So here’s the normal story: The holiday season takes a toll on your health: it’s a vortex of parties and booze and stress and family and too much cheese and chocolate and everyone just falls down the rabbit hole and then we collectively emerge into the New Year with uncomfortable pants and empty bank accounts.

 

I will hear people say “I always gain weight around the holidays because there is just so much food”. But here’s the deal: food doesn’t make you gain weight. YOU choosing to eat too much food makes you gain weight. I don’t care what kind of Italian grandmother you have, no one is forcing you to overeat.  No one is forcing you to binge drink. *

*Unless you spend Christmas at Senor Frog’s in Cancun. If that’s the case, there is nothing I can do to save you.

I’m writing this on December 1st inviting you to re-think your upcoming holiday season and what it can mean for your health. Here are three ways the holidays can work FOR you instead of against you:

  1. When your routine is disrupted, you can be more mindful of your choices

At this point, you’ve probably established a routine to your week, and I’m hoping you took my advice back in September and integrated some healthy habits that you don’t even really need to think about. But the holidays provide an awesome opportunity to do exactly that…think about it. It might be your habit to go for a run before work…but when you run on Christmas morning before you spike your coffee with Bailey’s it’s a serious win (and will make you much more tolerant of your family for the rest of the day).

  1. Your family can help you get fit

One of the biggest predictors of lifetime adherence to exercise is family and social support. This is the reason why people who exercise in groups (like my awesome Toronto Bootcamps) are six times more likely to stick to their exercise program and therefore achieve their goals. So while you are spending time with your family this holiday, get them involved with your fitness aspirations. Ask for (and give!) fitness related gifts (a race entry, a sweet fitbit bracelet, a month at a yoga studio, a windproof jacket for winter running, etc etc). Suggest a post dinner dance party (kids love this) or a morning hike.  You might be thinking, “but, Oonagh: my mum is Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous. My dad is Homer Simpson and my brother is already lining up for the new Star Wars movie. No one is going to going to bite on that hike thing”. Maybe true – so this is your opportunity to lead by example.  You My Familymight be surprised that others might be relieved to get a bit of movement as well.

  1. Go for the cheese. (No, not that cheese – I mean, like, the ‘Christmas spirit’ cheese)

It’s possible that your Christmas has deviated somewhat from celebrating the baby Jesus and towards celebrating this moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation:

 

shitter

 

But your heart would have to be a grinchly three sizes too small if you don’t have at least a moment during the season where you are moved to pause and reflect on your good fortune and make a little wish for world peace.

grinch

If that sentiment carries out into a participating in a local faith community or volunteering with your local food bank, there’s a lot to indicate that that can be very good for your health. Multiple studies have shown that religious attendance and volunteer activities can improve your cardiovascular health, your mood and mental functioning and ‘decrease your risk of premature death.’

If that doesn’t motivate you, think of this: there’s a reason you’ve designed your normal life to exercise consistently and drink moderately and sleep and all that. Because it makes you feel good. And what better time to feel good than the holidays? But listen –  if your holidays make you feel good the way they are –  if you love the annual ritual of suspending all your ‘healthy living’ rules and indulging in the big sloppy glittery mess of it all – than I salute you for being intentional in your choices and I’ll see you in January with open arms (and lots of burpees). But if you here on December 1st cringing at the inevitability of being 10lbs heavier a month from now, I invite you to remember that you are the one in control of your December and if you are determined to keep a fingernail hold on your fit self, click here for advice on How To Stay Fit When it’s Party Time.

Happy Holiday Season!!