BY BONNY OSTERHAGE
It’s the most wonderful time of the year filled with family, festivities, and food—lots and lots of food. From sweet holiday treats to decadent feasts and glasses filled with holiday cheer, everywhere you look, there is something tempting enough to make you stray from your healthy habits faster than reindeer can fly. This year the challenge may be even greater as many of us have already been derailed by pandemic gym closures that disrupted our exercise routines. Couple that with the increased stress eating (and drinking) as we navigate job security, homeschooling, lack of socialization and more, and some of us are already fighting an uphill battle.
While I’m the first to admit it’s been a heck of a year and a little holiday joy is definitely in order, that’s not an excuse to overindulge. No, you don’t have to be the Scrooge at your family gathering or virtual happy hour. In fact, it is possible to be both fit and festive; you just have to think “small and SMART.”
“When it comes to staying on track with your health, set small, short-term goals each day or week that will help you reach your long-term goals,” advises Shannon Hernandez, certified Health and Wellness Coach. “After all, a long-term goal is really just a series of short-terms.”
When setting those goals, Hernandez says the best way to achieve success is to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
“If your goal is to keep working out and eat as healthy as possible throughout the holidays, that’s great, but it’s vague,” she explains. “You haven’t thought through your solution or plan of action. If your goals are abstract, you may lose focus and fall short of what you want to accomplish.”
As a fitness instructor, I often see people ruin months of hard work and discipline during the holidays because they fail to be SMART and plan ahead for any potential pitfalls. For example, when you set a goal to hit that favorite cycle or pilates class 3-4 times a week, you can easily get thrown off course when a holiday party or late work night prevents you from attending. Before you know it, you’ve gone a month with no workouts. A SMARTER solution would be to commit to simply moving your body 30 minutes a day, 3-4 times per week. This goal meets the SMART criteria and gives you a sense of control and accomplishment, as well as a little wiggle room for those unexpected deterrents. If you make it to class, great! If not, you can do 30 minutes of walking, running, strength training, or anything that gets you moving, and still be successful.
Once you’ve set your SMART goals, Hernandez recommends sharing them with others. Not only does this hold you accountable, but it also allows others to support you and share in your success.
“We’ve all been in those situations where a friend or loved one says, ‘it’s the holidays, eat as much pie as you want,’” she laughs. “While it’s usually well-intended, this is the kind of statement that can throw you off.”
Don’t be afraid to say “no” to that second helping, or offer o f dessert. Or you can take a proactive approach and bring your own healthy dish to the holiday table. When others know your goals and plans and see you sticking to them, not only are they more likely to encourage you, they might be inspired to make their own SMART plans for a healthy holiday too!
Finally, expect the unexpected. Even the SMARTEST plans can fall through. If you find yourself in a sugar coma from too many holiday sweets, or feeling a little under the weather from raising a few too many holiday spirits, don’t be too hard on yourself. One slip-up is not a reason to give up.
“We are all human, and things happen,” says Hernandez. “Tomorrow is another opportunity to try again.”