Finish Strong, Start Healthy

One November I found myself living in a new town where I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t get invited to holiday parties and no guests were coming to visit. I felt sad. One day at the Y I saw an advertisement for half price sessions with personal trainers during December.

I gifted myself.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I went to the gym at 6 am three days a week to lift, stretch, throw, and run. My trainer prodded encouraged me out of my comfort zone. It was great! As the month went by I felt more mellow, and happier. I counted my blessings, I adapted. On January 1 I felt strong, energetic, and optimistic. I learned a secret: when I finished the year strong, I started the next one healthy.

What do you do in December? Many people eat a lot, drink more than usual, fight with at least one relative, run up credit card debt, and stumble past the end of the year to face January’s dreaded ritual (cue menacing music): the New Year’s resolution to lose ten pounds.

This is not a good idea. I tell you why based on common sense and insights drawn from years of work in nutrition and health as a registered dietitian (R.D.).

  • January is a miserable month. You’re worn out, your clothes don’t fit, you’re still carrying on the mental argument with your crazy step-sister over what she said on Christmas Eve, and you don’t want to think about the coming AmEx bill. This is not the time to rouse, bleary-eyed, from the sofa where you’re huddled under granny’s afghan, squeeze into lycra, and venture into ice and snow to a crowded, sweat-filled building packed with other resolutionists you must fight for an available treadmill or place in class.
  • Other than fresh citrus, there’s not much good going on in the food world in January. Your body wants rich, meaty stews, buttered popcorn, hot chocolate bobbing with marshmallows. These don’t lead to a ten-pound weight loss. It is not a good time to begin a diet.
  • You know you won’t lose the ten pounds this year because you didn’t last year or the year before. You do try, but to make it happen you’ll want to change your approach. This time, start before the holidays. Adopt my finish strong, start healthy plan the day after Thanksgiving.

Three reasons why exercise is a game changer during the holidays:

  1. If you don’t gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Years, you won’t have to lose it in January.
    Isn’t that simple? You’ll begin the year weighing what you did in October. That’s a win!
  2. If you exercise three times a week during the holidays you’ll find it easier to control your food and beverage intake in a natural, healthy way. I want more wholesome, healthy foods when I work out regularly. The salty, greasy stuff doesn’t appeal. I learned that the season I hired the trainer.
  3. We expect fairy-tale holidays, but sometimes real life disappoints. Many people experience sadness, depression, or anxiety during the holidays. We grieve missing loved ones, or spend time with people who know which button to push to get us irritated or angry. When things are good we feel overwhelmed. In my opinion, much of holiday weight gain comes from stress eating. We drink another glass of wine to unwind, eat another cookie to soothe ourselves, or open the fridge at night when we can’t sleep and gulp eggnog from the carton. Working out releases stress and sends out a surge of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.

Would you like to finish strong and start healthy?

Here are practical recommendations to make it work:

  • PAY for a committed exercise program of some kind. It could be a series of kick boxing classes, sessions with a personal trainer, or classes at a top-notch spinning studio. It is a gift to yourself. Avoid generic promises without a financial commitment. Saying “I’m going to walk more” often doesn’t stick. If you pay, you’re more likely to stay with it.
  • Seek your physician’s approval before beginning any exercise activity. If cleared to exercise, choose an activity of moderate intensity with two or three thirty-second spurts of higher intensity mixed in. That means you’ll need to monitor your heart rate and follow the guidelines set by your trainer and/or physician. Intervals of higher intensity help modulate insulin resistance, stimulate the growth of lean muscle mass, and provoke the release of the neurotransmitters and hormones that improve mood and brain function.
  • To regulate what you eat, build barriers around big temptations. I gained 85 pounds during my first pregnancy because I sat on the sofa and drank eggnog every day between December 18 and New Years Day. I love eggnog, so now I have an eggnog rule. I may drink it on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. I pour leftovers down the drain so it’s not available otherwise.

Do you want to finish strong, start healthy?

It’s a great approach for anyone who wants to remove “Lose ten pounds” from the New Years’ resolution list, minimize seasonal depression and holiday stress, and start the year feeling great.

Any takers? Let me know in the comments section. What fitness activity will you give yourself this holiday season in order to finish strong and start healthy?

©2016 Booktalk Lady LLC

6 thoughts on “Finish Strong, Start Healthy”

  1. Good logic and motivation, Deb. Actually, since we are nearly unpacked and settled in our new downsized home and our Celebration Party–for our 25th anniversary, Les’s 70th birthday, and a house warming thrown in as well–is behind usl I had planned to get back to my aqua fit classes. I wasn’t thinking of holiday pounds, energy, or mood hormones, just excited that we were finished moving non-stop each day to get unpacked. In summer I was successful in keeping on my aqua fit routines at the pool less than 5 minutes from our apt. Then I kept going a few times when not worn out from emptying all those boxes. Now I (oddly enough given the season) have time to fit the class into my routines! So I am ready to try your suggesion!

    1. Deborah Rankin, RD

      So glad you survived the move Peggy, that’s a big job. Great timing to get the aqua fit back into your regular schedule now!

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