You don’t have to choose between staying in shape and enjoying yourself this Christmas — do both

It is at this stage of the year when we start to hear stories about how most people will gain between five and 10 pounds of body fat in the run-up to Christmas. I’m not sure if this worries you or not, but a lot of people are terrified about getting fatter in the coming weeks.

They anticipate their workouts falling by the wayside and the holiday food will be calling out to them irresistibly, defeating even the strongest of willpowers.

The reality is that the average weight gained is a modest pound, but a study by the National Institutes of Health found that this seasonal weight gain — even just a pound — is the kind that most people don’t lose when the holidays are over. It simply sneaks up — also known as creeping obesity.

You don’t wake up one morning at age 40 or 50 and wonder how come you are 40lbs fatter. It wasn’t because you ate a 40lb burger the night before. It was a result of the actions and decisions you made in the years previous to this.

Of course, there are others who gain 10lbs over the holidays but did you ever take the time to ask yourself — why does holiday weight gain happen at all?

Most people set an unconscious goal to get in worse shape during December. You may not even realise it, as you would never intentionally set out to get fatter. You may be reverse goal-setting. You simply do it by default. In your mind, you may be accepting that it’s impossible to stay in shape with everything going on throughout the month, so why bother? You think you can either get in better shape or enjoy yourself, but you can’t do both.

You try and reinforce this belief by saying: “I’m too busy meeting clients, and I’m more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there so I eat more. It’s only three weeks of mayhem and I can lose any pounds I gain at the beginning of January.”

These are all excuses. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and our time is dictated by our highest life priorities. Your schedule never lies. In fact, Parkinson’s principle states that things of high priority in your life that are not scheduled in your diary will get replaced by things of low priority. So the question becomes — is your training scheduled as an appointment in your diary or is it left to chance? Words mean little and it is your actions that will reveal your true priorities.

The real reason people gain weight in December is because they never set out to do the opposite: that is, to get in better shape in the run-up to Christmas. You can enjoy the holidays and stay in shape at the same time. After all, you can’t enjoy anything in life, including family or holidays, if you don’t have your health.

I’m not that different from you. I have many of the same challenges and problems but I make a conscious decision to stay in shape in the run-up to holidays or when I am studying abroad and on aeroplanes and living in hotels.

I can say that travelling is a pain and that I can’t stay on a strict nutrition and training programme when I am on the road. I can resign to not bother and let my expectations create my reality or else I can challenge my limiting beliefs.

Why can’t I challenge myself to get in better shape when I am travelling? There are no good reasons, only excuses. I now look at strategies to build health while travelling.
I write my training programme before I leave and I look at hotel gyms or local gyms at the destination in advance of travelling. I can prepare food to eat on planes, so airline food is never an excuse; or I can chose accommodation that has a kitchen, and shop after I check in and cook my own food. I can be a victim of my circumstances or I can be a master of my destiny and create a strategy to improve when I am faced with challenges.

What are you going to do differently this December? Life is not an either/or proposition — it’s a matter of balance. Success does not mean going to extremes but it may be as simple as re-examining your beliefs, rearranging your priorities and changing the questions you ask yourself.

Your expectations will become your reality. What are you expecting? Are you expecting success? Are you expecting to be in better shape after Christmas parties, celebrations, dinners and desserts? If not then why not?

What’s preventing you from enjoying all of the above and still getting in better shape?

You can have a result or an excuse but you can’t have both. Your activities over the coming weeks will have a big bearing on what your health goals will be for 2010, and what better goal than to be leaner than you were in 2009?

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