Surviving December: a guide to get you through to January

You know the deal: December can be tough. And I know you can find a ton of these kinds of articles on the web. So I’m going to cut out all the fluff and just get to the point. Here are seven very straightforward strategies you can try out to get that calendar page turned over to January 1.

You should not try to fight December. You will probably eat more than you normally do. You will experience holiday stress. You probably won’t exercise as much. You might gain weight, turn pale, get a little depressed, find yourself irritable and saying things like, “I hate the holidays.”

I’m here to say: just go with it. Take things as they come in December and build around that. So here, in no particular order, are 7 things that you can do to survive the holidays:
  1. Lift heavier. My wife and I both lift a little heavier in December, and in winter in general. Why? Because during this time when you’re likely consuming more calories that you normally would, you may as well train a little harder and heavier and try to put on a little muscle. Now ladies, I know you’re probably saying, “Oh no, I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder.” Trust me on this: bodybuilders train very very hard to look like they do. Lifting a little heavier will only make you look better in your clothes. Guys, this can be an easier sell to y’all. Think strength and size in December. Keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post, “How to put on a little muscle in December for guys and ladies.”
  2. Try to eat smaller meals during the day by avoiding excessive carbs during the daylight hours. This strategy is very easy to adopt as a habit once you get into it. Starting your morning with a carb-bomb in your stomach can set the stage for a blood sugar roller coaster throughout the day. Sticking to proteins for breakfast: (eggs, salmon, chicken sausage, breakfast sausage, etc) and staying away from the typical carb-based breakfasts like cereal, bagels, muffins, croissants, etc. Then at lunch try to avoid bread products and other sources of carbs like rice. Think salads, a tupperware filled with meat and veggies, etc. See # 3. A very basic rule of thumb is to keep the carbs under 25 grams at each of these meals.
  3. Plan your meals for the week. Again, I’m just telling you what we do, but we try to focus on higher quality proteins (we are meat eaters, sorry vegans) and vegetables as the center of our evening meals. We do include starchy carbs in the evening without over-consuming them. This often means potatoes, rice, corn, etc. We try to avoid wheat and the gluten grains as much as we can. This is a choice that works well for us. But whatever your eating habits, if you plan out and shop for the upcoming week’s meals, you’re far less likely to find yourself hungry, lazy, and dialing up your favorite takeout joint.
  4. Figure out what your daily calorie requirements are and try to stick close to that. Many people simply eat way too much food over the holidays. It’s always a useful exercise to use an app or online calculator to get an idea how many calories you need on a daily basis. You can use these apps to track a few days of eating to dial in approximately how much you SHOULD eat. The old saying,” What gets measured gets managed” applies here. This isn’t a call to obsess over each calorie, but a strategy to get you in the ballpark to avoid mindlessly packing on December pounds. I like the My Fitness Pal app from Under Armour for this task. It’s free and easy to use. Of course there are many others. The online version of My Fitness Pal is available here .
  5. Forget about perfection, it’s too stressful. Once you know what your general calorie requirements are don’t stress if you occasionally go over. Just try to get closer to the number the next day. The problems start when you over eat day after day after day. After all, it’s the holidays.
  6. Consider experimenting with Intermittent Fasting (IF). Intermittent fasting usually means delaying your first calories of the day. The prerequisite here is that you need to have a reasonably healthy metabolism that can last without eating for an extended period. Most people who aren’t overly dependent on food to manage their blood sugar can do this and feel really good. Meredith and I often simply don’t eat our first meal of the day until noon or 1 PM. We’ve found we can effortlessly do this. You can learn more by googling Intermittent Fasting and see if this strategy might be for you. While it’s not for everyone, it is a very easy way to control your total caloric load.
  7. Get outside when possible, particularly on the weekends and get some longer lower level exercise. Obviously weather varies in different parts of the country (and the world). Since we can’t discuss the many different climates that our readers live in, just consider this: make an effort to get some outside exercise at least twice a week, if not more. This would generally be the longer, slower, more aerobic type of training that makes up the most basic level of fitness. I’ll have more on that in the upcoming post: “December Cardio: How to keep the furnace burning”.
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