A Radical Approach To The Holidays

What I’m about to tell you is a radical idea. An idea that goes against everything you are going to hear the next few weeks. 

I'm good at following directions during the holidays.

I’m good at following directions during the holidays.

Honestly, coming from the fitness profession, I don’t even think this is said very often, but it should be. Are you ready? Here it goes:

You should never feel guilty for enjoying yourself with your family and friends during the holiday season.

There it is.  I said it.

Want to know another dirty little secret?

I know hundreds of personal trainers and fitness coaches, and almost every single one of them thoroughly enjoys themselves during the holiday season.  They eat stuffing, scalloped potatoes, pumpkin pie (with whipped cream of course), and even have a glass of egg nog. Sure, some may be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc… But they still all indulge in their favorite holiday foods.  You don’t need a personal trainer sitting next to you at the Thanksgiving table telling you what to eat.  Just eat and enjoy!

Crazy, right?

You may be thinking, “but what about all those low-carb stuffings and bland turkey recipes I see advertised in fitness and health magazines?” I bet you maybe only one or two employees of that magazine sits down on Thanksgiving and carves into one of those flavorless turkeys.

They are manipulating your emotions to try and make you feel guilty and unhealthy about enjoying yourself during the holidays.  They are trying to sell magazines and workout programs.

I don’t work that way.

Research studies have shown that shame and guilt have negative effects that can cause people to overeat more than if they fully enjoyed their meal.  

Being healthy is about finding balance and moderation in your life as much as it is about physical activity and nutrition. I believe that while being physically active and keeping mindful about your food choices is extremely important, so is having balance in your life and not being overly restrictive.

If you are ever made to feel guilty or ashamed by a personal trainer, then they have not been studying psychology at all.  

Punishing yourself, restricting yourself, and feeling guilty about enjoying yourself is not good for your health, both physically and mentally.  In many cases it leads to disordered eating habits.

This is how someone feels when they diet on Thanksgiving

This is how someone feels when they restrict themselves on Thanksgiving

So what’s my strategy as I head into the holiday season?

Well first off, I plan on eating everything in sight on Thanksgiving.  It’s only one day and I treat it as such.  I don’t eat like it’s Thanksgiving the day before, and certainly not the day after.  It’s one day, so I enjoy it to the fullest.  My family works their butt off to make flavor filled dishes and who am I to not recognize and appreciate their hard work. 🙂

How about the rest of the holidays?  I eat like I do the rest of the year, just with a few more desserts sprinkled in.  Not every day, and not in copious amounts.  Throughly enjoying the holidays does not mean you have eat an entire plate of sugar cookies just because it’s that time of the year.  Remember, balance is key.

If I’m at a holiday party and there are desserts, I am eating them.  So if you happen to send me a holiday party invite this season and I attend, please do not hide the pumpkin pie just because I’m a fitness coach.  I want a slice…with ice cream.

Here’s a few more strategies for the holiday’s:

  • Intermittent fast in the morning.  If I am attending a party in the evening, I usually skip breakfast and either have a very light lunch or skip it all together as well.  Our ancestors had to regularly skip meals.  It won’t kill you.  So if that sounds like something that you could do, then give it a try!  The option doesn’t work for everyone, so feel it out and see if it works for you.  If the thought of not eating really stresses you out, then that might be an indicator you should pass.  
  • If you know you’re going to have dessert, pick only the ones you want to eat.  If something doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t feel obligated to eat it just because it’s there.  If I’m going to stuff myself on Thanksgiving, I’m not going to waste calories on things I don’t find absolutely delicious. (Unless Grandma made it, then you have to at least try it.  It’s called respect 🙂
  • Drink water or tea first.  You still get to enjoy what everyone else is having, you just get full a little faster.
  • As I alluded to above, outside of the actual holiday, treat every day like a regular day.  Saving your indulgences for when you’re spending quality time with your family and friends.
  • Schedule 10-15 mins ahead of time to get in a bodyweight workout.  If you can’t make it to the gym, then doing a quick and effective at home routine is a great option to get your movement in for the day.  If you are looking for something quick you can do at home this Thanksgiving, then try this workout I put together just for that occasion!
  • Make it a goal to walk a minimum of 5 mins per day.  During the holidays, trying to schedule 30-60 min workouts ahead of time can be stressful.  I’ve found that committing to walking 5 mins per day during the holidays ends up with me walking 30+ mins on most days.  I may not have time to walk at first, but once I start walking, I realize how enjoyable it is and walk a little longer than expected.  Anything over 5 mins is bonus! If you live in Monterey, CA like I do, then there are wonderful trails to go for family hikes on.  Here is a great list of local Monterey area trails

Make sure to keep an eye on the big picture.  Most people that gain weight during the holiday season treat every single day like it’s Thanksgiving.  Have fun, enjoy yourself, and don’t be that one person hating life at the dinner table with a few pieces of skinless chicken breast and dry salad mix.

And don’t forget to move your body daily, whether it be a structured group workout, walking or jogging with friends, or even doing some bodyweight moves at home.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and let me know below if you agree with this radical approach to the holidays!

-Seth Munsey
Owner, Head Coach- Iron Republic

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author: Iron Seth


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