Don't Wait To Start Battling The Holiday Bulge

I have two words for you this time of year. No, not “Merry Christmas” nor “Happy Chanukah.” My words are “don't wait!” Don’t wait to begin your exercise program and your healthy nutrition plan.

This is the time of year when people are famous for waiting until the New Year to either begin a fitness regime or to get back on track. As the holidays loom before us many people who were following a nutrition and exercise plan push that to the side for shopping, parties, wrapping, etc. It seems easier to self indulge rather than to continue to self discipline. As far as people who have not begun a fitness regime, I wish I had a dollar for everyone sitting in a reclining chair, downing egg nog and Christmas cookies, watching football and vowing they will be the one sprinting down the field come January 2.

Why not wait? For quite a few reasons. One reason is a fact that most people are familiar with. Americans are apt to put on between two pounds and seven pounds during the holiday season. And that would not be seven pounds of muscle. Why bother to put on that extra weight just to struggle to get it off again in January? Maintaining or increasing your physical activity during December, even if you do over indulge at the annual Christmas party or the in-laws house, will keep you from gaining weight. Even if now is not the time to lose weight, it certainly doesn’t have to be the time to gain.

Quite a few years ago I ran an experimental program with a small group of women. These women were the ones most likely to put their exercise program on hold during the Holiday season. We formed a group and committed to meeting for one hour of exercise, two times a week. Even without tweaking their nutrition plan, none of the women gained weight. I realize this is anecdotal, but there is a sleigh full of research to show that while exercise/physical activity alone (without proper nutrition) may not make all individuals lose weight; it will enable most individuals to maintain weight. And remember what our goal is here, getting through the holidays without adding body fat. As an aside, group commitments are one of the best ways to stay accountable, especially during this time of the year. A bit more about that in a moment.

Let’s skip to a superficial reason. No one wants to look like Mr. or Mrs. Potato head in their holiday outfit. You’d have to pack your mean and/or sad eyes in your back pouch, and that’s just extra baggage. Who wants to pick out a gorgeous outfit in November only to find it doesn’t zip or button in December? What better present to your self than to slip that outfit on and effortlessly zip it? This can be achieved by setting aside two to three hours out of the 168 hours available to each of us every week.

Health reasons are always looming in the back of our minds. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, etc. does not take a holiday. For many of us, health issues are something we struggle with year round. There is absolutely no reason to pack on body fat during December and give our bodies even more to contend with.

For those with children, no matter what age, not exercising during the holidays — or exercising during the holidays —sends a message to your family. For those on the naughty list (the “nots”) you are sending a negative message in several ways. One is that exercise and/or taking care of yourself is a low priority. The other underlying message is that it’s okay to slack off and then try to make up for it by “cramming.” We want to set the example of discipline and not be hypocritical about it.

Those parents on the “nice” list let their family know several things. One, of course, is that fitness and health is important. Also that prioritizing and self-discipline is a necessary tool in today’s world. And for the moms out there; it’s okay to say no and to put yourself first sometimes.

So yada, yada, yada about what you should do. The real question is how to go about doing it. As I mentioned before, group settings are great for accountability. The commitment to meet, knowing you will be letting someone down if you don’t live up to your promise and the camaraderie all add up to staying successful. Your group can be your family members and/or a group of friends. If you don’t have a group, join mine (check out "Field Workout" on my web site; Plan to get in at least two hours a week, running, walking or biking for 30 minutes followed by resistance exercises. Resistance exercises do not have to be done in a gym or even indoors. Pushups, sit ups, squats, lunges, for example, can all be done anywhere. If you are completely stuck for ideas, discipline and motivation, hire a professional trainer. You will get more out of your workout and will be more apt to stick with it with a professional trainer.

If you are truly, really, madly, stuck for time, make it work for you. Park as far away from the mall as you can. Walk the inside perimeter of the mall three times prior to beginning you shopping. You will burn some calories, get some warm blood pumping and see what all the stores have to offer.

My closing statement to you is my opening statement: don’t wait! Happy Holidays!