By Michael Fagone
The “they” I am referring to are the holidays. I don’t know about you, but I enter January with a sense of shock and awe. You know the holidays happened but you don’t quite know how you got through or how everything got done. I cannot wait for life to quiet down and get back to my routine.
Someone asked me how I survive the holidays with both my diet and exercise in check. For me, those two things provided the stability and energy I needed to get through.
I once read that you should treat your workouts like doctor appointments. I do just that. I consider them immovable.
As many of you probably know it becomes too easy for workouts to get bumped and then altogether forgotten. I don’t allow myself to do that. I made the decision to make getting healthy my number one priority and I am unwavering in that mindset. Staying consistent through challenging times is hard, but if you can manage, it makes long-term compliance so much easier.
But what about the diet portion? My diet in general is very simple. I eat the same things all the time. I call it a wash-rinse-repeat approach to eating. However, the holidays are challenging food-wise for anyone, including me. I work with children and the parents generously bring us lots of treats. Since I am the boss, they hand them to me. I hand them right off to my staff and that’s that. I would love to dive right into those cookies but I also know how hard I have worked and where I came from, so out of sight, out of mind.
Many assume the holidays are the worst time to start a diet. I told them I actually think it is the best time because if you can learn to manage your food through the holidays, you can do it anytime.
In the last 22 months, there have been exactly FOUR times that I had a dessert/sweet. That’s it. I had planned desserts on Thanksgiving and Christmas these last two years (with my nutritionist’s ok). The first three times were either a healthier dessert option or one ridiculously small square of crumb cake. But what about that fourth time?
I am at the point in my weight loss that even my nutritionist has told me that an occasional treat isn’t going to hurt me. But I haven’t been ready. I was at a friend’s holiday party and there were these delicious looking cupcakes. I decided to have one. My diet is very clean and I am very consistent with my exercise. I logically knew one cupcake wouldn’t ruin things. Except that I couldn’t stop thinking about that cupcake. I was thinking about it a little too much. So I knew that was NOT the night to lower my guard and I didn’t have it. I didn’t want to open Pandora’s Box.
So when this Christmas approached, I made the decision that I would have dessert on Christmas as I did the previous year. Except this year, I was going to have the dessert that I wanted and not the one that was the better choice. My nutritionist once talked to me about choosing holiday treats wisely. She said to choose those items that make the holiday special instead of eating sweets that you can have any time of the year.
And that’s what I did. I actually ended up trying two different desserts. But instead of the brownies or cookies that I could have anytime, I chose desserts that I don’t ever have access to on any kind of regular basis. It was a HUGE step for me. I wondered if I had made the right choice.
The next night I worked out with Jason and ran out of breath during an exercise. I immediately told him it was because of the desserts. He just gave me the look he usually does when he knows I am being dramatic. But it still took me a couple of days to be okay with the decision I had made.
And that was the key point. I made a decision ahead of time to have dessert. It was a planned treat instead of an impulse. I looked back on where I had come from. Christmases in the past would have started with me downing a number of Reese’s Christmas trees before breakfast, then maybe donuts for breakfast, followed by all the dinner fixings and desserts I wanted and then ending the night with a bunch of the sweets and candy that parents had given to me. And now I can say that I had controlled and planned treats on four days out of the last 700+ days. I have come a LONG way.
I am very hard on myself. Some would say too hard. I am still a work in progress. Because I have been successfult many think I have this in the bag. But I still struggle with mustering the energy and finding the time to get those workouts in and I still stress over every calorie.
If you can get through the holidays with both your diet and exercise balanced and in check, the rest of the times are so much easier. Being consistent with my workouts and being mindful of how I was eating were the key ways that I survived the holidays with this whole diet and exercise thing.
Now how many days until next Christmas?