... And It's Not Why You Might Think
The holidays are a magical time. For many of us, this time of the year is full of festivities, events, and quality time spent making memories with loved ones.
It’s also a time when our routines get thrown completely out of whack. Many people take time off of work, travel, or are busy hosting relatives visiting from out of town. There are family gatherings, company parties, and celebrations with friends. Somewhere in there, among all the merriment, there’s shopping, house cleaning, gift wrapping, and driving in holiday traffic!
Because of the holiday hustle and bustle, many people decide that it’s too much of a hassle to keep up a workout schedule and be mindful about eating healthy, nourishing foods. With so much on the to-do list, they may throw in the towel during those last six weeks of the year and indulge to their heart’s desire, vowing to get back to their routine again come January.
While taking a few weeks off from your healthy eating and exercise routine may not take a huge toll on your strength or physique, there is something far more important at stake with an extended hiatus: those healthy habits that you’ve worked so hard to develop.
Anyone who has put in the work to form healthy habits knows that it isn’t exactly a cinch to get them to stick initially. And once certain healthy behaviors become automated, they can still be relatively fragile, especially the “younger” a habit is. Here’s an example:
I recently took a trip to Moab, Utah, and for four mornings in a row, we got up at 4 a.m. to hike to some incredible spots to catch the sunrise. The first morning, exhausted and hungry, we decided to indulge. We stopped and grabbed a coffee, and a chocolate donut. I don’t particularly love donuts, so they usually aren’t worth it for me, but perhaps because I was sleep deprived (more on this in a moment) that donut tasted incredible to me. So good, in fact, that we got up the next morning for coffee and donuts… and the next, and then the next. Four mornings in a row of gas station coffee, chocolate donuts, and witnessing the beauty of the sun rising over the incredible landscape in Moab.
The morning after we returned home, I found myself craving chocolate donuts with my morning cuppa joe. Even though I’ve been completely happy with meat and vegetables for breakfast for years now, I found myself wanting a donut really badly.
Why the sudden craving for a donut? Four mornings of a rich, sugary treat, combined with the feel-good emotions of witnessing the sunrise with someone I care about had threatened my seemingly concrete healthy habit. Habits become more stable the longer that we engage in the behavior, but they are never completely impervious to change.
Healthy habits, during certain circumstances, may take a bit more awareness and effort to maintain than usual.
The holidays are a great example of one such set of circumstances. When faced with an influx of treats, cocktails, and opportunities to skip out on exercise, it’s important that we do whatever we can to bulletproof the healthy behaviors that we’ve worked so hard to automate.
Here are a few things you can do to keep those healthy habits intact throughout the holiday season and ensure that you sail smoothly into the new year, without the added stress of trying to unravel some newly formed bad habits.
If you typically train four days a week, I encourage you to continue to move your body a few days per week during the holidays. Even if you only have 20 minutes to spare, make sure to get it in. You can get a lot of work done in 20 minutes. Besides, the goal is to ensure that you stay in the groove of moving your body several days a week. Even if you aren’t going to the gym or following your regular training program, get outside and take a brisk walk, go snowshoeing, throw yourself a dance party—just do something that gets you moving.
Remember, when it comes to exercise, any amount of movement is always better than none at all.
Any time that I know my routine is going to be thrown for a loop, the first thing that I do is prioritize more sleep. If I have travel coming up, a deadline, or anything else that I know is going to add stress, I start going to bed earlier a few weeks beforehand.
Getting an adequate amount of high-quality sleep is always incredibly important, but even more so during times like the holidays.
Sleep ensures that you are refreshed and energized, and also boosts willpower. You have probably noticed that when you are tired, sugary treats and junk food are virtually impossible to say no to. With the influx of treats during the holidays, it’s important that you are well-rested.
By providing yourself with a bit of extra sleep, you are less likely to succumb to temptation when surrounded by treats. Many holiday nutrition struggles can be avoided by prioritizing more sleep during the holiday season.
The “Big Rocks” are the things that make the biggest impact—what will make the biggest difference first. The Small Rocks are the little things that don’t make a huge difference without first taking care of your Big Rocks. For most people, the Big Rocks in nutrition are adequate protein and vegetable intake.
When it comes to holidays, we want you to enjoy yourself! But that also means treating a treat like a treat, and still continuing to eat the foods that nourish your body and make you feel fantastic. For me, this means prioritizing protein and vegetables at every meal, and then indulging in something that is truly worth it, and truly enjoying every delectable bite.
At Girls Gone Strong, we are huge fans of self-care. Self-care means taking some time for yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the chaos of the holiday season, and to focus on making sure everybody is taken care of—but remember you. You need some care, too.
Self-care means intentionally making time for yourself to do whatever feels good for you, and that looks different for everybody. Make some time to do something that rejuvenates you and allows you to find some peace. This could be five minutes, or five hours, but it’s important that you continue to take this time for yourself throughout the holidays.
Perhaps it’s a walk, a bath, dancing, having coffee with a friend, or crawling into your bed in the middle of the day and laying there in silence for 20 minutes while you feel how good the clean sheets feel. Whatever makes you feel really good, please continue to do that throughout the holidays. It’s important.
The holidays are a wonderful time, and we want you to enjoy them completely, and relish in every magical moment. But we also understand and respect how much hard work you’ve put into your healthy habits, and we want to help you carry those into the new year.
Remember, prioritizing exercise, healthy food, sleep, and self-care through the holidays has nothing to do with calories!
It’s about protecting those healthy habits that you’ve worked so hard to establish.
If you are a coach or personal trainer, remember that this time of year is challenging for many people due to a more hectic schedule. Let your client know how great it is that they showed up! A few things to consider:
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