Stopping the Holiday Weight Gain Tradition

Towards the end of every year as holidays get closer, you’ve probably seen the depressing reports: “Most people gain between 5 and 10 pounds of body fat between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”   I’m not sure if this concerns you or not, but many people anticipate their workouts falling by the wayside and the holiday foods and snacks calling out to them irresistibly, defeating even the strongest willpower.

Well, there’s good news and bad news about this.

The good news: According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average amount  or weight gained is actually much more modest –  between one and two pounds.

The bad news: A study by the National Institutes of Health found that this seasonal weight gain – even just a pound – is the kind of weight gain that most people don’t lose when the holidays are over; it simply adds to the “weight creep” that “sneaks up” on you as you get older.  That’s how people can wake up one morning and “suddenly” they’re 30 pounds fatter – or more – than they used to be. 

Of course, some people really do pack it on over the holidays, but whether its a pound or ten pounds, did you ever ask yourself why does holiday weight gain happen at all?  Here are some common answers to that question:

Holiday Excuse Survey Says…

“I’m too busy over the holidays to work out.”

“I’m more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there, so I eat more.”

“I have at least three parties to attend and then there’s Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s impossible to stay on a diet.”

“No one can tell me not to enjoy myself over the holidays so I’m just going to eat whatever I want.”

These answers all have a few things in common:

“Either/Or” Thinking and “Reverse Goal Setting”

First, they assume that you can EITHER get in better shape OR enjoy yourself, but not both. Stated in reverse: You can either deprive yourself of holiday enjoyments or gain weight, but it has to be one or the other. The truth is, “Either/Or thinking” is neurotic thinking and a great killer of fitness programs.

Second, these are all excuses. “I’m too busy” for example, is always an excuse, but I have never known anyone who was too busy to make time for their highest life priorities. We all have the same amount of time – 24 hours a day – the real problem is, most people don’t make exercise and healthy eating a priority. They say health and fitness are priorities, but remember, words mean little; Actions reveal a person’s true priorities.

Third, none of these are the real reasons most people gain weight over the holidays anyway. The real reason is because an intention was never set for the opposite: To get in better shape over the holidays.  Most people actually set a “goal” to get in worse shape over the holidays. It’s not consciously set, of course, as few people would intentionally set out to get fatter. They simply do it by default. In their minds, they just accept that it must be impossible to stay in shape with everything going on over the holiday season, so why bother?

Rationalizing Lies For Holiday Failure

Once the decision has been made, then the rationalizing continues:

“Why should I deprive myself?”
“Family is more important”
“Worrying about diet and exercise during the holidays is crazy”
“I don’t care if I gain a few pounds, I’m going to enjoy myself anyway”
“It’s only these two or three weeks that I let myself go”
“I’ll start the first week in January and lose the weight then.”

As a result of this “negative goal-setting,” they expect to work out less, eat more and gain a few pounds, and they don’t seem to even consider alternatives.

But what would happen if you…

SET A GOAL TO GET IN BETTER SHAPE over the holidays?

What would happen if you decided that it was not an all or nothing proposition and that you could enjoy the holidays and all they have to offer and get in better shape at the same time?  And what if you decided that your health and your body were the highest priorities in your life, because you realized that you can’t enjoy anything else in life, including family or holidays, if you don’t have your health?

Here’s what would happen: You’d get in better shape!

The idea that you can EITHER enjoy the holidays OR stay in shape – but not both – is wrong, it’s damaging and it’s limiting.  Life is not an either or proposition; it’s a matter of balance.  Success does not mean going to extremes. Success can be a simple matter of rearranging your priorities, setting goals, changing the questions you ask yourself and re-evaluating your expectations.

Your expectations will become your reality. What are you expecting? Are you expecting success? Are you expecting to be in better shape after holiday parties, celebrations, banquets, dinners, and desserts? If not, then why not? What’s preventing you from enjoying all of the above and still getting in better shape? Do you have a limiting belief which dictates that it’s one or the other? Could it be that you never set a goal, intention or expectation to do it? Could it be that you’re rationalizing or making excuses? If so, then I challenge you to change it this year.

Why not see how much you can improve your physique over the holidays, without depriving yourself of any holiday enjoyments or festivities? Just step up your expectations. Step up your standards. Step up your nutrition. Step up your training. Step up your action.

Most people wait until New Year’s to put any effort into improving their body and their health, but you may be starting to realize that NOW is the best time to decide. Set some goals and commit to achieving them. So, the question is "will you accept the challenge?"

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