Monday, 14 December 2015

How do I stay on track during the festive period?

One thing I get asked about quite frequently is how I stay on track with my diet and training; and particularly around this time of year it can be especially challenging.
 
For many of you out there I’m sure you’ll find yourself in similar scenarios when the festive period hits; the tubs of Quality Street seem to find their way onto every desk in the office, there’s the work Christmas party (or make that parties if you work at YAS where you seem to get invited to several different team’s celebrations – popular I know!), celebrations with friends and family that always include endless assortments of food and copious amounts of alcohol. And all of this is before you actually reach the big day itself; where you simply eat yourself into a turkey coma by 3pm and then spend the rest of the day force-feeding yourself chocolates, dessert and anything else that’s calorific that you can get your hands on (ok maybe that’s just me!)
 

Throw into the mix the British weather is as predictable as ever with temperatures ranging between cold, very cold and not much else. And the continuous drizzle that seems to wash the country for three months solid and you seem to have found yourself on the end of a motivational disaster which can only end badly right?
 
So how do I keep on track at this time of year?
 
Damage control and moderation.
 
Now I’d love to sit here and tell you that I just love eating cold salad in winter, that the Christmas bake-off at work isn’t at all tempting and that there’s nothing I love more than dragging my butt out of bed in the freezing cold at 6am on a Wednesday morning so I can hit bootcamp. But if I said that I’d be lying.
 
The truth is I love rich, yummy, typical winter meals loaded with carbohydrates this time of year just as much as the rest of you and I have a crazy sweet tooth that could devour pretty much any dessert any time of day. And to put it bluntly getting out of bed to go workout before a full day at work is hell on earth but my philosophy is quite simple; you can either have results or you can have excuses, you can’t have both.
 
When it comes to December I cut myself some slack but I stick with my 80-20 rule. 80% of what I eat is clean and nutritious and 20% is whatever else I fancy and that may include some chocolate, pizza, a piece of cake etc. I don’t restrict myself in a crazy way but I AM controlled. If I know that on a weekend I’m having a takeaway with the girls on a Saturday night and that on Sunday I’m heading out to have pancakes for breakfast; I make sure my diet throughout the week is on point. Knowing I have that ‘cheat’ to look forward to on a weekend helps me to stay on track.
 
 
 Now that doesn’t mean that Monday to Friday nothing bad will creep into my diet. The rest of the year it doesn’t as my diet during the week is spot on but as I said at Christmas I loosen the reigns a little. I’ll be the first to admit that the mid-afternoon slump will often hit me and I need a sugar rush so occasionally I’ll reach for a couple of chocolates out of the Christmas selections in the office. Or this week at work it’s our team bake-off so I know that there will be one or two days that I will want to sample the delights. And that’s ok. But I will also make sure that my training is where it needs to be and especially this time of year I’ll throw in some extra interval sessions after my weight workouts to give me that added cardio boost and to keep my metabolism ticking over.
 
For me I’m not a big drinker; I can easily pass on alcohol so in that respect the festive season doesn’t hinder my diet too much apart from the occasional night out. But I know for some of you this will be a big issue for you during this month. But if you know you’ve got a couple of nights out coming up, why not use that as motivation to get an extra workout in that week or to eat a little cleaner than normal?
 
Essentially it all comes down to accountability and this is something I am very big on. If I over-indulge one week or let that run over into a couple of weeks; that is my fault. I will be the one to suffer. I will be the one that feels lethargic and rubbish. I will be the one that finds training a little harder than normal and I will be the one that doesn’t feel as good as what I could when I pull on my Christmas party dress. Holding yourself accountable for your actions; both diet and training wise, is the first step in taking control of your health and fitness.
 
We all have days or weeks where we fall off track and that’s ok. We’re all human. But what you do to correct that is what’s important. A couple of weeks ago I was sick and on antibiotics. I had to rest from training a couple of days and my body was craving rubbish food. I ate what my body wanted for a few days so allowed myself more treats than normal and I knew I’d not had a good week. Some people might say ‘oh you’re ill, these things happen’ and they do but it’s not an excuse. I spoke with my personal trainer about it the following Monday and admitted my diet hadn’t been as good as it what it should have and I needed to pull it back. So that following week I had an awesome week diet wise; still sticking with my 80-20 rule but keeping on track when I knew I had to. Accountability. Responsibility.
 
As much as it is a challenge to keep focused on your diet ultimately you do have control. You don’t have to order dessert at every festive meal you go to and you don’t have to have a few glasses of wine at every social event or sample every single cake in a bake-off. If you want to that’s absolutely fine; don’t moan when you’ve put on half a stone and haven’t got the results you want. Hold your hands up and say ‘yeah I indulged and loved every minute of it’. But this is aimed at the people that make excuses that it’s ‘just too hard’ to eat well around Christmas. It is hard but it’s not impossible with the right mind frame.
 
For me the diet is the hardest part so when it comes to training I don’t find it too much of a chore, even though I only ever see the gym in the dark at the moment as it’s either first thing on a morning that I train or last thing in the evening. And yes sometimes it is the last thing you feel like doing after a long day at work but when did you ever hear someone say ‘oh I really regret that workout’? Never.
 
 
 I think it’s ok to accept at this time of year your focus on diet and training might not be exactly where it needs to be. Enjoy the festive celebrations and have fun but make yourself accountable. Plan in advance what your social calendar looks like and how you can compensate during the week ahead. That way you keep some control, you feel better enjoying yourself knowing you’ve earned it and more importantly you’re not left with a huge mountain to climb after Christmas as you try to get back on track.
 
Remember; excuses or results, not both.
 

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