Wherever you live in the world right now, be it in the northern or southern hemisphere, party season is fast approaching. Fun, social times will abound as we celebrate stumbling to the end of another year and slide giddily down the banisters on one of Mrs Miggin’s spam flans landing splat bang at Santa’s feet hiccoughing gleefully.
Whether you choose to amble your way towards the New Year or skid into it full tilt, the next couple of months can be an outright hoot but also very stressful and have the potential to undo the best laid exercise and nutrition plans known to mice and wo/men.
Over the years I have often heard people say they aren’t ready to change the way they eat or how they exercise because they have birthdays and weddings, holidays or parties coming up. They’ll start in a month or two when things settle down again. My question is always, “why wait?”.
There is never a perfect time to begin when all the planets are aligned, there’s ne’er a skerrick of temptation nor stress in sight and all your duckies are sitting pretty, mouths agape, wings poised to applaud your efforts. Truth of the matter is, these occasions will always be looming (if you’re lucky). It makes more sense to me to learn how to smartly sail through them than to wait for the first Monday in the following week, month or year to change things up.
With that in mind, here are a bunch of tools to arm yourself with in order to help keep you on track when party pies, alcohol and well-meaning but highly persuasive relatives threaten to derail your better self.
If there were only one piece of advice I could dole out it would be this. Set yourself up for making smart choices by thinking beforehand about what you wish to do. If you have several social functions on in a week, choose the ones you will drink and eat at. If there will be only canapés, eat well first so you don’t end up hoovering up endless crisps and sausage rolls. If it is mid week it should be easy to avoid drinking which will in turn help stopping for a kebab on the way home. Plan your exercise around your
schedule and stick to it.
AIM FOR BALANCE
Aaaah, balance and moderation! Those two elusive little suckers we strive for endlessly….. If you know you have a big celebratory meal, choose to eat sparingly before and after. Aim for light, protein-rich meals with veggies or salad and keep your water up.
There is no perfect time to exercise and many prefer to do so after work at the end of the day. However, I am a big advocate for getting it done first thing for a number of reasons. It has a slightly greater fat-burning potential because you are doing it fasted, it sets you up for the day, you have achieved something before breakfast and hopefully, life has not had a chance to get in the way yet. You may have the best intentions of doing a 6 pm spin class but then your boss calls a last minute meeting, your child throws up in the car or your train is cancelled. Life. Minimise the chances and get stuck in early. Think of it as earning credits for the party you are attending later.
STOP LOOKING FOR PERFECT
Keep aiming for the bullseye and you will get steadily better at hitting it but close enough is good enough too when options are limited. Don’t beat yourself up if you made smart plans and had great intentions of saying no to the champagne and caviar (you can always dream) and then the moment arrived and you simply had to dive in. Enjoy it, own it and then get straight back to moving and eating well straight afterwards. In the big scheme of things this is one moment. Lighten up the next day, get sweaty and you’ll feel fine and be back on track. Things only go awry if the next meal and the one after that consist of poor nutrition and lazy choices.
KEEP YOUR TRAINING VARIED
If you have been doing the same workout and/or classes for months now’s the time to mix it up. This doesn’t have to mean finding lots of extra time, in fact you’d be better to up the intensity and reduce the time both from a fitness perspective and to maximise your time. Throw in a 20-30 minute HIIT session. You can do this at home with a skipping rope or hill sprints or at the gym on any piece of cardio equipment. Focus on keeping the heart rate up and the intensity as high as you can tolerate (ensure you warm up well). Fast, efficient and oh so effective. Bam!
STICK TO YOUR GUNS
Set your intentions before you launch yourself into a party and don’t be swayed by well-intentioned friends and family plying you with food and drink you don’t want. You don’t have to be rude but you are also not obliged to eat Great Aunt Maud’s triple decker sponge cake if you choose not to. Alternatively, accept it, try it and then hide the rest under the tree and blame the kids – works every time!
I hope you find these straightforward, common sensical strategies useful. If you are tired of feeling bleurgh at this time of year, choose to do it differently and give yourself the best chance of staying on track.
We’d love to hear your tried and tested tips and ideas too so don’t hold back – add your thoughts and comments! What works for you?
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Photo credits: Maklay62, Stevepb, Mike Bird, Jarmoluk, Vargazs, Ryan McGuire, Tesa Photography, Cocoparisienne, Maialisa