Do you struggle to find time to exercise and eat healthy during the holidays? You are not alone girlfriend! It is challenging to practice self-care when you’re not inundated with family gatherings, holiday shopping, cooking epic meals, and attending social events. But have no fear, I have 12 easy-to-implement tips that will get you moving more, feeling better, and elevating your midlife moxie!
1. All or nothing, gets you nothing. If someone offered to give you a neck massage would you say, “No, I want a full body massage or nothing at all.”? That’s just crazy, right? And yet, you think exercising for 30 minutes seems impossible, so you forego it all together. This all-or-nothing mentality, indeed gets you nothing. Instead, try accumulating 30 min of cardio movement per day by breaking it into small achievable segments. Every time you go upstairs, go back up and down 5 more times before you move on. When you go shopping, wear sneakers and park as far as possible from the entrance and power walk. During your next phone call, put a YouTube exercise video on (muted of course) and workout out while you work. Try it for a week and then reward yourself with that massage!
2. 1% rule (AKA - small wins add up!) - Growing up, we go to school. We learn a little bit each day that builds upon the previous lessons. (Unless it’s organic chemistry, then I remain bewildered the entire year.) The point is, the small 1% gains add up to big change over time. Let’s apply this to exercise. Start with a realistic duration of exercise, say 15 minutes. To achieve a 1% improvement tomorrow, you’ll need to do 15 min + 9 seconds. Totally doable, right?
3. Celebrate Yourself. Speaking of gains, be sure to celebrate every single 1% improvement. Self-recognition is a key part of staying motivated. Because let’s face it, we women are the first ones to downplay our successes. And here’s what I have to say about that… Stop it! Come up with a post-win “touchdown dance”. I personally like doing the Saturday Night Fever moves. Or literally pat yourself on the back. A physical cue that represents “Good Job Me!”. The mind body connection is a powerful way to engrain healthy behaviors.
4. Choo Choo - New Year’s Resolutions = Procrastination Train Station. Why are you putting off moving your caboose right now? Don’t answer that. We make time to do what is most important to us. Whatever your “reason”, it is an excuse. Your mind is your steam engine. Harness that power to choose a brisk walk over the mindless Instagram scroll. Reorganize your morning routine to be more efficient and free up 20 minutes of move-it time! Bonus - You know what else is hard to do when you move your Choo Choo? Chew Chew.
5. Mindset is Everything. So often we focus on what we should do, rather than what we could do. If you think you “should exercise” to prevent weight gain, it just feels like work. (So not motivating!) But, what if you said “I could go for a walk because that would make me feel better”. Now the walk is a gift to yourself, not a punishment. When you change your mindset you change your entire visceral response. Always remember this… the way we phrase our words, whether out loud or internally, makes a huge difference in your attitude. So during the holidays, give yourself the gift of a positive mindset.
6. Adult-proof Your House. When you were little your parents baby-proofed the house to protect you from making bad decisions. They installed baby gates on the stairs, put hot pans on the back burner, covered electrical outlets, etc. There was no temptation, because there was no accessibility. And yet as adults, we intentionally fill our environments with temptation, like a kitchen full of holiday cookies. Then we berate ourselves for our lack of WILLPOWER when we eat said cookies by the handful. Girlfriend - if you don’t buy it or bake it, you can’t eat it. It has nothing to do with willpower. It has to do with danger of proximity. Set up your healthy environment to succeed. Stock your fridge with fruits and veggies, put a pair of 5lb dumbbells next to your couch, set your watch to beep every hour as a reminder to get up from your desk, attach motivational messages to your bathroom mirror like “Exercise Makes Me Feel Fabulous”.
7. Self-Care. Holidays are all about lists! And self-care is usually at the bottom of that list. Here’s a way to give yourself a gift this year. Combine movement with some “me time”. When working out, I love listening to motivational and/or educational podcasts (Midlife Moxie being a fav!) or YouTube videos or Clubhouse. And bonus, you glean real take-away lessons because you are not distracted.
8. Healthy New Traditions - Maybe it’s just my family, but the holidays are mostly about sitting around. Sit and talk. Sit and eat. Sit and watch a movie. Sit and play cards. There is a reason “sedentary is the new smoking”. It’s deadly. To institute some physical activity into your holidays, why not do a post-meal scavenger hunt; set up a friendly 10,000 steps competition; have an “old school” game day with freeze tag, hopscotch, kickball, mother-may-I, double dutch, and a good old-fashioned 3 legged race. Enlist your family for more fun ideas and they are even more likely to get excited about the group activity.
9. Reflect & Reset. Each night at dinner, my husband and I share the top three things we are grateful for that day. Even on the most stressful days, there are always small happy nuggets to shine a light on. It is a great way to imprint the positive and let go of the “yucky” stuff. You can also do this solo. My favorite way to reflect and reset: Lay down and put your feet up the wall with your bum touching the wall. Take 5 deep breaths. Meditate on the glory of my gratitudes.
10. Eat & Exit! Sit down. Eat. Then get AWAY FROM THE TABLE. Better yet, run away from the table! Go do something else. Anything else. Go play charades, build a snowman, take a walk, take a drive - anything that gets you away from table. The longer you sit there, the higher the propensity to have another helping of food, not because you are hungry, but because it is sitting right in front of you. You will need to enlist the family on this one to make it work. So have a plan that entices everyone to eat and retreat!
11. Accountability Hack - I’m an 17X Ironman and 43X marathoner. I tell you this not to brag, although I am super proud of myself, but because it is a testament to the importance of accountability partners. I had friends that would meet me at 6AM to get in a run before work. And others that would cycle on weekends. Left to my own devices, those training days would have been really easy to blow off or shorten. Enlist accountability parters that are dependable, implement tough love when necessary, and make it fun. Meaning, she shows up to walk even when it is snowing, calls BS on your lame excuses, and motivates you to keep going when you want to stop. And be sure to thank her every time she dose!
12. Self fulfilling prophecy. It all comes down to this simple concept. If you plan to move less, eat more, and gain weight… yep, that’ll happen. It might feel good at the time, but Girlfriend, it ain't gonna feel good later. Instead, plan how you will indulge once or twice, but otherwise eat healthy during the holidays. Plan your holiday calendar like you would your work calendar, a week in advance is ideal, with scheduled exercise sessions. Be flexible when necessary, but always reschedule the workout. It really is that simple. Really. You got this Sis!
Bonus Tip: Ask for a Gift of Fitness!
This year, stop asking for “stuff” and ask for a health & wellness experience. Here are some great ideas: 3 sessions with a personal trainer, a membership to online healthy cooking classes, a registration to an upcoming women’s empowerment summit, or how about a trip to a Hike/Yoga Retreat!
About the author
Shannon Paterson, owner of ACHIEVE Multisport Coaching & Personal Training and Live Your Truth Confidence Coaching, has been teaching and training clients to reach their health & fitness goals for over 25 years. Shannon has a BS in Exercise & Sport Science from Penn State University, is an ACE certified personal trainer, USAT certified triathlon coach, RRCA certified running coach. She is also a 17X Ironman Triathlete, Confidence Coach for Women, Writer, and Motivational Speaker. She organizes Hike/Yoga Retreats for women in Tucson, AZ twice a year. Shannon helps women feel more confident and fulfilled by cultivating awareness & self-belief, setting goals, developing a powerful mindset, and implementing courageous action to live your truth!