Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Navigating the Holidays

'Tis the season to get fat... NOT!
The holidays provide an abundance of opportunities for excuses to blow your diet and training. Poor choices during the holiday season generally result in negative consequences such as weight gain, diminished fitness and performance, and a boat-load of guilt, shame, and disappointment. At least that's the path many will chose between now and the first of the year. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. Making poor choices is just that, a choice. No one holds a gun to your head and forces you to make poor wellness choices. Conversely, making proper choices is also a choice and making appropriate choices leads to enhanced health, fitness, and well-being.

If you tend to struggle with your diet and wellness program during the holidays, tomorrow presents an opportunity, an opportunity for change and for a new approach and perception of the holidays. There are tons of things you can do to ensure you have a healthful and mindful holiday experience, and you can get loads of ideas from various magazines, newspapers, internet sites and so forth. Below are a few of my top suggestions based on a workshop I have presented in the past, titled "Navigating the Holidays".

Plan Ahead and Be Prepared:
Have a plan which, ideally, includes time for some form of physical activity (see suggestions below), and a plan for your diet. Are you going to have a "free day" and eat whatever you want? Do you want to ensure there are certain foods for you to eat? If so, be prepared to provide it yourself. Don't let the day be an excuse to play "victim" to nutritional choices.
Free Day:
This is one of my "12 Dietary Principles" from the Project. On this day, allow yourself to eat whatever you want, guilt-free. Indulge in the foods you look forward to all year long and do not feel bad about your choices. The one caveat to the free day is that you stick to the "Hunger/Satisfied Scale", another technique I use in the Project. In essence, you can eat what you want, but only eat until you feel satisfied, not full or stuffed. A few hours later, if you are feeling a sense of hunger, then by all means enjoy more of the holiday yummies.
No Leftovers:
This one can be tough, however if discipline of the palate is a challenge for you, it is a crucial step to your progress. Keep all the turkey, veggies, fruit and other healthful foods and send the rest home with your visitors. Or, if others offer you high calorie/sugar/fat dishes to take home, politely decline.
The key is to make sure that after the special day, get all the "off limits" food out of your home. One day of eating holiday food will not pose a problem, extending it into two or more days can create serious damage to your health, fitness, and well-being.
Get Active:
Physical activity on a holiday is actually a high priority when it comes to Navigating the Holiday and it has a direct impact on your health, fitness, and well-being. If it is literally impossible to be active on the specific day, then make it a priority to be active the day prior and the day after the holiday.
Check out local fitness opportunities such as the "Drumstick Dash" in Broad Ripple. Or, check out a great idea from Project Graduate, Matt Fallin. He and Margaret, his wife, came up with a fantastic idea to fit in their workout as well as include their friends and family. I couldn't be more proud of Matt and Margaret, and I couldn't be more inspired:

Remember that I am teaching the "After the Turkey" 2 hour yoga intensive at Cityoga, this Friday from 9-11am. I feel it is vital that you are physically active the day after the holiday as well, that is why I chose to teach this particular class every year. What, you don't think I would like to be sleeping in and eating more pumpkin pie too??? No way! Get moving and get back on track with your fitness plan.
Here is my plan for tomorrow, feel free to give it a shot for yourself.
Project Triathlon:
Adjust the times to meet your current fitness level as well as the time available to you. This is structured to provide a 1-hour workout and is what I will be doing tomorrow; short, simple, and oh-so-effective. Do not perform this workout if you are not already engaged in a consistent workout plan, get your doc's consent. You know, all that typical warning stuff you read at the beginning of an exercise video? Same deal here...

1) 30 minute walk or run at an RPE of 8. RPE = rating of perceived exertion, what I use in the Project as a gauge of workout intensity, based on a 1-10 scale. For an aerobic workout, this would equate to roughly 80% of ones maximum heart rate. Cardio activity performed early in the day not only delivers tremendous cardio-respiritory and health benefits, it also helps to stoke your metabolism for the day. In essence you will be burning more calories throughout the day than you otherwise would. As an added "side effect", you may feel less guilt knowing that you "earned" a few of the calories you will be consuming.
2) 20 minute yoga session. Roll out your yoga mat and spend some time performing a few yoga postures. If you are not sure what to do, that is totally fine, just go with the flow and do what feels interesting or right for your body. I often take this approach in my own practice, I refer to it as "freestyle yoga" (probably not an original term). Your session doesn't have to be anything structured or formal. Again, just do what inspires you without regard for anything other than stretching your body, feeling good, and breathing.

Spending time performing yoga will offer you a great post-run stretch and help your body feel even more invigorated and energized. Additionally, yoga helps us to be more mindful of our body and it's innate form of communicating with us, which is through sensation and feeling (both physical and emotional). Tuning into your body and being more mindful of how you feel can help you make more appropriate choices at mealtime and help you avoid abusing your body too much.

3) 10 minute meditation session. Among other benefits of spending time in meditation, you can truly set the tone for you day; a tone of calm, peace, compassion, non-judgement, and connection to God. I'm sure you would agree that these are all beneficial qualities to bring into each day and especially on a day of "Thanks"giving. Meditation also helps us to be more connected to mindfulness, which we can carry with us into mealtime, during conversations with others, or perhaps bring you a sense of well-being if you happen to get stuck in traffic or at the airport.

Embrace the Holiday for what it is and focus on "The Reason for the Season", rather than the food or potential stress and family drama. If it's Thanksgiving, make a list of all that you are thankful for and maybe share this with those to whom you are thankful.

Finally, remember that, for some, the holidays are not always a happy time of the year. There are many who are suffering. There are many who are homeless or hungry. Some people must spend the holidays alone, or their family member is deployed to the war. Some of our yoga buddies are spending their first holiday without a loved one, such as Ginger Schonberg and Johnny "Playa" Watts (both lost their Mother this year). There are literally millions of people who have recently lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Thus, it is a time of year to include, in your prayers, all those who are suffering. This is also an ideal time of year for action, to reach out and help those in need, especially those near to you or in your own neighborhood or city. Look around and ask around, the opportunities abound. Check with you local food pantry and see how you can help, or ask around at the homeless shelter. Ask at your local gym or yoga studio, many of them are providing opportunities, such as Cityoga's "Toy's for Tots" drop box, etc. Jody and I are engaged in various actions through our church, so if you don't know how or where to direct your energy and resources, ask me, our church has tons of opportunities to get involved (and no, you don't have to be a member to help).
I trust you will have a happy, safe, healthful, and mindful holiday season.
In (Holiday) Peace,

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