-month plan
- Contains four micro-cycles
- Focuses on overall goal (e.g. – Lose 3 pounds by the end of the month)
- Will change according to progress and desires
- Yearly fitness plan
- Contains 12 meso-cycles
- The big picture goal (e.g. – Lose 15 pounds and look amazing in a bikini)
- Will change often based on you how you are progressing
Your fitness plan should be one part of your overall schedule. Let’s talk about a few more things that you can place within your schedule in the coming sections.
If you are wondering what type of workout you should be doing to ensure success on your fitness plan, I recommend high intensity interval training.
More commonly called H.I.I.T., these are fast-paced workouts that focus on primarily bodyweight exercises. Not only are H.I.I.T. workouts proven to be more effective than a traditional long duration, low intensity workout but they also save time. H.I.I.T. workouts take no more than 30 minutes and will provide incredible results. (1)
If you think that’ll have trouble performing a H.I.I.T. workout at home then I’d recommend signing up for a High Intensity Interval Training class two to three times per week. You can easily find a class near your home by using Class Pass or Yelp.
Mornings are the best time to get things accomplished. You can capitalize on the surge of hormones that are busy waking your body up to engage in activities that set the pace for the rest of the day.
Having a set morning routine is something that is recommended by many self-help gurus such as Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. You don’t need to have a list as lengthy as theirs but I do recommend taking the morning for yourself, even if you can only spare 15 to 30 minutes.
Here are some ideas for things to can do as soon as you get out of bed:
- Morning walk
- Crawling (discover the benefits of crawling)
- Work on your fitness plan from above
Speaking of your fitness plan, whatever you choose to do for your morning routine is a great thing to incorporate into your macro, meso, and micro cycles. The more you can plan out on paper, the better your chances for consistency and success.
Take Care of Your Body
Your body is like a machine. Once in a while, you’re going to need to take it in for basic maintenance. If you don’t, you put yourself at risk for the body breaking down.
Several times a month during the holidays, you should be showing your body some TLC. I highly recommend getting some type of bodywork performed once or twice a week during the stressful holiday season. Don’t worry, not all bodywork requires you to go out and spend money. Here are some of the most popular examples of bodywork.
- Soak in Epsom salt bath
- Massage from significant other
- Deep tissue massage
Again, you can incorporate your bodywork sessions into your overall fitness plan as mentioned above.
Supplement with Vitamin D
While Florida and SoCal may still be enjoying rays of sunshine during the winter months, the rest of the country is blanketed by clouds. Fall and Winter weather can be beautiful but these are also the seasons where seasonal depression spikes. This is because a lack of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that plays an essential role in hundreds of daily processes per day including your mood and how you feel. When vitamin D levels are low, you’re likely to experience mood swings and depression. Where does the body get most of its vitamin D? The sun! (2)
During the spring and summer, you’re running around outside and your body is soaking up sunshine. Yes, too much sunshine may contribute to pre-mature skin aging as well as several types of skin cancer. With that said, sunshine is something of an essential nutrient. You just need to consume it in moderation. 10 minutes per day of sunshine while wearing a light moisturizer with SPF 15 is considered safe and essential for vitamin D production.
When you are stuck in the house due to rain, snow, or the bitter cold, you don’t have that chance to soak up the sunshine. The result may be low vitamin D levels then symptoms such as seasonal depression begin. When you’re stuck inside and not feeling like yourself, your chances of emotional eating skyrocket.
If you want to get in your daily dose of vitamin D and protect your weight loss, this is where a vitamin D supplement can help. I recommend taking a 1,000 to 2,500 IU of a high-quality Vitamin D3 every day. Again, write this down on your macro, meso, and micro plans.
Plan Daily Activities
My first tip for you to stay healthy during the holidays was all about planning to succeed. This includes a workout program, meal planner, body work, and morning routines. Do you know what else you need to plan? To have fun!
During the colder months, it can be easy to fall into a monotonous pattern of binge watching Netflix as you wait for the warmer weather to arrive. Spring won’t be arriving any time soon so in order to save your weight loss progress and your mental health, you need to pencil in some fun on your schedule.
I recommend planning something fun to do each day, even if it’s something that is small like watching a YouTube comedian. These little changes in your schedule will help you have a better outlook on things while keeping you moving. Here is a list of some things you can plan to do during the holiday months:
- Visit an exhibit at a museum
- Take an art class
- Carve pumpkins
- Explore the center of a nearby town
- Have a game night with friends
- Walk through your local park
- Cooking classes
Remember, write these fun activities down on your weekly and monthly calendars.
Get on a Sleep Schedule
We have just one more thing to write down on your calendar and it comes at the end of each day. Sleep is an essential part of your fitness success regardless of what day of the year it is.
Sleep is the time when our bodies wind down and start to recover after a long day. Toxins are flushed out and you can wake feeling renewed. When you’re skipping on sleep, you’re more likely to gain weight. (3)
I highly recommend getting yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. That means powering down your electronics an hour before bed, drinking some herbal tea such as lavender, and reading a physical book. Reading a physical book, not an e-reader, has been shown to promote sleep much better than reading from your cellphone or tablet. I recommend the following books but there are plenty to choose from:
Just Say “No”
Outside of your macro, meso, and micro plans, here are a few tips and tricks for staying healthy during the holidays.
When the holidays arrive, a few things seem to be universal: people have more time off of work, old friends and family are back in town, and everyone wants to go out more, usually to drink.
Stress is one of the most common reasons that people are likely to slip up during the holidays. Combine this with the availability and convenience of having calorie-loaded junk food and alcoholic beverages nearby and you have a recipe for weight gain.
The best thing you can do for your weight and your mental health is to avoid stressful, unnecessary situations. You don’t need to go to every party and you certainly don’t need to feel obligated to catch up with that family member who makes your teeth clench. Instead, just say that you’re busy. Your blood pressure and waist line will thank you.
Stock the Frig the Right Way
During the holidays, your refrigerator can quickly become loaded with delicious foods that are also an enemy of your fitness goals. Instead of letting your refrigerator become a loading dock for unhealthy foods, get ahead of the curve and stock your refrigerator the right way.
First, make sure that the refrigerator is focused on foods that are high in protein and healthy fats but lower in carbohydrates. Here are some great examples:
- Greek yogurt
Second, be sure to remove or give away all foods items that are processed and high in sugar. These are going to be your biggest challenge because they taste great and can quickly escalate a bad diet.
Third, when eating, stick to supplements or power foods in the morning. For example, I start my day by consuming one or more of the following
- Bone broth
- Bullet proof coffee
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dash of baking soda mixed in water
I’d also recommend using B-vitamins and electrolytes when drinking the items mentioned above. Speaking of things you might want to drink in the morning…
Use Caffeine Wisely
As a global population, we are addicted to caffeine. You may think that people from the U.S. drink a crazy amount of coffee. You personally might even drink two cups a day but when compared to the rest of the world, the United States doesn’t even break into the top 20. Still, this doesn’t make over consumption of coffee and subsequently caffeine a good thing.
Caffeine, the chemical in coffee that gives you a brain jolt in the morning, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, caffeine has been shown to boost cognitive ability and it may even help protect you from cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, drinking too much caffeine can result in anxiety, increased heart rate, and insomnia. (4)
If you’re already dealing with stress during the holidays, caffeine may act like jet fuel being poured on an open fire. Drinking a cup of coffee a day is fine but don’t overdo it, especially if you have prior medical conditions.
If you’re drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee or caffeine-laced products each day, it may be time for a detox. You can over work your adrenal glands resulting in adrenal fatigue. If you need a cup or two of coffee just to wake up in the morning, there’s a really good chance you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue.
By cutting out coffee for a few weeks, you’re letting your body’s natural hormonal systems get back on track. This will benefits your fitness goals, especially your sleep schedule.
The same rules apply to alcohol. In stressful situations, alcohol is just fuel on the fire. What’s more, alcohol is nothing but empty calories that can ruin your track record of good eating. I’d recommend taking a break from alcohol as well as caffeine. If you drink either, do so responsibly.
Do you follow any of these tips and tricks during the holidays? What have your results been since you started? Have any questions about something I covered? Let me know in the comments below!
1. Foster C, Farland CV, Guidotti F, et al. The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2015;14(4):747-755.
2. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics. 2012;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506.
3. “Benefits of Sleep.” Benefits of Sleep | Healthy Sleep, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep.
4. Whiteman, Honor. “Caffeine: How Does It Affect Our Health?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 28 Oct. 2015, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271707.php.